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Veterans offer a vast range of skills and talent to employers, and we want to see more of them working throughout the economy. We are making it easier for them to join the civil service, introducing a national insurance break for their employers, and investing £5 million in Jobcentre Plus armed forces champions.
It is concerning that 18% of UK businesses surveyed said that they would be unlikely to take on former armed forces personnel because of negative perceptions of those who had served in the forces. Both the Minister and I know that the armed forces actually provide skills for life that can be brought into different sectors. I warmly welcome the decision by the Cabinet Office to guarantee interviews to former armed forces personnel if they meet essential criteria, which is already being done in my Bridgend County Borough Council area. What more can the Minister do—including making representations to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—to ensure that the scheme is implemented across Government?
The whole concept of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is about making experience of being a veteran equal across the country. We are introducing the scheme that the hon. Member mentions later in the year, and we are also introducing legislation to ensure that the armed forces covenant is implemented correctly throughout the country, so that no veteran suffers disadvantage because of his or her service. The Prime Minister has shifted the dial in respect of what it means to be an armed forces veteran in this country, and I am determined to make this the best place on earth in which to be one.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the ex-service personnel already working in the civil service bring invaluable skills and experience learned from the armed forces, and that guaranteeing veterans interviews for civil service jobs will boost the employment prospects of residents of Broxtowe and improve the civil service?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, and thank him for his question. It is clear that in this country we are moving away from the idea that we should give veterans a job just to keep them busy, and are recognising the incredible skills and attributes that they bring to any job in society following 10 or 15 years of what has been pretty hard combat over the last few years. I pay tribute to those in the civil service, and to those who lead the way so that others can come through behind them.
Let me begin by saying that, with permission, my hon. Friend Christian Matheson and I will be leaving this Question Time early to take part in an armed forces parliamentary scheme visit. I am sure the House will understand that no discourtesy is intended.
The Forces in Mind Trust reports that veterans experience a postcode lottery when looking for work, and fewer than half of those in the north say that it was easy to find employment. Is the Minister assured that support for veterans is being sent to where it is needed most in order to tackle that regional inequality?
Regional inequality is a key factor in what the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is trying to do. Today we have the latest figures from the career transition partnership, and we have more people going into work and education than ever before. In fact, people are now more likely to be in employment if they are a veteran, but we are not complacent about that in any way. There is no reason why anybody coming out of the military cannot go into a job, which is the single biggest transformative factor in improving their life chances.