First World War Commemorations

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 1st May 2014.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 9:30 am, 1st May 2014

What steps he is taking to ensure that the contribution of people from black and minority ethnic communities in the first world war is appropriately commemorated.

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Minister for Equality, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the significant contribution of ethnic minority soldiers to Britain’s war effort. He may be interested to know that just last week I made a private visit to Ypres; I went to the Menin gate memorial remembrance service and saw for myself that among the names of soldiers whose graves are unknown, there were many from the Indian subcontinent.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

I thank the Minister for Equalities for that answer and welcome him to his position. More than 1 million people from ethnic minorities served our country in the first world war, and 12 soldiers from the Indian subcontinent have been awarded the Victoria Cross for valour. What are the Government doing to ensure that Victoria Cross recipients from minority communities born in other countries are properly commemorated?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Minister for Equality, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I am pleased to tell him that recipients of the Victoria Cross who were born abroad will be commemorated not only in their country of birth, but here in Britain.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment. This is the first time in the history of this country that a majority of Ministers in a Department are from the ethnic minority communities—all with different hairstyles, but all appointed on merit. I strongly support what Rehman Chishti said. Could we have a physical representation of that, and may I offer Leicester as a city in which a monument could be put up to those who served in the war?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Minister for Equality, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his warm words, despite his comments about my excellent hairstyle. He makes an important point about a monument—I cannot think why he picked Leicester—and that is certainly worth looking at.

Photo of Paul Uppal Paul Uppal Conservative, Wolverhampton South West

My great-grandfather fought in the great war, a fact that I became aware of only in the past decade. May I impress on my right hon. Friend that as well as a written record of history, there is often an oral history of acts of great bravery in the Indian and, specifically, Sikh regiments?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Minister for Equality, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my hon. Friend for the question, and for the contribution his family made to the great war—as did, obviously, many other families, but especially, as he highlighted, people of ethnic minority backgrounds. He has made an important point, and I will certainly look at that.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights)

The Commonwealth contribution to the first world war was significant. In particular, one in 10 people who served came from undivided India. In Northern Ireland we have a very large Indian community. What discussions has the Minister had with the bodies responsible in Northern Ireland to ensure that the community’s significant contribution is commemorated?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Minister for Equality, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will know that more than 70,000 soldiers from the Indian army made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of Britain in the great war. With respect to

Northern Ireland, I have not had any discussions so far in my new role, but I will certainly raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.