D-Day Commemorations

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2004.

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Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

I made an initial assessment of the D-day commemorations to the House on 9 June during the veterans affairs debate. I am pleased to report further that the Ministry of Defence has received a number of letters from hon. Members, veterans and their organisations who attended the events in France, expressing their thanks for the effort provided by the Department and our armed forces. I would again like to add my thanks to all for their hard work. I have also written to the French Veterans Minister thanking the people of France for their support during that most memorable weekend of 5 and 6 June.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac PPS (Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Minister of State), Home Office

I am sure everybody in the House would agree that the commemorations were a success. They were both moving and a fitting remembrance of the bravery and sacrifice of veterans. It is important that their work and their bravery, not just in world war two but in other conflicts, be kept in the public mind in future. What will the Government do in the future to keep these affairs in the forefront of the public's mind? Has he ever given consideration to something for which I have campaigned for some years: a veterans day public holiday?

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

We have already announced to the House that we propose to have a veterans awareness week in July 2005. That will be an opportunity for people in all parts of the United Kingdom to take part in discussions with veterans and, we hope, in educative opportunities for young people in order for them to understand what happened in 1945 and to be more aware of how those great and momentous events in our history took place. I will give some consideration to my hon. Friend's other suggestion, but I am sure she is aware that that is not directly the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

May I, on behalf of many of those who were there, thank the Government and congratulate them on the arrangements that they made for those never-to-be-forgotten celebrations? Will the Minister extend to the armed services our thanks for all they did in a very short time to bring together such a tremendous display, and will he particularly pass to the Normandy veterans our admiration and respect for their bearing and dignity on a parade that no one who saw it will ever forget?

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments about that weekend's events in Normandy, and Her Majesty's Government were delighted by the excellent turnout from both sides of the House. Events occurred in Portsmouth, which has a direct and important connection with the Normandy landings, in Lichfield, at the national memorial arboretum, and in many other towns and cities across the UK, such as Plymouth and Blackpool, and I hope that the people who attended those events also had a memorable and enjoyable weekend.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

The Minister mentioned next year, when we shall commemorate victory in Europe and victory over Japan. Will he and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office consider righting a wrong perpetrated half a century ago, when the Polish air force was denied the opportunity to march down Whitehall with the other representative contingents because it might offend Uncle Joe Stalin? I hope that he will find some way to commemorate the Polish air force, which was part of "the few".

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's point, and I shall look into the matter and report back to him. On 10 July 2005, the country will come together to commemorate VE-day and VJ-day, and I hope that all those who want to participate can do so, whether that occurs in London or other cities and towns around the UK.