HL Deb 14 October 2002 vol 639 cc590-2

2.45 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-day in 2004.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, in commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-day, the Government and the Armed Forces will be represented at ministerial and senior officer level at parades and services in Normandy being organised by the French Comité du Débarquement. The Parachute Regiment will provide a band. We will also have appropriate representation at the service of remembrance and thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. It had a good spin to it, but I am disappointed with it. Clearly, the Government are indifferent to the wishes of the 8,000 Normandy veterans and their families. This is the last big anniversary that many will be able to attend.

Do the Government accept that, by any standards, the 60th anniversary of D-day is an enormously significant occasion? D-day was the biggest single multi-service operation in the history of warfare. Its commemoration deserves our full support. Are the Government concerned that Britain will be put to shame by the Americans, Canadians and French?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. The Government hold the D-day commemorations and the Normandy veterans in the highest esteem. In no way do we underestimate the value or significance of the 60th anniversary of D-day or the debt that we owe to the Normandy veterans.

In addition to the support that I outlined in my Answer, the Ministry of Defence is giving administrative assistance to the veterans going to Normandy, and the British Embassy in Paris will co-ordinate details with the French authorities in order to be helpful.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, in asking the Minister to ensure that Bletchley Park is represented at the 60th anniversary commemorations, I declare an interest.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness gave great service in the Land Army and at Bletchley. There will be a tri-service commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Second World War, and I am sure that, in that commemoration, the people who worked at Bletchley Park and the Land Girls will be represented.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that her Answer will give quite a little satisfaction to those of us who were there at the time? The memories abide with us, and we are still reminded of the friendships that we all had. It was so different from the social divisions that, at the moment, disfigure this country.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, as well as the support that we are giving to the events that are being organised in France for the commemoration of D-day, the Government are also funding and organising the commemoration of three separate campaigns that have been put forward by the services: the Battle of Britain, which was celebrated in 2000; the battle of El Alamein, which will be celebrated on 23rd October this year; and the Battle of the Atlantic. In addition, the Government are supporting and funding a major commemoration of the end of the Second World War and there will be high-level representatives from government, all the services and, of course, the veterans themselves in those celebrations.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the 50th anniversary was commemorated in Normandy in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and President Reagan? Will the Government carry out their planning on this occasion in plenty of time in order to enable British veterans who are considering participating, the youngest of whom will be in their late 70s, to make their plans and reservations?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, absolutely. The Government and the Normandy Veterans Association are already in planning discussions which will continue right up to the date in 2004. There are very good relations between the Normandy veterans and the Government on this matter and the Government will do all they can to support the veterans in what will be a memorable commemoration.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I welcome the recent construction of the Commonwealth Gates, which commemorate all those from the Commonwealth who gave their lives. However, do the Government think it appropriate that, as I noticed when passing the gates recently, the Millennium Commission has its own logo on these commemorative gates in a very prominent position? Is that a proper use of those gates?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I shall write to the noble Lord on his question.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the War Widows Association of Great Britain is hoping to persuade the Caithness glass company to issue a poppy paperweight to commemorate the event?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I was not aware, and I delighted to hear the news from the noble Baroness.