Veterans Care Sector: Government Role

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee 6:01 pm, 25th October 2016

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for granting me this debate.

I know that this is a persistent cause of mine, and sometimes I feel that I should apologise to the Minister for bringing him to the House to discuss his portfolio. I want to say from the outset how impressed I and many others in this sector are by his personal commitment to this agenda, and my comments are in no way directed at him or any of his staff who work hard to try and tackle the challenge of veterans care within the envelope that he has been given by the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister.

It is not easy. The political world is chaotic at present and priorities are hard to define, but the truth is that in this sector the challenge of closing the gap between what we say so promisingly at the Dispatch Box and how it feels to the men and women who serve increases in severity the longer we leave it. The landscape is clear, with ever increasing demand—an ongoing cost, as it were—resulting from the recent campaigns that this country has undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan, set against a declining interest in this agenda, both from the wonderful people of this country who have carried the torch valiantly in recent years, but who are experiencing battle fatigue now that operations have faded from view and, I regret to say, from Government too.

Let me expand my argument. In January last year, I met the previous Prime Minister and presented a report that for the first time had almost universal support across the veterans care sector. It examined a sustainable veterans care model so that the United Kingdom could do its duty by those who serve. I also presented the report to the Secretary of State for Defence and others.

The paper was not my solution but that of many people involved in the arena: serving, retired, and third sector. It was our voice, and I was proud of it. It was greeted with warm words and encouraging lines about duty and responsibility, with a promise of a response, but regrettably, after a while, nothing materialised at all.