Defence

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Conservative, Berwick-upon-Tweed 5:48 pm, 18th February 2019

I was not given that much training, but I think it is safe to say that one of the most extraordinary things that was explained to me is that there is now so much space junk—objects that have broken up over the years—that it is incredibly difficult to find a clear route in order to launch any new satellite into space. The ability of our RAF personnel to understand what is there, and to recognise it as it comes round on the radar screens again and again, means that they are vital components, understanding and supporting the civilians who want to work in space and the military who continue to view it as one of the new potential areas of combat. I am enormously proud to represent that team of exceptional RAF personnel, and also to represent their families.

I set up the all-party parliamentary group on the armed forces covenant when I was first elected, because I was shocked by some of the poor housing in which RAF families have to live. I was confused by the fact that the Government had not done more to act on the multiplicity of evidence that clearly exists to show that family comfort is critical to our retention of the highly trained personnel, in whom we have invested so heavily, to serve their country for as long as they want to do so. When the families are unhappy and feel that they cannot cope with the challenges that military life brings, we lose some of our most wonderful personnel. Moreover, they have cost us a fortune: we have invested millions of pounds in some of our most sophisticated and highly trained RAF pilots, for instance. To lose them because family housing is too much of a problem is a bad investment decision, quite apart from the human cost.

In the knowledge that the Minister is passionate about getting this right, let me ask again whether the Government will consider changing their financial models so that we can make joined-up decisions on, for instance, housing investment and how the Defence Infrastructure Organisation spends its money. We do not want to find that commanding officers cannot secure the decisions that they need in order to keep the personnel they want. We should be able to make joined-up decisions on access to schools, so that the Department for Education understands that if a family is moving outside the normal cycle there must be a framework to ensure that the children get into the right schools, and on access to healthcare when families are suddenly posted elsewhere and are no longer able to be on the same waiting list. The theory is there, but the practice does not always work. Our military families, who support the extraordinary people who have chosen a career which, as part of their contract, means that they agree to put their lives on the line for us all, can know that Parliament values them if it demonstrates that through policies that work.