Portsmouth MP demands defence secretary to strengthen ‘toothless’ pledge to military families

Stephen Morgan MP
Stephen Morgan MP
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DEFENCE secretary Gavin Williamson is facing calls to overhaul Britain’s ‘toothless’ armed forces covenant which is failing military families.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has written to the top Tory to express his dismay at the system which he says needs more power.

Stephen Morgan MP

Stephen Morgan MP

The covenant is a pledge by employers, councils, schools and government to offer additional help for military families and veterans.

But in a letter sent to the defence secretary, Mr Morgan said the system was too weak and demanded change.

The plea comes as the nation today marks Armed Forces Day, a celebration of Britain and its military.

Mr Morgan wrote: ‘The armed forces covenant has undoubtedly made a positive difference to service personnel and their families up and down our country. It marks an incredibly important commitment to countless brave men and women in my constituency.

‘However, this Armed Forces Day, I fear that in too many instances this commitment is not being met.’

The Labour MP said Portsmouth valued its service community but said he was ‘extremely anxious’ about the national approach to post-service support.

He added: ‘The covenant needs teeth and for the government to expand the scope of its practical elements.’

Former armed forces minister, Penny Mordaunt, last night endorsed the pledge but admitted it could improve in areas. The Portsmouth North MP said: ‘The covenant is a way of getting organisations like the city council and schools to consider the needs of veterans and service families so services don’t discriminate against them.

‘It has changed a lot in how organisations think about those serving or having served. But there is still a long way to go.’

Gosport has one of the most densely populated service communities in Hampshire. The town’s Tory MP Caroline Dinenage backed Mr Morgan and said more is needed to support veterans.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘I totally agree we need to do more to support veterans but we have to be very mindful that we have got such a high population of veterans. We don’t want to create a two-tier system where some people will then be disadvantaged.’

Armed Forces Day events are being staged at Southsea Common, 10am to 4pm, and the historic dockyard.

STEPHEN MORGAN’S FULL LETTER TO DEFENCE SECRETARY GAVIN WILLIAMSON

Dear Secretary of State,

The armed forces covenant has undoubtedly made a positive difference to service personnel and their families up and down our country. It marks an incredibly important commitment to countless brave men and women in my constituency.

However, this Armed Forces Day, I fear that in too many instances this commitment is not being met.

One in five veterans is surviving on less than £7,500 each year and 70 per cent say their abilities are not truly valued by employers. The jump to civilian life is still consistently underestimated and many businesses remain ill-equipped to help breach this significant gap and unlock the incredible potential and unique skills of former servicemen and women.

I’m sure you’ll be aware that a recent survey by SSAFA found that 62 per cent of our veterans feel undervalued by society. Furthermore, almost half, at times, have not felt proud of having served.

We in Portsmouth are more than proud of them, and I’m extremely anxious for our national approach to post-service support to reflect that.

It is welcome news that so many businesses and organizations have signed up to the covenant, but I would urge you to make this count. The covenant needs teeth and for the government to expand the scope of its practical elements.

Without its supplementation with a nationwide mentoring service, training not just for veterans but employers, increased investment to reduce unacceptable waiting times for specialised mental health treatment, an extended transition period, and proper enforcement, we risk the covenant’s value being confined to the symbolic.

I’m confident my city won’t cease in telling our veterans how proud they make us and how immensely valued they are, but there is clearly an urgent need to show them too.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Morgan MP