I am pleased to have regular discussions with colleagues across Government on our veterans’ strategy action plan, which contains more than 60 policy commitments amounting to £70 million of additional investment on priorities, including employment, data, skills and healthcare. We continue to work closely with other Departments, research academics and service charities at all levels to deliver its commitments.
Just under 10% of the working-age population of Gosport are veterans, so we take a keen interest in this excellent action plan. However, although 96% of our veterans make a successful transition to a civilian career within six months of leaving the forces, it is not until page 32 that the plan talks about promoting a positive image of them. Can we change the headline here to “Service veterans are excellent people to employ”?
My hon. Friend has afforded me a useful opportunity to make exactly that point, but I must first thank her for the magnificent work that she does in support of her armed forces community and veterans in Gosport. The reason there is such high demand for veterans in all sectors is that they make brilliant employees: military service does indeed give members of the armed forces skills for life.
I am sure that pursuing a Commonwealth veteran for 36 grand in NHS costs is not part of the MOD’s strategy. Does the Minister agree that it is wrong for someone who has served our country and risked his life in Iraq and Afghanistan to be treated in this way and, if he does, will he work with me and with others to put it right?
The veterans strategy commits the Government to ending veteran rough sleeping by the end of 2024. Can the Minister tell the House how many veterans are currently sleeping rough and, if he cannot, how does he intend to meet that target with no plan, no resources and no data?
We do have a plan and it is reflected in the fact that the armed forces covenant is now deliverable by all local authorities. It has teeth as a result of the statutory guidance that we have delivered, and for which we have legislated for the first time ever. At local authority level, which is where these services are delivered, we have brought real, tangible change of which we can be very proud.