The Armed Forces Bill is an important piece of legislation which will do a lot to improve access to justice and welfare for our service personnel and their families. In particular, it puts the Armed Forces Covenant on a statutory footing. Within our area we are already doing a lot and during my speech I praised the work of Sir Ray Puddifoot, the Armed Forces Champion for Hillingdon. This bill will allow us to go further to better deliver for the armed forces community.
You can read my full contribution below:
The substance of the Bill before the House today is access to justice and welfare and our wider responsibilities in the context of the military covenant. In supporting this Bill, I would like to draw the House’s attention to the excellent work of some local authorities in relation to our service personnel and veterans, including the many who reside in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner as a consequence of the numerous nearby military bases, including HMS Northwood, RAF Northolt and some of the historic ones in the area .
I very much commend my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) for the work that he has done. I know that he was a resident of my constituency during his Army career. I am sure that, like me, he would commend the work of the London borough of Hillingdon, led by our armed forces champion, Councillor Sir Ray Puddifoot. For many service personnel, access to housing and to school places for their children can be a challenge. Hillingdon has, through its approach to the military covenant, sought to make that as straightforward as possible. Its housing allocations policy enables returning service personnel to be treated as though they had never been away from their home area. They are absent in service when it comes to applying for social housing. Targeted support has enabled a Gurkha community to settle and to play a fantastic part in the life of the local area. Support to enable the children of service families to secure school places quickly is also prioritised, ensuring that those who serve their country do not face having to sacrifice their family interest.
I very much encourage the Government and all those involved in the debate about the Bill to highlight these and many other examples of best practice within the military covenant, which are entirely in line with the aspirations that are set out in the Bill, to ensure that our service personnel are treated with the priority that they deserve. It seems clear to me that many of these things are not so much matters of law or of Government targets, but of ensuring that we have the relationships at a local level, the political will and the effective management so that the expectations set out in the military covenant, and set out with local authorities, health bodies and others, are fulfilled. I strongly encourage the Government, in supporting this Bill, to publicise the work of the best as the example to which others may aspire to ensure that we all fulfil our obligations.