Skip to main content

Remembrance Service (Cenotaph)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 20 November 2007

4. What discussions he has had with representatives of the overseas territories on arrangements for the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph. (165620)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no discussions with representatives of the overseas territories on arrangements for the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph. He lays a wreath on behalf of all the overseas territories at the service, and there are currently no plans to change that arrangement.

I think that my hon. Friend will accept that the Foreign Secretary has not served in any wars, and that we should allow the London representatives of the overseas territories to alternate the wreath-laying duties between them. Their people fought in the war, and it is to them that the wreath pays tribute. I am sure that the ego of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is not so great that he will refuse to give up the wreath-laying duties to representatives of the overseas territories.

My hon. Friend is perhaps the greatest champion in this place of the rights of the overseas territories, in particular Gibraltar. We value the strong relations between Her Majesty’s Government, Her Majesty the Queen and the overseas territories, whose representatives are regularly invited to events hosted by Her Majesty and her Government. I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend, with whom I often agree, but we have no plan to change the current arrangements at the Cenotaph.

I support the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) in his question, so will the Minister confirm that the Cenotaph commemorates all people from the Commonwealth and the empire as was who lost their lives not only in world wars but in more recent conflicts? As this year is the 25th anniversary of the Falklands war, is not it time that the Minister had a word with his ministerial colleagues so that people from the island of St. Helena were awarded the south Atlantic medal, which has, so far, been denied them?

I will of course bring the hon. Gentleman’s comments to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Ministry of Defence. I do not wish to upset him by championing the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) for the overseas territories, because the hon. Gentleman has a proud record in that matter, too. The current arrangements provide the correct balance: the central involvement of Her Majesty the Queen, the respect and honour shown in the act of national commemoration and the role played by the Foreign Secretary in laying a wreath on behalf of the overseas territories. We think that is the correct balance.