Families of Commonwealth Soldiers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:43 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 7:43 pm, 5th March 2019

Absolutely; my hon. Friend makes a great point. As I was going on to say, the sacrifice is also made by the families. They have the anxiety of their loved ones doing a difficult and dangerous job, yet their sacrifices often go untold.

As the Army Families Federation has said:

“Commonwealth members of our Armed Forces make up a significant and vital part of the UK’s Defence capability and, as a nation, we ask them to make significant sacrifices to do so.”

Is it right that the sacrifices they make in undertaking the duty of service should mean being kept apart from their families? No, it is simply not right; yet it is continually happening. The current immigration rules are keeping Commonwealth soldiers apart from their families. The report from the AFF reads:

The UK recruits soldiers from across the Commonwealth to serve in our Armed Forces. There are currently over 6,000 personnel serving in the UK Armed Forces from foreign and Commonwealth countries, with more being recruited each year to fill technical and specialist roles.

Since December 2013, those who leave their country of origin to serve our nation are subjected to the Government’s minimum income requirements if they wish to bring their immediate family with them.

This requirement means that due to military pay scales, a Commonwealth soldier with a spouse and two children can end up waiting up to six years before they earn over the £24,800 needed for their family to join them.

It cannot be right that those who have signed up to defend our nation by serving in the Armed Forces are doing so at the expense of their family life. The current situation can result in personnel making the heart-breaking decision of choosing which child they bring with them to the UK and which they leave behind until their income has increased. The MIT should be removed as a barrier from those who serve in the Armed Forces.”

As Louise Simpson, chair of the COBSEO Foreign and Commonwealth cluster, has said:

“We struggle to engage with recruiters to make sure that soldiers and service personnel understand the financial commitment that they have when coming to the UK particularly around the cost of visas and the minimum income requirements. There was a lot of press…about soldiers not understanding that they may not be able to bring their children in for almost 4 years because they are not earning the right amount of money. As an organisation, we feel that is immoral”.

She is right; that is immoral. This Government must accept that fact.