Leader of the council calls on local MPs to help scrap visa fees for commonwealth veterans
Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Shaun Davies has joined cabinet members Richard Overton and Rae Evans and Chair of the Armed Forces Covenant Councillor Chris Turley, in asking Telford & Wrekin's MPs to help put a stop to visa fees for Commonwealth veterans which could run to nearly £10,000 for a family of four.
The call comes in advance of the Nationality and Borders Bill reading in the House of Commons tomorrow (Tuesday 7 December.)
The content of the letter sent to Lucy Allan MP and Mark Pritchard MP can be found below.
Re: Support for Commonwealth Veterans
On Tuesday 7th December the House of Commons will have a unique opportunity to support the Armed Forces with the reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill and the proposed amendments that are being put forward, particularly an amendment from Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and Labour’s Dan Jarvis.
At present, visa fees for Commonwealth members leaving our Armed Forces currently cost £2,389, with dependants of servicemen and women also having to pay. This means that it could cost a family of four nearly £10,000 to remain in the country once they leave the military. This is no way to treat those that have served our nation so diligently. Their service and sacrifice to this country have got to be worth more than what it may cost to the government in monetary terms.
Whilst we welcome the consultation that the Government launched earlier this year (which closed in July with no comment or response released from the Government at present) the proposals set forward do not go far enough in support of those that have served in conflicts such as Kosovo, Iraq and more recently in Afghanistan. Estimates suggest that these proposals would only help 10% of those leaving the military and would leave them still struggling to find the funds to support applications for their dependants. With it not being retrospectively applied it would also leave many of those veterans of the conflicts above still having to pay for their visa fees - which is just not good enough!
On Tuesday we hope that you can muster the courage to back the amendment being proposed by both Dan Jarvis and Johnny Mercer which supports the scrapping of the visa fees for all those that have served a minimum of 5 years and that it be applied retrospectively to the many Commonwealth Veterans and their families. The Royal British Legion, Help for Hero’s, and thousands of veterans of our Armed Forces believe that the current system is unjust and unfair and that change needs to happen to support those that they served alongside.
We need to start seeing action, not more words, from this Government and we hope that you can see the benefit of supporting this change and urge you to vote for it on Tuesday. As Lord Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff until 2013, recently said “To ask servicemen and women to pay for the privilege to live in a country they fought for or were prepared to defend is absolutely out of order”; you now have the opportunity to change that.
Councillor Shaun Davies (Leader of the Council)
Councillor Richard Overton (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Enforcement, Community Safety and Customer Services)
Councillor Rae Evans (Cabinet Member for Council Finance and Governance)
Councillor Chris Turley (Chair of the Armed Forces Covenant)