New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the short term, while the economic situation is so bad, top priority should be given to the education of the children of those who have fallen in action or who have been so grievously wounded that their future earning power will never be restored?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Dr Liam Fox): As I might have expected, my hon. Friend makes a very good point. In the programme for government, we listed a number of measures that will start the process of rebuilding the covenant, and I am pleased to be able to set out to him those that we have already accomplished.

As I have said on a number of occasions in the House, no decisions taken in the strategic defence and security review will have a negative impact on our mission in Afghanistan. In fact, we have already made great strides in improving the conditions for those serving on the front line. In our nine months in office, we have doubled the operational allowance that was paid under the previous Government to over £5,000. Labour could have done so, but did not. We have changed the rules on rest and recuperation, so any lost days of leave – due to delays in the air bridge or any other operational requirements – will be added to post-tour leave. The previous Government could have done that, but they chose not to. We have also pledged to provide university and further education scholarships to the children of members of the armed forces who have been killed since 1990. The previous Government could have chosen to do so, but in 13 years they did not. The current Government have now included 36,000 service children as part of the pupil premium, recognising the uniqueness of service life and its effect on service children and service communities. Labour could have done so, but did not in 13 years.]