MPs call for more housing and healthcare support for veterans
Welsh service personnel may risk and sometimes even lose their lives in service of their country. But a new report tonight warns that they are still not getting the support they need when they return to civilian life.
MPs on the Welsh Affairs Committee say more needs to be done for them in the key areas of housing and health.
Our correspondent Joanna Simpson has tonight's top story.
Housing group: number of homeless veterans "unacceptable"
We welcome this report, but don’t think it goes far enough. Wales accounts for 5% of the UK population yet it provides 8% of UK military personnel.
It is unacceptable that a significant number of our veterans face homelessness. Waiting list for social housing in Wales are continuing to grow and we need to build more affordable homes in order to address this.
One of the barriers is availability of land and we are today calling on the Ministry of Defence to engage with the sector to draw up a memorandum of understanding, so that where suitable sites become available, we can develop social housing to help alleviate the problem.
One of the key recommendations from the report is the establishment of 'one-stop-shops' that would help provide veterans with information and support when they return to civilian life.
We should not be making it harder for people who have served their country in the ultimate way - putting their lives on the line - to access the services and support they need and deserve. For the same reasons, we must ensure that all services, no matter who is providing them, are provided efficiently and to the highest standard.
– David Davies MP, Chair of the Committee
The Welsh Government says it welcomes the report.
The Welsh Government is already making progress in delivering real improvements on the issues raised in the report. It is important that this continues and that those who have served their country do not suffer any disadvantage when they access public services.
Monmouth MP David Davies, who chairs the Commons' Welsh Affairs committee, has written to the Defence Secretary over the way the Welsh army has been affected by Army cuts. In particular he raises concerns about the decision to axe a battalion of the Royal Welsh.
In his letter, Mr Davies tells the Defence Secretary, Phillip Hammond that he and MPs on the committee want answers to the following concerns.
In evidence to the Committee on this issue, an independent defence expert told us that, based on proportionality, cost and recruitment considerations, it would be more advisable to cut several battalions of the Scottish regiments and the Gurkhas.
We heard that 98% of the Royal Welsh is drawn from within Wales, and in many families service to the regiment has continued for many generations.
We believe that the impact on families and communities across Wales, as well as on morale in the regiments more widely, will be enormous.
We are concerned that the decision to cut a Welsh battalion may be at least partly politically motivated. Scottish regiments have found it difficult to recruit in recent years, and the decision to maintain all five Scottish infantry regiments, albeit with one performing ceremonial duties, suggests preferential treatment. We seek assurances that this is not the case.
We are also concerned that the statement regarding the loss of 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh did not provide greater clarity for the serving men and women. We seek clarification on how many of them will be ‘absorbed’ into the 1st Battalion and how many will be made redundant. In a time of high unemployment, all possible assistance must be provided to enable former servicemen and women to seek employment after the armed forces. They currently face a great deal of uncertainty regarding their future.
Defence ministers refuse to answer Welsh MPs' questions
by Adrian Masters
Defence Ministers have refused to appear before Welsh MPs looking into the MOD's plans for the future of the Army. As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Welsh Affairs committee chair David Davies had said he wanted ministers to explain their thinking about plans for the Welsh Cavalry:
Given our concerns, we have decided to do a short inquiry into this. We’ve asked the Ministry of Defence to come and give evidence and explain how these decisions will be taken. I understand they don’t wish to attend, which I find very disappointing.
However it nows seems the announcement itself will be made on Thursday, which might explain the ministers' reluctance to appear. It's also thought that the Welsh Cavalry will survive the cuts but it's strongly rumoured that a battalion of the Royal Welsh regiment could be lost instead.