HC Deb 29 November 1983 vol 49 cc751-2
6. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received requesting the use of Her Majesty's ships for the carrying of Normandy veterans to the 40 year anniversary ceremonies in France in June 1984; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Stanley

We have received two representations from hon. Members, including that from my hon. Friend.

Because of the operational commitments of Royal Navy ships it seems likely that few, if any, will be made available for this purpose. However, I understand that a number of commercial operators are arranging tours of the Normandy landing areas next June.

Mr. Hannam

I thank my hon. Friend for his efforts to try to obtain transportation for our Normandy veterans. Will he clarify the position on the use of the existing American and Canadian navy ships, because there is a strong impression among many of the Normandy veterans in the west country that the Canadians and the Americans are making their ships available for the passage of their veterans?

Mr. Stanley

Following my hon. Friend's inquiries, the Government have made inquiries of those Governments, and I understand that the United States Government are not providing service transport. I understand that no decision has yet been made by the Canadian Government, and that any transport will be by way of spare seats on their normal trooping flights, which will take people to Germany and not to Normandy. I shall look into the position further, because I understand my hon. Friend's concern.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

In this connection will my hon. Friend pay attention to the needs of war widows? Will he seek to influence those commercial organisations that arrange for ships to go to Normandy to give special consideration to war widows whose menfolk died in that most famous of invasions, which led to the end of the second world war and to the constitution of democracy and freedom in the Western world?

Mr. Stanley

I hope that those who arrange these tours will consider the widows of service men as well as the veterans.

Mr. Churchill

Will my hon. Friend endeavour to give this matter further consideration, in consultation with his colleagues? Does he agree that it would be a nice and appropriate gesture if the British Government were to make available one or possibly two Royal Navy vessels? There must be a few of these vessels left in home waters by next summer which might convey not only British Normandy veterans but Americans and Canadians who might travel to this country under their own steam.

Mr. Stanley

I assure my hon. Friend that there are plenty of Royal Navy vessels in home waters. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), I shall consider the matter further.

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