HC Deb 01 March 2004 vol 418 cc602-3
5. Shona Mclsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on "Heroes Return". [1156733]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence(Mr. Ivor Caplin)

"Heroes Return" is the central element of the New Opportunities Fund's "Veterans Reunited" programme to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war. This lottery-funded programme will help to ensure that all generations of United Kingdom residents can commemorate the 60th anniversary together, with events both at home and abroad, and is part of wider cross-government work involving the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Education and Skills.

Shona Mclsaac

It is clear from other questions that have been asked in the House today that all hon. Members welcome this excellent initiative, which is proving very popular with our veterans. Given its popularity, will my hon. Friend consider extending the scheme to the veterans of other conflicts, such as the Korean war or Suez, so that our veterans could go there and wear their medals with pride?

Mr. Caplin

"Heroes Return" is a two-year, lottery-funded programme commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war. I know of the importance of Korea to hon. Members and to the British Korean Veterans Association, members of which I visited at the arboretum recently; I was also with a number of veterans in Korea last summer. I acknowledge my hon. Friend's bid as the first for an extension to the scheme. I will have to consider it and talk to the lottery operator when the time is right.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con)

Lottery grants are often controversial, but the Minister will agree that this one will achieve universal acclaim across the Chamber and throughout the country. In considering the grants made and the representations given at veterans' events, will he bear it in mind that, two days before the heroes return to Normandy this June, other heroes will be returning to Rome because it will be the 60th anniversary of its liberation? Will he bear it in mind that those who are entitled today to wear the Italy star belong to a force that lost 45,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen'? Is there any prospect of a royal and prime ministerial presence in Rome two days before the same dignitaries go to Normandy?

Mr. Caplin

The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment on the last point. However, in April, it will be the 60th anniversary of Kohima in Burma, and in May, it will be the 60th anniversary of Monte Cassino. Both events take place before the D-day commemoration. It is important to emphasise that "Heroes Return" is about all events worldwide and does not support only veterans going to events or their carers. It is also an educational project that allows veterans to commit to regaling their stories and legacy to young people in our society so that we have a living history of the great sacrifices many of them made.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab)


Mr. Speaker

Andrew Mackay.[Laughter.]

Andrew Mackinlay

I am the good-looking one.

Will the Minister consider how the many thousands of volunteers from the Republic of Ireland who served in the British armed forces during the war and those of whom Winston Churchill made special mention in his "Victory in Europe" broadcast can be included in the scheme? There were thousands of them, they were outstanding and every single one of them was a volunteer. They need to be included in "Heroes Return", in the absence of an Irish delegation here today.

Mr. Caplin

I never for one moment thought that my hon. Friend was the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay).

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab)

He has not been under the sun lamp.

Mr. Caplin

I shall leave that comment from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) alone, Mr. Speaker.

The lottery money amounts to £10 million and, under the rules of the national lottery agreed by this House, we can only give grants to UK citizens. Those veterans resident in Northern Ireland will qualify. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that those resident in the Republic will qualify unless they are UK citizens.

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