What will the new Conservative Government mean for Veterans?
While the Conservative Party 2019 election manifesto was criticised as being light on actual policies, compared to the Labour Party manifesto which promised an unprecedented spending commitment, the Conservative manifesto did nonetheless dedicate half a page to the support and policies it said it was going to introduce for veterans and their families.
Even before the general election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson created the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) headed up by Retired Colonel David Richmond CBE, and jointly run by two Cabinet ministers, Johnny Mercer (Armed Forces Minister) and Oliver Dowden (Paymaster General and Cabinet Office Minister).
The Government has set great store by its focus on the needs of veterans and their current lack of support. The OVA has been tasked with pulling together the existing charity sector provision to support veterans. We all know that the numerous veterans’ charities do outstanding work and are often all some veterans have to get by. What the Government does not say is how it will pull together the charity sector provision. There is no mention of additional funding that would be welcomed by those charities or the introduction of a new body to coordinate the charity sector to improve and coordinate the support they give to veterans across the country. Veterans and veterans’ charities will now have to wait for the planned details as none of this was set out in the recent Queen’s Speech.
The Government did reaffirm its commitment to enshrining in law the Armed Forces Covenant, which my colleague Matthew Fry wrote about. Another commitment, which will no doubt be welcomed by veterans, is the introduction of a veteran’s railcard, particularly with the announced annual increase in rail fares coming in to effect this month.
A simple yet hopefully effective commitment, is a guaranteed job interview for veterans in any public sector role they apply for where they possess the minimum job requirement skills. Veterans have many transferable skills and talents and with the certainty that they can demonstrate this at interview it must be hoped that this improves their job prospects.
Veterans could also benefit from Government’s pledge to reduce Employer’s National Insurance contribution for those employing veterans. This should give those considering employing veterans a further incentive to take them on.
The Queens’ Speech also included the commitment to end vexatious litigation against serving personnel and veterans. My colleague Ahmed wrote about the impact of this proposed policy. As I have said the Government has committed to support veterans for the service they offer to the country. The hope is that by the end of this Parliament, the Government will have stuck to its promises and made a real difference to their lives.