Whilst the Westminster Hall debate provided Members of Parliament from across the House of Commons with the opportunity to scrutinise the MoD Minister and raise key issues, city MP Stephen Morgan has chosen to maintain pressure on the
Government by writing to the Minister responsible to reiterate the key points of the debate and ask for more comprehensive answers.
Stephen Morgan MP:
“It is integral that we continue to put pressure on the Government to implement the changes essential to safeguarding our veterans.
It is important that this campaign does not lose impetus and the Government is aware that we will not cease our calls for improvements”.
A key theme that came from the Westminster Hall debate was the need for the Government to join our allies across the world and begin collecting data on the number of veterans who take their own lives.
This recording of data is essential as without a quantifiable number, the scale of the problem is not known. All Call Signs, a major veteran’s support group who attended the debate, senior military figures and those within the Health Department support this notion.
In response to Mr Morgan opening the debate by calling on the Government to begin recording veteran suicide, the Minister agreed that “We need to collect data” and that “Data is critical”. However, sadly he made no solid commitments to implementing this as policy and responded by saying that he cannot make coroners record this data as there are “fiercely independent”.
In response to this lack of commitment, Mr Morgan said:
“All Call Signs, Combat Stress, the Health Minister, the former head of the armed forces, the former commander in Afghanistan and many more have all called for the government to start recording veteran suicide. During the debate, the Minister himself conceded its importance, what he did not do is commit to a plan to implement these changes.
I do not believe blaming the autonomy of coroners as the reason for a lack of progression is constructive to this campaign. That is why in my letter to the Minister, I have asked that we work together, cross-party to make legislative changes so that these improvements can be implemented before we lose more brave ex-service personnel.”
During the debate, the Minister and others from his party expressed that suicide is less common in the veteran community. This notion is heavily disputed by experts such as All Call Signs who have raised the fact that it contradicts data from Britain’s allies. The data that this assumption has stemmed from is also highly compromised, issues that Mr Morgan specifically raised in this week’s correspondence with the Minister.
The Portsmouth MP added:
“With the support of veterans’ charities and experts from across the sector, I have called on the Minister to stop pedalling the problematic and compromised idea that suicide is lower amongst the veteran population.
The data set he has extracted this position from is undermined by the fact that it is based on less than 6000 participants. The participants were also not veterans but rather serving personnel and their response was that approximately 80% of them had experienced a mental health issue.
What we need to see is solid, indisputable data rather than assumptions drawn from guesswork.”
Other key points raised in the MP’s letter responded to the Minister’s choice to bring up The Veterans Gateway, an online resource for veterans, in his closing speech. The Minister spoke of the proficiency of the online resource but veterans themselves have expressed opinions to the contrary.
On Veterans Gateway, All Call Signs, an organisation made up of veterans said:
“Often, The Veterans Gateway make recommendations and only upon following them, does the individual learn that they don’t qualify for the treatment they have been told about. This leaves them despondent and unwilling to reach out again.”
Stephen Morgan MP is committed to raising this issue through any mediums possible until the end goal of getting the Government to begin recording veteran suicide is reached.
Mr Morgan’s letter comes a week after the debate he hosted on the topic and he has expressed that this is just a small part of the intended work that he plans to do.