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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Armed Forces debate

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

During yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons Meg gave the following speech – at the end of the session the motion was adopted unanimously.

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I am delighted to have the opportunity to take part in the debate. In Sheffield, we are very go-ahead—so go-ahead, in fact, that we had our armed forces and veteran’s day celebrations last Saturday.

It was a pleasure and honour to be present and to have the opportunity to speak to many of our veterans, some of whom are now well into their ‘90s and served in the Second World War. There were veterans from throughout the age ranges as well as cadets, embarking on what we hope will be a career in the armed forces.

Sheffield is not just go-ahead with the day on which we celebrate our veterans and armed forces. We are very go-ahead with the community covenant that the city has signed—I have a copy in my hand. The community covenant is meant to involve as many people in the community as possible, and on Saturday, alongside stalls from all the different services, a stall was set up by Sheffield city council to encourage local people to sign up and make a difference.

The covenant includes a commitment to recognise the contribution made by the armed services; to remember the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces community; to share knowledge, experience and expertise to provide help and advice to members of the armed forces community; and to encourage integration as people move from service life into civilian life.

The covenant is not just a statement of aims, but an active process. I have a copy of an update, completed only this month, on the actions taken in Sheffield. For example, work is ongoing on a lettings policy that will recognise that those leaving the armed services have a priority need for housing. Other work is going on in schools, to see what can be done with the curriculum.

There is a community covenant, which brings in many businesses in Sheffield. Companies offer work experience opportunities, so that those leaving the services have the chance to try out a job before they apply for it. Support is also offered for making applications. We have big companies involved in that and small businesses also offer support to our armed forces. There are also opportunities for leisure, with Sheffield International Venues making available a free life card to anybody from the services.

It is not all sunshine and light, I am afraid. The first signature on the covenant is that of the lieutenant colonel of the 38th Signal Regiment, whose headquarters is in my constituency. The Signal Regiment has squadrons and troops in Aberdeen, Banbury, Croydon, Leeds, Kingston, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Rugby and its headquarters in Sheffield.

It plays an enormously important role. It provides information communication systems to the emergency services and local government in an emergency. That is not something that it just practises and train for, something that I have seen troops doing when I have attended their annual camp. This has been brought into action in recent periods. The regiment provided support to the Regular Army in the floods, and during the foot and mouth and fuel crises.

I am concerned that one of the changes that the Government have seriously considered is moving the headquarters of this enormously important regiment from Sheffield. Members will have heard the spread of the regiment, and as it goes right from Scotland down to the south of England, one would think that Sheffield was a good place for its HQ, being somewhere in the middle.

Perhaps more important, the community of Sheffield supports our armed forces, not just in words but in deeds. We recruit the armed forces and we have good cadet forces. We encourage our businesses to provide support for people to take part in the reserve forces and take on the kind of tasks that we have been discussing today.

So I am most concerned that the Ministry of Defence, as part of its review, is considering removing that headquarters, taking a significant reservists’ base away from one of the largest cities in this country. That cannot be right. The Minister has time to change his mind on this, look at it again and do something about it.

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