On Remembrance Sunday and then again on Armistice Day, pandemic or no pandemic, we rightly honoured those brave men and women who have paid the ultimate price for us and our country. I was honoured to lay a wreath at the Remembrance Service in Deal. Many other personal and individual tributes were made right across our community, including on doorsteps and in gardens.
Last week I also attended the Remembrance debate in Parliament on Armistice Day and had the honour of listening to many personal accounts from gallant MPs who have served in the Armed Forces. I was especially moved by Colonel Bob Stewart’s emotional account of his experiences fighting in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. It is heart-warming to witness the outpouring of respect and gratitude towards our armed services. Remembrance proceedings serve as a reminder of the continuing commitment we have to support Armed Forces, past and present.
This military commitment is being renewed afresh. The first Office for Veterans’ Affairs has been established to ensure that veterans have cross-Government backing. There is a range of measures providing practical and direct support for our Armed Forces and veterans. These include a further £10 million of funding for the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to support veterans’ mental health, a new Veterans’ Railcard allowing Armed Forces veterans one-third off the cost of train travel, National Insurance exemptions for businesses employing veterans, additional support for housing and Ministry of Defence funded ‘wraparound’ childcare. The Government has also committed to enshrining the Armed Forces Covenant in law.
These important new measures will work in tandem with the Overseas Operations Bill. When we ask our Armed Forces to do their job, in the national interest, then the nation must stand with them, and protect them from vexatious legal actions, sometimes long after their service time. This new Act, when it becomes law, is intended to do just that.
In addition to additional practical support and protection in law, the Government has this week announced the largest investment in our Nation’s defence since the end of the Cold War. More than £24billion to safeguard the security of our nation, along with the creation of around 10,000 jobs.
During the pandemic the Armed Forces have been serving our country at home in tackling the virus. Our community had one of the earliest mobile testing facilities in the first lockdown, manned by the army and situated at the Port of Dover. Armed Forces logistics experts were placed in every part of the country, including in our team in Kent, for the planning and delivery of operation Shield – making sure that every person required to stay at home as shielded was receiving the support needed, including food parcels to their door. The Armed Forces continue to be deployed in logistics, virus testing facilities, and a whole range of other functions, playing a full role in our national response.
We must all remember the brave men and women who have fought to protect our rights and freedoms, and we must also continue to respect, thank and support everyone who steps forward and does their duty today and every day.