First World War Centenary

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 18th April 2013.

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Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Conservative, Portsmouth North 9:30 am, 18th April 2013

What plans she has to ensure a suitable commemoration of the centenary of the first world war.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What plans she has to ensure a suitable commemoration of the centenary of the first world war.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government will deliver a four-year programme to mark the centenary, focused around the themes of remembrance, youth and education. We will lead the nation in acts of remembrance, and a £50 million fund will be made available to provide a framework for learning and community-led projects.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Conservative, Portsmouth North

For Hampshire, investing in our heritage will also yield considerable sums in visitor revenue. I am delighted that Hampshire county council has sought to invest in HMS Monitor M33, which will yield millions in heritage funds and tourism income. Does the Secretary of State think that Hampshire Liberal Democrats who opposed that measure should visit Portsmouth dockyard to see what a good return on investment looks like?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my hon.—and maybe gallant?—Friend for that question. I have visited Monitor M33 and there are only two such battleships left in existence. Hampshire county council has had the foresight to invest in something that would otherwise have been lost to the nation, and it should be applauded for doing so. As my hon. Friend points out, that is not only good for the heritage of our country, but great for tourism in Portsmouth.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with broadcasters, particularly BBC local radio, to mark this important centenary? No community in our country was left untouched by the impact of the first world war.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is right to say that every community—and, indeed, every individual—in this country can find their story with regards to the first world war. My officials have been talking to the BBC and other institutions that are already well developed in the ways they will be supporting this important event, which was probably one of the most defining in this nation’s history.

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

A huge contribution was made by Dr Elsie Inglis and the medical teams of women who helped not just as nurses, but as doctors. They felt that their contribution was to the whole of the UK, not merely to Scotland. Is the Secretary of State prepared to meet me and other Edinburgh MPs to discuss how that contribution could be commemorated in London? I understand that some difficulty has been placed in the way of an exhibition on that.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady raises the important issue of the role of women and the way in which the first world war had an immeasurable impact on that.

I would, of course, be delighted to hear more about the point she raises, particularly the role of women in medicine. The lottery will make available funding for local community projects, and I am already working closely with Scotland and Scottish officials to ensure that we correctly mark this event in Scotland too.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales)

The first world war was caused by a complete foreign policy malfunction based on the imperial ambitions of the elites of the time. It resulted in the deaths of 30 million soldiers and 7 million civilians. Surely the Secretary of State agrees that it would be more appropriate to commemorate the end of the war, rather than to replicate in 2014 a jamboree reminiscent of the jingoistic nonsense used to drum up support for the slaughter.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I have to say that the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention is not quite what I would like to hear. We should ensure that we mark the entirety of the first world war from its beginning to its end, as it had a considerable impact on every community in this country. I recently had the honour of visiting many of the war graves of those who gave their lives throughout the war, and we need to ensure that we honour their memory in full.

Photo of Eric Ollerenshaw Eric Ollerenshaw Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood

On a recent visit to the war graves in Belgium, with all the emotions that everybody feels, it struck me how much we owe to thousands of soldiers from across the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, Africa, Nepal and, in one cemetery, even China. There is a real chance in these commemorations to involve every British person, regardless of race or religious background.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is right. I, too, have seen some of those graves. I can reassure him that our noble Friend Baroness Warsi and I are working with me on that—she has a number of commemorative events in hand.