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Veterans Day

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from non-governmental organisations on the events organised to celebrate the last Veterans Day. (207261)

Following Veterans Day 2007, the event was discussed in July and October at the Veterans Executive Steering Group which is chaired by the MOD and attended by the Confederation of Service and Ex-Service Organisations (COBSEO) and the heads of a number of its key member organisations. Their main comments were that COBSEO members should have wider and earlier visibility of events, that there should be higher level VIP support at the major events and that the London event should have a more central location. All these issues have been addressed for this year's events and COBSEO has been an integral part of our planning process since October 2007. Both the Government and the main ex-service charities have recognised that Veterans Day would need to be built up over a number of years. We are committed to working in partnership with the non-government organisations and others to achieve proper public recognition for the nation's veterans.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he plans to take to improve the event organised to celebrate Veterans Day. (207262)

When the Government first launched Veterans day in 2006 as a key element of its initiative to improve the nation’s recognition of its veterans and their achievements, it made clear that this was something that would need to be built up over a number of years. Veterans day 2008 promises to be a further step forward from last year with improved quality and size of events and growing public involvement.

The MOD does not organise Veterans day events itself but encourages and assists event organisers with advice and makes funding support available to those that meet the qualifying criteria; this funding increased last year and has again been increased for 2008. The aim is to encourage communities to take the initiative in the organising of events, whether in large cities or more widely, allowing them a wide degree of freedom to design events that engage young and old, while conveying our key messages about the achievements and diversity of veterans and the support available to them.

Recent measures to improve the quality of events have included a briefing of potential major event organisers last September, involving representatives from over 30 towns and cities across the United Kingdom; regular engagement with the key ex-service organisations; and wider work to promote the celebration of our veterans and to share best practice, including engagement with the local councils and civic offices, and presentations and coaching to other potential event organisers. I also hosted a Veterans day reception and briefing for all MPs in January, while detailed information on organising Veterans day events was sent to all MPs offices.

These actions have resulted in higher quality event bids and, reflecting this, MOD has allocated more funding in 2008 than in 2007.

As you will be aware, the National Recognition Study, authored by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), has just been released and makes a number of recommendations that could further enhance our recognition and celebration of the nation’s veterans. We welcome these but will need to give them detailed consideration before deciding precisely how to take them forward.