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War Memorials

Volume 535: debated on Monday 14 November 2011

War memorials provide a lasting and poignant reminder of all those who have served and died in the service of our country. Most right hon. and hon. Members will have attended a war memorial yesterday to pay their respects to the fallen, both in the first and second world wars and subsequently. It is shocking that memorials are being violated and vandalised in the manner that we have all read about. I support any plan to protect memorials, and I know that the Home Office and local authorities are committed to dealing with the problem.

At this solemn time of year, when we remember those who fell to protect our freedoms, there is a small, despicable group of people who go round stealing metal from war memorials. What action are my right hon. Friend and his colleagues across Government taking to bring the full force of the law to bear on those individuals?

For myself—I should say that I am not sure that this is Government policy—if they were caught, I would ensure that they received exemplary sentences, but that is a matter for my colleagues in the Ministry of Justice. In the Ministry of Defence, the sponsored cadet forces are being encouraged to participate in project In Memoriam 2014. The project involves locating and logging the thousands of war memorials across the United Kingdom and marking them with SmartWater, a commercial product that should enable the metal components of war memorials to be forensically traced if they are stolen.

The desecration of war memorials is an appalling crime, condemned by Members in all parts of the House. Would the Minister be willing to meet representatives from SmartWater, which is based in my constituency? It is doing a tremendous job protecting metal on war memorials, as part of its wider social obligation to our communities. Would he be willing to meet SmartWater representatives to see what more we can do to protect memorials? All parts of the House would support such initiatives.

I would be very happy to hear their submission. I should point out that the something like 100,000 marvellous war memorials in this country are not the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence. The War Memorials Trust is doing excellent work on this, but if the hon. Gentleman writes to me, we shall see whether we can have a meeting, perhaps with one or two of the people responsible for the matter.