HL Deb 15 March 2002 vol 632 cc110-1WA
Lord Vivian

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps are being taken to tackle family issues in the Armed Forces stemming from separation as a result of frequent deployments and the disadvantage that accompanied service can bring to spouses in relation to pursuing a career with pension rights. [HL3182]

Lord Bach

Following a review in 1999, £56 million was allocated over a period of four years to establish an Operational Welfare Package for Service personnel deployed on operations and long term exercises (of over two months' duration). The package includes measures to alleviate the strain placed on families when the serving partner is deployed overseas. Examples of those measures are a weekly telephone allowance (20 minutes); easy access to Internet terminals for most deployed personnel; concessionary parcel rates and electronic "blueys". All these measures help families to stay in close touch during deployments.

Additional leave is allocated to personnel (according to the length of absence) at the end of an operational deployment; and additional family travel warrants have been introduced for families in the UK to visit their own families. For families abroad, these warrants may be transferred to up to two close relatives for reverse travel from the UK to the family's overseas location. Further work is planned to look at what additional support can be given to service dependants of deployed personnel.

The problems faced by service spouses in pursuit of a career are well recognised. Several trial schemes are under way to assist them to obtain employment, as well as schemes to seek co-operation with local businesses. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body is also examining this matter and has already sought evidence on employment patterns for spouses.