I recognise the valuable contribution made by Armed Forces personnel and their families and the many sacrifices made through their service in keeping Britain safe. I also pay tribute to the Royal British Legion for their work to support our Armed Forces, and in highlighting and campaigning on matters affecting them.
With regards to their manifesto, I know that the Government supports the RBL’s aspiration to include a veteran’s marker in the 2021 census. In light of this, the Office of National Statistics and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have established a working group to review this matter, and I look forward to updates in due course.
I am also aware that the MOD continues to keep a watching brief on gulf veterans illness but in line with the Medical Research Council review carried out in 2003, which confirmed that no discrete diagnosis was present, there are no plans to institute further research either on causation or clinical management.
I am encouraged that an independent review of the Armed Forces Covenant pledges made by business and the third sector is being undertaken in 2018 which will identify and document positive examples of how a range of organisations are delivering on their Covenant commitments. These examples of best practice will then be shared, along with appropriate guidelines, to support organisations in drafting and implementing Covenant pledges.
With regards to veterans’ healthcare including the treatment of Non-Freezing Cold Injuries, the MOD continues to work with the Department of Health, NHS England, and the Devolved Administrations to ensure that the specific healthcare needs of injured personnel continue to be met when they leave the Services. If you are aware of anybody locally who has experienced problems in accessing treatment, please do encourage them to contact me so that I can see whether I can assist.
Finally, I know that the MOD works closely with Local Authorities to make provision for separated or divorced spouses or civil partners as they transit out of the Armed Forces community, and Ministers will consider whether additional measures are necessary. I am aware that a number of Local Authorities have amended their housing policy to waive the requirement for a local connection to recently divorced and separated spouses, on their first move out of Service family accommodation.