Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 2nd February 2023.
What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support veterans and their families with the cost of living crisis.
Tackling inflation is this Government’s No. 1 priority. We have a plan that will help to more than halve inflation this year and lay the foundations for long-term growth to improve living standards for everyone, including veterans.
Many in the armed forces community are being forced to turn to charities such as the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes for cost of living support. The Royal British Legion has awarded £1.9 million- worth of grants in the three months to January alone. Rather than leaving charities to plug the gap, will the Minister outline how he will ensure that veterans and their families right across the UK are not forced into hardship by increased living costs?
There is no question of forcing people to go to charities to bail the Government out. Veterans have access to a range of support sources to help with the cost of living: the energy price guarantee, the cost of living payments, the relevant council tax rebates and veteran welfare services. I pay tribute to the RBL for all the work that it has done.
I really do not think that the Minister recognises just how much some veterans are struggling to make ends meet. Of the £1.9 million-worth of grants awarded to veterans by the Royal British Legion, 88% were for basic energy bills, with 90% of applicants being of working age. How does the Minister expect the veterans community to trust him to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran when his Government have forced many of them to rely on charities and to choose between heating and eating?
I am not going to take any lessons about what it is like to be a veteran in this country, particularly for our most vulnerable veterans. A suite of measures are available to help them. Under this Government, there have been light years of change in what it means to be a veteran. I was a veteran under the Labour Government and we are miles away from that place, but I am always willing to do more. I have concerns about these issues, but we are doing everything we can to improve the cost of living for those who need it.