It has been the policy of successive Governments that special commemorations are initiated by the Ministry of Defence only for key anniversaries and centennials of events of the greatest national significance; other anniversaries do not receive MOD sponsorship at public expense.
On 26 March, I met representatives of the Normandy Veterans Association to discuss the support that the MOD might offer with the 65th anniversary. It was agreed that the MOD would assist the association with specific administrative tasks, including applying to the Big Lottery Fund for financial support to attend commemorative events in the UK and overseas, and that it would explore the possibility of a church service on 21 June 2009.
May I ask the Minister to look again at this issue? It is outrageous that 500 people who fought for us in Normandy may not, for financial reasons, be able to go to the 65th anniversary celebration—the last celebration. It is no good the Government funding a 100th anniversary celebration—the veterans will all be dead by then. Let us look at this issue now. It is very important, and the general public and veterans are angry that the Government are not doing more.
Every year, the MOD puts substantial support into events on the Normandy beaches. On the last significant occasion—the 60th anniversary in 2004—large sums were given, and the Normandy Veterans Association formally announced that that would be last time it would parade. Since last year, there has been support—some £178,000—from the national lottery. Let me reiterate that the significance of these events was supported by the previous Conservative Government as well.