Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Cadet Forces

7. Ms Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to support the cadet forces. [60962]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): The Ministry of Defence provides direct funding of approximately £95 million a year to allow the cadet forces to offer a vast range of personal development and educational opportunities for young people and, with their nationwide reach, act as a genuine force for good, both for the youngsters who join and the communities in which they are based. In addition, the armed forces support the cadet forces with a significant benefit in kind in the form of training facilities, matériel and some manpower resources.

Ms Johnson: Given the success of project outreach, does my hon. Friend agree that even more encouragement of young people to engage with cadet projects would not only benefit the young people but would fit very well into the Government's respect agenda?

Mr. Touhig: I certainly endorse the point that my hon. Friend makes. Indeed, just a week or so ago, on 19 March, I had the opportunity to visit an outreach project at Sennybridge. It was a dry and beautiful day. [Interruption.] I should add that there was no rain in the Brecon Beacons on that day, given comments made by Opposition Members. The programme is run by the Army cadet force. It is a project that helps youngsters build confidence and raise self-esteem, and it offers them a positive purpose. Many of them who come from disadvantaged backgrounds certainly benefit from it. Those values are part of the Government's respect agenda, which we can all endorse. I pay tribute to those people whom I saw that day. They work very hard with those youngsters, some of whom come from difficult backgrounds who saw the programme as a second
27 Mar 2006 : Column 532
chance—perhaps their only chance—and I pay tribute to those who work in project outreach: it is a great success.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): As president of the Ellesmere cadets, I wholeheartedly support the cadets and their expansion into state schools—something that the Chancellor said in February he wanted to take place. How and when will that happen, and who will pay?

Mr. Touhig: The hon. Gentleman refers to one of the most exciting developments in the cadet forces at present. There have been discussions between my Department and officials at the Department for Education and Skills for some time, and we have now extended those discussions to include the Treasury. We hope to announce a series of pilot schemes across the country that will extend the combined cadet force into state schools. We hope that some of the funding will come from the private sector and some from the Government. We have to resolve a number of key issues. Obviously, funding is one of them. We need to identify the schools and ensure that there is appropriate support for the project. We need to ensure that we have enough people to train and take part in those schemes, but we are working very hard, and I hope that, before too long, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be able to make a further announcement on the issue.

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): I have in my constituency TS Fort Grange, with 66 youngsters on the books and a waiting list—of course, the RAF and the Army have a similar story—but does my hon. Friend recognise that the biggest stumbling block that cadet forces come up against relates to adult civilian volunteers? How can we hope to expand the scheme, which I would love to expand, if we cannot find ways to encourage more adults to help those youngsters in a very important part of their development?

Mr. Touhig: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We now have 3,300 units across the country, with 130,000 cadets and 23,000 adult volunteers, but I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise the fact that the success of the whole cadet movement is dependent on the ability to attract and retain sufficient adult instructors who are willing to take part. As part of the work that we are now undertaking with the Department for Education and Skills and the Treasury, we hope to address this matter so that we can take forward the agenda. We recognise the difficulties and shortfalls, and it is a major objective of ours to try to correct them.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): How much of the funding that the Minister mentioned goes to the sea cadets?

Mr. Touhig: I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the precise figures to break down the £95 million that we give to our cadet forces. I am conscious of the various ways in which we raise funding for the cadet forces. That is somewhat haphazard and we should look at it. I am exploring one or two ideas of my own, and perhaps we
27 Mar 2006 : Column 533
can consider better longer-term funding by which the cadet forces might be able to apply to a trust of some sort, so that we could ensure that they have a proper stream of funding. I do not underestimate the great work done by the cadet forces—I pay tribute to them for it—and I am conscious of the fact that we have a responsibility to ensure that they are properly funded. I am actively looking at ways to try to improve that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I call Sharon Hodgson. I call Mr. David Crausby.

Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East) (Lab) rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am getting ahead of myself. I call Edward Miliband.

Veterans Challenge Fund

8. Edward Miliband (Doncaster, North) (Lab): What projects the veterans challenge fund has supported in the last 12 months. [60963]

Mr. Touhig: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for keeping on track.

The veterans challenge fund offers £750,000 each year to pump-prime projects that support our veterans strategy. During the past 12 months, the fund has provided funding for a number of projects, including a study by Manchester university into suicide among veterans, support to the project that seeks to find employment for homeless veterans and advice for those who seek to work with veterans in prison.

Edward Miliband: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the veterans challenge fund can play an important role in helping excellent organisations, such as the Dunscroft branch of the Royal British Legion in my constituency, at whose annual dinner I am speaking, as part of the veterans day celebrations? Does he further agree that all hon. Members have a responsibility to help to promote take-up and awareness of the veterans challenge fund, so that our most vulnerable veterans can get the support that they deserve?

Mr. Touhig: I am in the happy position of being a Minister who has money to give away. I want to make sure that more and more veterans organisations apply for funding from the challenge fund. Indeed, I spoke at the veterans forum only last week and urged more organisations to apply. I hope that Members on both sides of the House will recognise the important contribution that the challenge fund makes. There are funds available and I urge Members to look for opportunities for organisations that support the veterans agenda in their constituencies to bid for funding. The number to ring is 0800 1692277 or they can write directly to me and I will give them the address.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I am genuinely confused about why that work cannot be done through the Royal British Legion. Will the Minister explain the difference between veterans day and Armistice Sunday? These veterans initiatives are all extremely worth while,
27 Mar 2006 : Column 534
but there is scope for some confusion. In a constituency such as mine, it is quite difficult and challenging to find sufficient volunteers to collect for poppy day. There may well be some scope for distraction if we have too many initiatives, rather than concentrating on those that are well established.

Mr. Touhig: We may be a bit ahead of ourselves: the next question is about veterans day. However, I will respond to the hon. Gentleman's point. We are determined that the 11 November commemoration should remain the national commemoration when the country comes together to remember those who gave their lives for the forces in defence of our freedom and way of life. We in no way wish to take from that important and historic event the solemnity that the whole country places on it and we pay tribute to the work done by the Royal British Legion in helping to promote and organise that event, and in particular in promoting poppy day. The purpose of veterans day follows on from last year's successful veterans awareness week. We wanted to set aside a day every year—we have chosen 27 June—on which the whole country can commemorate veterans and celebrate with veterans. That is more a day of celebration and of paying tribute to those who have given a great deal in support and defence of our country. It is quite clearly different from the 11 November memorial and that is how we want to keep it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: At the risk of repeating myself, I call Mrs. Sharon Hodgson.

Next Section IndexHome Page