Spouses of Armed Forces Personnel: 17th March 2014

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
5. What plans he has to increase employment opportunities for the spouses of armed forces personnel. [903048]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Anna Soubry)
We know that one of the most important factors in enabling spouses to enter employment is making sure that good child care provision is available at a good cost. In addition to the measures that the Government have taken to help all workers, I am pleased to tell the House that £20 million of the LIBOR funding announced by the Chancellor in the autumn will specifically go to help the provision of child care facilities for service families, particularly the infrastructure. We also have a number of excellent schemes to encourage people to go into employment and to support them to set up their own businesses, as well, of course, as the corporate covenant.

Mr Buckland
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. May I commend to her the work of the social enterprise Recruit for Spouses, which is doing so much to challenge outdated perceptions of military families always being on the move and to engage with businesses to unlock the potential of armed forces spouses? Recruit for Spouses is based in Wiltshire, and it does a lot of work in both Wiltshire and in Swindon.

Anna Soubry
As it happens, I have heard of Recruit for Spouses and I know that its aims are admirable, and of course we support all such projects. That is one reason why I mentioned the corporate covenant: it is very important that businesses recognise the real benefits they get when they employ people who are married to our excellent service personnel, because their spouses tend to be as good.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
Is the Minister not living a little bit in the 20th century rather than the 21st century? It is not just child care that spouses need, but a tailor-made system that allows ​them to use their enormous talent for a productive purpose. Could she not do something more adventurous? We are talking about not trailing spouses, but people who give a great deal to this country under enormous stress.

Anna Soubry
I am sorry, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman heard what I said. I will happily go into more detail. We have programmes in place with the Royal British Legion Industries and the university of Wolverhampton, which run workshops specifically for spouses on finding jobs and on helping them to start businesses, so, on the contrary, I am far from living in a previous century. I do not underestimate the issues. I have spoken to various families’ federations, which told me in no uncertain terms that child care costs and the availability of good provision are absolutely critical. The hon. Gentleman should welcome my announcement of £20 million of LIBOR funding. I do not think that he matched that when he was in Government.

Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) (Con)
19. As a graduate of the excellent armed forces parliamentary scheme, I have had the privilege of learning about all aspects of military life, including the ability to settle in one location thus enabling military spouses to find and to keep down regular employment. What estimates has my hon. Friend made about whether the return of British troops from Germany will help increase the opportunity for spousal employment in the future? [903063]

Anna Soubry
That is a good question. We believe that the return of units from Germany offers a major opportunity for more service families to lead more stable lives, and we also know that that is important. It is vital that Government, local authorities, employers, the Army and the other services work together and plan carefully. A good case in point is the great work that is being undertaken by Rutland county council and its partners. Let me give one quick example of that. Its latest initiative is to hold a job fair at Kendrew barracks next month.