I support the Royal British Legion’s call for there to be questions for the next census about membership of the Armed Forces community. I believe this would be a simple way of acquiring an additional source of information about the veterans living in our area to allow public services to better meet their needs. We must promote greater awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant, seek greater consistency in its implementation by public authorities, and also promote increased participation in the Corporate Covenant.
It is, of course, right that those who have sustained life-changing injuries while serving our country receive the best medical care. It is, therefore, important that the government monitor any new research that is published on Gulf War illnesses, particularly as it has said it has no plans to fund further research into this itself. I understand that the Ministry of Defence has commissioned further research into the development and prevention of Non-Freezing Cold Injury.
In December 2015, the Ministry of Defence committed to looking at options to addressing concerns around housing support for separated partners of Service personnel and reporting back on these in 2016. Disappointingly, it is still to report back on this issue and I hope the government will bring forward proposals for change swiftly.
Over the last seven years our Armed Forces have been hit by rent rises, pay restraint and changes to tax and benefits, putting real pressure on our Service personnel and their families. It is concerning that the 2017 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey showed a further decline in satisfaction with Service life.
We have a duty to properly reward and remunerate our Armed Forces and this is yet another reason why the government should lift the public sector pay cap, allowing the Armed Forces Pay Review Body to make pay recommendations without restriction that reflect the hard work of our Service personnel.
Our Armed Forces are driven by the hardworking men and women who serve and it is time the government recognised that. This is also why the manifesto I stood on at the General Election in June 2017 was committed to driving up standards in Service accommodation, reviewing and improving the Forces Help to Buy scheme, and rolling out a Homes Fit for Heroes programme to insulate the homes of disabled veterans for free.
I continue to be fully committed to supporting our Armed Forces community within our constituency and at a national level.