HC Deb 01 March 2004 vol 418 cc611-2
15. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland) (Lab)

What steps his Department his taking to help servicemen and women in moving from the armed forces to civilian occupations. [156743]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence(Mr. Ivor Caplin)

Those servicemen and women who have currently served at least three years in the armed forces are eligible for job-finding support when they leave. This support is provided under the career transition partnership contract placed by the Ministry of Defence in 1998. RFEA Ltd.—the regular forces employment agency—and the officers' association are also involved with much of the job-finding work under the career transition partnership contract. While all discharged personnel remain on the career transition partnership's books, for two years after discharge, the RFEA and officers association offer ex-service personnel support for the rest of their working careers.

John Robertson

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer, but does he remember that on Second Reading of the Armed Forces (Pensions and Compensation) Bill he told the House that nine out of 10 armed servicemen and women found employment on leaving? That means that 10 per cent.—well above the national average for unemployment—do not get jobs. Does he agree that that is not good enough? Will he assure me that the Government will do their best to find jobs for that 10 per cent. of men and women who fight for their country on a daily basis?

Mr. Caplin

I certainly share my hon. Friend's concerns. Do I remember the Second Reading and Committee stage of the Armed Forces (Pensions and Compensation) Bill? Of course I do; it is fresh in my memory, as the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) will recognise.

As I said, although only service leavers who have served at least three years are eligible for resettlement provision, from 1 April the early service leavers initiative will be introduced into the new contract for career transition partnerships for all members of our armed forces.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con)

First, I suggest that the Under-Secretary tell the Secretary of State's special advisers to use a formulation other than What steps his Department taking for the handout questions, because it is a little obvious. Secondly, on the small number of veterans who have fallen into, or are in danger of falling into, social exclusion, can he tell the House what proportion that represents?

Mr. Caplin

I have no idea what the hon. Gentleman is talking about in relation to "handout questions".

The figure that I used before is that 90 per cent. of our armed forces leavers get good employment within six months of leaving the armed forces. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson) explained, it is the 10 per cent. who are of considerable concern to me as the veterans minister and to the Government as a whole. As I said, we are doing a lot of work on the transition issues that are related to that 10 per cent. by working with the voluntary and other sectors to reduce that number as speedily as possible.