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Earl Peel: My Lords, indirectly, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. It was in a little anecdote at the end of my speech.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I think that it was to do with vegetables having come from a long way away.

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Discussions are being taken forward by the Government and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. It is a matter that must be developed internationally.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, I must say that the framework on emissions trading starts in August 2001. I shall write to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis and other noble Lords about the scheme throughout the whole of the EU and the proposed EU trading scheme. We are keen that it should be compatible with existing training schemes and similar arrangements that exist not only here but in other member states.

I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the noble Earl, Lord Peel, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and my noble friend Lord Judd of the potential importance of biofuels. The Government already offer a tax incentive of 20p per litre, and we will consider it again in the light of the review. I share the view of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, and other noble Lords that it is an extremely important area, in terms of the contribution that the rural economy can make.

To my noble friend Lady Thornton I say that we already have a website provided by DEFRA, which explains about climate change. I am assured that it is fun and interesting; it includes games and quizzes.

I welcome the extremely positive contributions to the debate. We will have a difficult task. We recognise that there must be action locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, can never be satisfied; he is an idealist and a perfectionist, as is right. I say to him that the Government are doing much, and we know that there is much still to do. I welcome co-operation, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, will keep us optimistic enough to keep trying to work together to solve the problem.

7.58 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to the debate; they have been very constructive and extremely interesting. In particular, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley—not Madingford; those of us in Cambridge know where Madingley is—for his optimistic speech. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


8 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the situations of surviving ex-servicemen who were severely wounded, or suffered serious injuries to health, as a result of enemy action in the Second World War.

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in asking this Question I shall be calling attention to a particular category of ex-servicemen. They are all over 70 in age—they are survivors because the normal pattern of human mortality means that many of those who were severely wounded in World War II will not be alive today. Even the able-bodied, with a normal span of three score years and 10—that is regarded as the norm, though life expectancy has increased considerably over the past 100 years—probably need special attention and supervised care. I understand that there is now no Member of Parliament in the other place who is old enough to have been in the Armed Forces in World War II.

I must declare an interest as a war casualty. Having been commissioned in the Army at the beginning of the war in 1939, I was wounded on the day before Hitler committed suicide at the end. I then spent over one year in hospital, followed by some months in and out of hospital. The hospital was St Bartholomew's, then evacuated to rural Hertfordshire. The other patients in my ward were all wounded servicemen, some severely. That started my interest and my concerns that I later raised in Parliament.

When we were able to leave hospital we came under the wing of the wartime military medical organisation and its services. However, some 20 years later the ex-servicemen were informed of a major change. In future we would be dealt with by the Department of Health. That seemed a sensible rationalisation; and the number of disabled veterans from World War II was dwindling. They all received letters assuring them that the NHS had been charged with an obligation to give them priority in treatment. A letter which I received recently from BLESMA—the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association—tells me that that is nowadays often forgotten. It states that BLESMA has to remind the NHS trusts and NHS staff that that priority still exists.

That is the main message I wish to transmit in raising this subject in Parliament today. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, who is due to reply, to confirm that the Government still recognise that priority, and that they circulate it within the NHS. It is not a burdensome task. The survivors are steadily decreasing in number, as I have pointed out.

The transfer in the early 1970s of medical care and supervision to the NHS was a landmark event, and a nightmare for some. It had its problems for the clients. For example, in my case the papers with the specifications for the callipers and associated equipment—the orthotic devices—which I had to use, and still have to, were lost in the transfer. So were other important papers concerning wounded ex-servicemen. Those papers were necessary for routine replacements and many ex-servicemen, including me, had to make several special journeys in order that measurements be taken again—quite unnecessarily—for future replacements. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, can assure us that that will not happen again.

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As an illustration, I should like to mention two soldiers who were in the same ward as me in St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1945 and 1946. One was a sapper officer, and he had lost both hands. Another was an infantryman who had lost both feet. The first, as noble Lords will have guessed, had been neutralising or lifting enemy landmines, a sapper's job, and the second—an infantry soldier—had been blown up on a mine when he was advancing during an operation against the enemy. Even then, 56 years ago, artificial limbs were fitted for them. But they were simple and unsophisticated compared with what is available now.

In my case I had been wounded the day before Hitler committed suicide, having started in the Army just before the war in 1939. I had been commanding a field battery in the Scottish Division for three years, but my time in the Army was now being brought to an end by enemy action.

My admiration for the surgeons and staff in St Bartholomew's grew steadily as they repaired us. I must make it clear that I had no reason to complain about treatment over the years. My complaints were usually about bureaucracy. The medical treatment has always been excellent and my colleagues report the same. My injuries were the result of a bullet fired at very close range which passed through my middle, hitting some things but just missing vital others.

I want to put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, arising from the announcement that some tax had recently been charged incorrectly on war pensions that are supposed to be tax-free. Were war disability pensions affected? They are supposed to be tax-free. I gave the noble Lord notice of my question so I hope that he will be able to provide us with the relevant information.

The term "war pension" is misleading. Most of those now receiving a war pension were not involved in any war. Many sustained injuries in this country while on duty. That is the point. A soldier may have fallen off a ladder in the barracks at Aldershot. If he was doing the job on duty, his compensation—to which he is rightly entitled—is called a "war pension". I suggested it be renamed "Armed Forces disability pension", to avoid the confusion which so often arises from that description.

As this is a Question and not a debate, I cannot speak again. But I thank those who have put their names down to speak, in particular the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and the noble Lords, Lord Hardy and Lord Weatherill.

To recapitulate, I hope that the reply from the Government Front Bench will deal with two points. First, do the Government still expect priority to be given to ex-servicemen wounded in action? Secondly, can they give us an assurance about the continuing priority for disabled ex-servicemen? In relation to tax, have some of the war pensions to which I referred—war pensions and disability pensions—been incorrectly taxed, as reported in the recent controversy in the newspapers? I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some information on those matters.

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8.9 p.m.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for getting us together tonight—a rather select little band; we all know each other. It will be an interesting though short debate.

Perhaps the Minister will allow me to take this subject in a slightly broader way. I have to declare—as I think all noble Lords know—that much of my life involves veterans' affairs. I am dedicated to that activity and enjoy it. I shall not list the number of associations or charities with which I am associated. They can be seen on the computer. The positions are all unpaid, as they should be because we volunteer for these activities.

What does a veteran need? What does he want? We have been bad, historically, at looking after our veterans. All political parties are culpable. No one has taken much notice of our veterans, men or women. Other countries in the Commonwealth, and even our enemies of the past, give more status and recognition to a veteran than we as a nation do. At the end of the war it became blindingly obvious to us that no British government was going to look after the veterans and that we had better look after them ourselves. Therefore, these great organisations look after the veterans. Their work involves welfare, benevolence and care for members representing perhaps a small ship, an RAF squadron or a regiment which has its own association.

A veteran deserves status within the nation. At times he deserves recognition. He always needs help and care as he gets older. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, regarding the status and recognition of the veteran. He generally behaves with dignity and quietness. He does not boast of what he has done for his nation. Therefore, I take issue with the fact that, medically, he does not receive priority. As the noble Lord said, the National Health Service should give priority to a veteran. So should the GP. If priority is not given, and the veteran is stuck in a corner on a trolley, or told to come back in two or three years' time for an operation, he should carry some form of recognition. Many veterans' organisations have a veterans' gold card. Everyone is talking about ID cards at present. Perhaps in conjunction with that, some form of recognition could be given. I hope that the Minister will consider that issue.

All veterans have great hopes in and support for the Minister for veterans' affairs. We have been asking for many years for a Minister with responsibility for veterans' affairs. I congratulate the Government on at last providing one. However, we must ensure that the number of staff the Minister is given is adequate for the job and that the position is not a political cosmetic to make everything seem better.

I hope that the Government will support their Minister for veterans' affairs. He needs support. I mention two stumbling blocks. Some veterans may refer to "the enemy". I refer, first, to another place. The general feeling is that Members are quite good at looking after themselves, their emoluments and pensions. I understand that they are now talking about

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partnership pensions for both genders. It is time that they were alerted to the fact that there are veterans and that Members are sitting on their green Benches because of the veterans' work in stopping this nation being invaded and conquered.

I believe that the Minister for veterans' affairs will have considerable trouble with local government. We find that veterans are somewhat pushed to one side by the vast majority of local councils or local government. There have been times—the Government put the matter right—when veterans' pensions were stopped because they received other gratuities and so on. If the task is to be a success, the Minister and his staff will have to bring local government on side. The ethnic—they are now British—associations of warriors from India, west Africa and the small group of African ex-servicemen have been somewhat left out. I am a trustee of the old Indian Army Association based in Southall. The most marvellous man, Wing Commander Puji—he fought in the Battle of Britain in a Spitfire and a Hurricane and went on to fight again in Burma—is very much its leader. The association is full of the most tremendous warriors which only the Martial Tribes of India could and did produce in the war.

I pay tribute to the War Pensions Agency. The Burma Star Association has a good relationship with it. We go to the agency in Blackpool. A veteran is our contact man. It does its best but it is under much constraint. If the Minister for veterans' affairs is to do his job he must look closely at the difficulties that the agency has in helping with the disablement pensions and normal pensions. In the Burma Star Association alone last year—we are probably the only other tri-service organisation apart from the Royal British Legion and SSAFA—the agency had to deal with 300 to 400 problems. We had success.

We had to deal with 200 to 300 widows' problems. Thanks to the agency, we had some success. When we talk of veterans, it is often forgotten that the issue involves widows. There used to be 30,000 to 35,000 members of the Burma Star Association. The number is down to 13,000. We shall die. Quite a lot of people might breathe a sigh of relief; it will cost less money here and there. But there are 20,000 widows. I have told them, sadly, that in my lifetime I shall not have time to dance with every one of them before I kick the bucket. But those widows have to be taken care of. Most of the associations of all three services pay great attention to their widows. They are perhaps the main priority of the Burma Star Association and other associations with which I am associated.

The Minister will be aware that there are rumours—they are more than rumours—of a merger between the larger associations. That would be no bad thing, but the two organisations concerned carry out all the case work. The Royal British Legion and SSAFA are two outstanding organisations, which in many ways take the lead in our association affairs. Their raison d'être is case histories and visiting veterans and widows.

All mergers, whether of businesses or charities, always end up in a row about who will be the boss and who will manage the organisation. The bureaucracy

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can get bigger and everything can go into default because of that. I am not saying that a merger is not a good idea, but one has to look very carefully at it. I hope that the Minister of veterans' affairs will be allowed consider the issue.

I hope that representatives of the new department get out and about and visit the veterans. We have great faith in the Minister. We have told him that we will give him a year to 18 months before we start to get beastly and twist his tail and so on. As I have said, I hope that there will be sufficient staff.

There are many good, young retired officers—young in comparison to my age, perhaps 55 or 60 years old—and warrant officers of all three services. If the Minister had a dozen of those on his staff, they could get out into the country, learn about all the different associations—right down to the smaller ones which do marvellous jobs for their regiments, ships, squadrons and so on—and they could be his eyes and ears.

If the Minister really wants to know how to run a good veterans' association, he should visit Australia. The Returned Services League of Australia and its other organisation, Legacy, are blueprints for such organisations. They are most outstanding. I declare an interest. I have been a member of the Returned Services League of Australia for some time and I am its representative in Great Britain on the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League.

I have gone slightly over my time. We support the Minister and wish him well. We are here to help him. Someone should come and talk to us and ask how we can work together and make a success, for the first time, of all the veterans' organisations in Great Britain.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and to the noble Viscount, Lord Slim. Both noble Lords have spoken from positions of considerable authority. No one is more qualified to speak on this subject than the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy.

Let me offer a word of encouragement. I have recently been studying the 1891 census for Wath-upon-Dearne and Brampton Bierlow, where I now live next door. In 1891 there were 280 people aged 65 or more, about 3 per cent of the population. When the 2001 census, or perhaps the 2011 census, is published, we can expect that that percentage will be at least four or five times higher, and rising. So one hopes that many veterans will still be with us for a very long time, including both noble Lords who have spoken.

They have presented a formidable case. During my service in the other place, I found that when I pursued war injury matters the officials who dealt with those cases were sympathetic. So they should be. The ex-servicemen involved were wounded and injured on behalf of all of us. It is right that the priorities which have been promised should be pursued.

I wish to make a fresh point which I believe is relevant. In addition to the provision of substantial public support, the voluntary ex-service organisations

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play an essential role. First, they provide guidance and assistance in the representation of individual cases; secondly, and substantially, they provide additional, complementary and supplementary support which assists public funds. But, in order to carry out their function, which may be increasingly difficult for the reasons already given, they need to maintain public attention and public support in order that their funds are not diminished.

During the past few years they have faced, and for the rest of this decade they will face, substantial demands as the effects of ageing mean that veterans become more disabled, suffer greater hardship and have less mobility. For that reason, it is important that society does not create situations in which the veterans' organisations are prevented from attracting public attention. It is to that issue that I shall now address my remarks.

I live in South Yorkshire; I am a member of the Royal Air Force Association; and I am president of an absolutely first-class Air Training Corps squadron. In September of each year we have in Rotherham a parade on Battle of Britain Sunday, as is the practice in every other area. But it has particular importance in areas like mine. During the Second World War, after the first year or so, miners were not allowed to join the Armed Forces unless they volunteered for aircrew. A very large number of them did, and many died. Some of the survivors are friends of mine.

The late Ken Sampey, president of the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers, was a navigator; the former Chief Constable of South Yorkshire was a flight sergeant air gunner; the former mayor of my borough, a ward colleague of mine on the local authority, was a warrant officer air gunner who survived two tours. Not many did that. One flew on the Dambusters' raid. One was the office manager of the Yorkshire miners' offices during Mr Scargill's first years in charge there. There were many. Some of them died. Some are still alive, and I hope that they will be alive for a long time. We have that legacy.

We are joined on Battle of Britain Sunday by veterans. The young people on my squadron, my cadets, can see the veterans. One chap has a double Pathfinder decoration from Bomber Command. At last year's service, a friend of mine, Doug Segar, who flew Hurricanes in 1940, read Gillespie's High Flight, which was quite an experience. And yet, shortly before that event, the organiser of our march was contacted by the police and was told that we might have to cancel or pay a fee of more than £500. I wrote to the Chief Constable—it was a matter of policy—and I received a reply from a sergeant, who referred to a constable at divisional level who was in charge of events, parades and ceremonials. I was not happy about that because it was a matter of policy.

It was suggested that some members of ACPO are not happy about having parades and ceremonials, although they accept that there should be one on Armistice Sunday. I am not satisfied that any inhibition on activities of this kind will be useful. It is

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right that young people should be exposed to reality. They should have an opportunity to see the living history that my cadets can see on Armistice Sunday.

We were then told that we could hold the parade in 2001. I have made it clear to the authorities that we hope to hold it each year for as long as the veterans wish to take part in it.

This is important because in the few days before the Battle of Britain service, veterans, other supporters and our cadets raise money for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, which is a very good cause, as the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, is aware. Therefore, I am concerned about the matter.

I was concerned also to find that the Girl Guides were prevented from holding a rally. I am waiting to see what happens in April, when the Boy Scouts hold a parade and church services. Scouts, scout leaders and parents gather for that event.

I believe that it is quite right to hold these events. For people to argue that they are a denial of human rights, as has been suggested, is absurd. We may occupy a road for a short time; we may be denying someone the use of that road. All right, we are denying their human right—if they are intolerant and unreasonable and feel aggrieved. But are they not denying the human right of those of us who wish to honour those who fell, or were injured, or served? Are we right to deny young people the opportunity to see that there is such a thing as service to the community? Or do we want them all to be roaming the streets aimlessly?

Therefore, I have been in correspondence with the Home Office. I have tabled a Question for later this month. I hope that the Answer will be a satisfactory one. If the inhibitions to which I have referred develop, the ex-service organisations will find themselves attracting less attention and will, therefore, experience a diminishing income at a time when the veterans most need our support and sustenance, as they age and as mortality beckons. We should be acting irresponsibly if we allowed the kind of experience that we had—and which we have temporarily overcome in Rotherham—to develop in other areas. As the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, will be aware, one of the organisations with which he is involved faced a threat—I believe a sum of £1,500 was mentioned. That is not tolerable. We are not raising money for veterans' organisations to pay into the public coffers because of a short-sighted and unwise approach, which needs to be deterred and discouraged by the Government as early as possible.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for initiating this short debate. As a regular soldier with a courageous war record and having suffered severe wounds, which, sadly, are still with him, the noble Lord speaks from personal experience and knowledge.

The Question is whether those who have suffered as a result of enemy action and who sustained serious injuries are being properly looked after. Similarly, the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, has made some positive

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suggestions in respect of veterans, notably those in the Burma Star Association. The noble Viscount and I have a number of things in common. I am a member of the Burma Star Association. I also share a room with the noble Viscount. Therefore, we have been able to co-ordinate our speeches to ensure that the contents do not overlap.

As some of your Lordships may know, like the noble Viscount, I had the privilege of serving with Indian troops in the Burma campaign and in Malaya. Our Army commander was the noble Viscount's highly distinguished and much loved father, Field Marshal Slim. Fortunately, I was not wounded, but many of those with whom I served were killed and others were severely wounded. It is, therefore, natural that I should take an interest in the welfare of those who survived.

The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and I are active members of the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League (BCEL). I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to what BCEL has done, and continues to do, to support those Commonwealth veterans who fought with us in World War II with such loyalty and bravery.

I mention two initiatives in particular with which the noble Viscount and I are associated. The first is the Jubilee Appeal of the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League. It is often overlooked—or perhaps more accurately, forgotten—that over 5 million men and women from the Commonwealth fought with us in World War II in defence of the freedoms which, sadly, too many people today take too much for granted.

In the Indian Army alone, some 3 million volunteered to fight for a country that they had never seen and a monarch they had only heard about. They formed the largest volunteer army that the world has ever known. Casualties were great—over 36,000 were killed or wounded—and in the process no fewer than 30 VCs were awarded.

Others came from the Caribbean and from East and West Africa. They served in all three services, as well as in the Merchant Navy and in civilian work, and notably in the nursing services. There is little doubt that, without their contribution, the allied war effort would not have succeeded, and the war would have gone on for a great deal longer had they not been with us.

BCEL was founded after the First World War by Field Marshal Earl Haigh. Incidentally, he was the grandfather of the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever. Since that time, it has helped Commonwealth ex-servicemen and women in need, and continues to do so. With a tiny staff of only four, but with volunteers in Commonwealth countries, BCEL dispenses around £1 million per annum to those in need.

But as the years roll on, we find that demands for support outstrip our resources as more and more of our comrades in arms, without pensions or welfare and often living on starvation levels, are unable to fend for themselves in their old age.

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Under the leadership of our Grand President, HRH Prince Philip, BCEL has established this year a Jubilee Appeal to raise £5 million—a positive response to this debate. I take this opportunity to commend this initiative. It is surely a matter of honour that we should care for those who did their duty by coming to our aid in our hour of need.

The time allotted for this debate is short. However, perhaps I may commend one further initiative with which the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and I are associated; namely, the memorial gates now under construction at the top of Constitution Hill. I know that taxi drivers, and possibly some of your Lordships, curse the traffic jams. But it may come as a surprise that, apart from a small plaque in St Paul's Cathedral and another in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, there is no major memorial in London to the troops of the Indian Sub-continent, East and West Africa or the Caribbean islands who took part in either of the world wars. Therefore, under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, with the generous support of the Millennium Commission and with other generous contributions from numerous individuals, the memorial gates will be a lasting and long overdue memorial to the Commonwealth troops from the countries I have mentioned who came to our aid in the First World War, 1914-1918, and in the Second World War, 1939-1946. They did so in such numbers, and fought with such courage and loyalty—every single one of them a volunteer.

I began by saying that it was a privilege to have served in the Indian Army and to have fought in Burma with such fine troops. It was indeed. I conclude by again thanking the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for initiating the debate and for giving me an opportunity to let your Lordships know that BCEL will continue to bring aid and comfort to the surviving ex-servicemen and women who supported us in such numbers and with such loyalty.

We are not asking for money from the Government, strangely enough. We should like some, of course. But we should not forget the contribution of those troops. We should help them now, in their hour of need.

8.40 p.m.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, raises the standard today for an important group of people who were required to go wherever they were told and to put their lives on the line in order that this country should remain free. I cannot claim to be such a veteran. I am one of that one-time famous breed known as war babies. I was born during the war. Fortunately for me, my father was in a reserved occupation and was not called up, but the vast majority of men of his age were called up. Many of them did not come back, and many of those who did were injured to some extent.

The Question refers to ex-servicemen who were seriously wounded or suffered serious injuries to health. One of the difficulties that many ex-servicemen find is that, while their injuries were not terribly serious when they came back—not serious enough to stop

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them working or carrying out a normal life—the older they get, the more difficulties those injuries cause them. As the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said, as people get older they become more disabled anyhow. If someone is carrying an old injury, even if they appeared to have recovered from it in the past, it can often reappear and cause particular mobility problems and psychological problems in later life.

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