Earlier this week, the nation came together in an act of remembrance to commemorate those who have served in conflicts past and those who currently serve in the Armed Forces. Last year, many of us took part in parades and gathered together in an act of remembrance. While we sadly cannot do the same again this year, I am glad that many events have been televised or shown in a virtual format, which meant that we could continue to take part in this important occasion. On Remembrance Sunday, I cast my mind back to last year when so many of us gathered at St Peter’s Church in our city centre and were joined by both the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer. It was a special day and I have been working with both as the Member of Parliament over the last year.
As a veteran, I am proud of the courage and dedication that is demonstrated by our Armed Forces. I believe that it is our duty to ensure that those who have served our country receive the best possible care. As a local MP, I want to ensure that residents in the Forces community, including those still serving, veterans, and their families, get the support and services that they need. That is why I am pleased that the Government continues to honour the Armed Forces Covenant, a commitment by the nation to ensure that those who have and continue to serve, as well as their families, are treated fairly and suffer no disadvantage. In Parliament, I am the Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Veterans that looks at these issues. I have taken part in all stages of the Overseas Operations Bill that has recently been approved by the House of Commons and is now being considered in the House of Lords. The Bill seeks to protect veterans against vexatious claims and continues to upheld high standards.
I was glad to see the veteran’s railcard launched in October. This will save veterans a third on rail fares. Initiatives like this are of vital importance in ensuring that those who leave the Armed Forces continue to enjoy a high quality of life and can have a home of which they are proud, build a successful career, and enjoy life to the fullest. I am pleased that the Government continues to recognise the importance of this subject by backing the Armed Forces Covenant with a dedicated fund that is worth £10 million each year. The fund distributes grants to charitable projects and initiatives that support veterans. This year, the Fund has been given an additional £10 million for programmes that support veterans’ health and wellbeing. In addition to this, the Veterans’ Gateway, which is facilitated by a consortium of veteran charities, provides 24/7 support and advice to veterans and their families. This includes help with health, housing, employment, and finance, all issues which disproportionately affect disabled veterans. You can access the Veterans' Gateway via this link: www.veteransgateway.org.uk
*Photo taken of Stuart Anderson MP, Johnny Mercer MP, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP at Wolverhampton remembrance commemorations in November 2019.
It is estimated that there are many veterans - at least 2,000 - that live in Wolverhampton. I very much see initiatives such as the ones that I have just mentioned as integral to the wider agenda to level up and create economic opportunities for all. There are several communities in our constituency which have been left behind for years, and I want to do all that I can to ensure that the Government invests in our local area. At Prime Minister’s Questions, I have asked the Prime Minister to do exactly that.
I am delighted that our community continues to benefit from the Government’s unprecedented package of support. This includes over £37 million which has been given to the City of Wolverhampton Council since the outbreak of Coronavirus, millions of pounds which have been paid through the Job Retention and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme to local people, and hundreds of thousands of pounds which have been received for some of our most cherished local venues in the culture, hospitality, and arts sector that has been disproportionately affected by the impact of Coronavirus.
I would like to thank everyone who took part in Remembrance commemorations this year, including from the comfort of their own home where they could continue to follow social distancing guidance. As part of this year's commemorations, I have renewed my commitment to continue to work closely with constituents, local groups, and my ministerial colleagues across Government to ensure that our area continues to get the vital support which it needs and deserves.