There has been growing concern on the treatment of veterans and how a new Prime Minister will ensure better focus on cases where veterans who served, in particular in Northern Ireland, have been subject to allegations of historic wrongdoing. This has been championed by some national newspapers and concerned MPs.
As a former Defence Minister, treatment of veterans is something in which I retain a key interest, though it was never directly part of my ministerial responsibilities. I firmly believe that those who have volunteered to join our Armed Forces must be treated fairly during their time in service, and once their service is done.
While not the only issue facing veterans, the impact of historical allegations has brought this issue to the forefront of public debate. I know that it is affecting veterans across the country, including here in Shropshire. I have spoken to constituents who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who are deeply concerned that they may face lengthy legal procedures, decades after the event, despite the fact they may have been previously cleared, even if no new information may have come forward.
So I am pleased Jeremy Hunt has committed to a new law by the next election to end the scourge of historic allegations, to set up a new independent department for veterans to help coordinate support, and enshrine in law the Armed Forces covenant - to ensure no veteran faces discrimination due to their service.
On the issue of welfare for serving troop and new veterans, I was disappointed that the old chestnut of an Armed Forces Union has resurfaced, this time from the Labour benches. I spoke out against this idea when it was proposed by the SNP last year, since it would undermine the work of the many charities and families’ federations that provide support to Armed Forces personnel and their families. It would also take responsibility away from the chain of command for welfare. I can say having met thousands of serving personnel, I have never heard a call from serving personnel for such a body.
I sincerely hope that whoever becomes the next Prime Minister will take forward these commitments as a matter of priority. It is vital service personnel and veterans feel the government will back them, just as they back us.