Jeffrey M Donaldson
I merely seek clarification of what is meant by enshrining this in law. Yesterday, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell), the Prime Minister said:
“we are writing out the military covenant and properly referencing it in law.”—[Official Report, 2 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 296.]
We are anxious to ascertain what is meant by “properly referencing” the military covenant in law and what the Prime Minister meant by “enshrining” it. I accept the point that the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire has made, but I draw his attention to a letter, which has been circulated to Members of Parliament, from the director general of the Royal British Legion to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr Robathan), who
is here. The letter expresses concern about what is meant by the commitment to enshrine the military covenant in law, so there are some in the veteran community, represented by the Royal British Legion, who want clarification. I seek that clarification this afternoon on behalf of my colleagues and I hope that the Secretary of State will shed some light on this.
— from debate entitled “Support for UK Armed Forces and Veterans”
The three speeches/headings immediately before
- 1 earlier: Andrew Murrison
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that what is actually important to the veteran community is what they get rather than having the military covenant written into law? Would he prefer to see a no-disadvantage model of the military covenant, in which veterans get the same level of service as the rest of the population, or a citizen-plus model of the sort that endures in the United States, under which people are given more to reflect their service? That is the important point that the veteran community would like discussed.
- 2 earlier: Jeffrey M Donaldson
I am open to being corrected on the statistics. Undoubtedly, a significant number of service personnel find themselves unable to cope, through mental illness as a result of trauma, and take their lives. The hon. Gentleman is right that the point is not about the numbers but about the need that must be addressed. We estimate that there are about 11,000 people with post-traumatic stress disorder in Northern Ireland as a result of the troubles, and the current system is incapable of coping with that. We are having major problems with former police officers feeling the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder several years later. It is important to ensure that they get support and are provided with the care they need—and the same goes for our armed forces personnel. I take the correction that the hon. Member for North Durham has offered. Perhaps I am guilty of repeating something that has been said wrongly in the past, but the point can still be made that significant numbers of people suffer from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illnesses that are directly linked to their service, and we need to prioritise that issue and ensure that those veterans are provided with the support they undoubtedly need.
That brings me to the military covenant. In the motion, we call on the Government to honour the commitments they have made publicly about the military covenant, and I seek the Secretary of State’s clarification on this point. Following the general election, the Prime Minister, on a visit to HMS Ark Royal, said:
“Whether it’s the schools you send your children to, whether it’s the healthcare that you expect, whether it’s the fact that there should be a decent military ward for anyone who gets injured. I want all these things refreshed and renewed and written down in a new military covenant that’s written into the law of the land.”
I know that there is some concern about what is meant by enshrining the military covenant in law. We welcome that commitment and I know that it is widely welcomed, particularly among the veteran community.
- 3 earlier: Kevan Jones
That statistic keeps being repeated, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the evidence and find out where it comes from, because I do not think it is right.
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