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National Memorial Arboretum

Volume 564: debated on Monday 17 June 2013

May I start by thanking the Royal British Legion for its custodianship of the National Memorial Arboretum and the trustees of the Armed Forces Memorial for its upkeep? As my hon. Friend will recall—we were there together—I visited the arboretum and laid a wreath at the Armed Forces Memorial on 11 November last year. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence also visited in November last year and my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence will attend the annual ceremony to unveil the new names on the memorial next month.

The National Memorial Arboretum, which is in my constituency, receives more than 300,000 visitors a year and is a real testament to those who died before the second world war and, with the Armed Forces Memorial, those who have perished since that war. What plans does the Minister have for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first world war? Will anything be done at the National Memorial Arboretum then?

My hon. Friend takes a close interest in the National Memorial Arboretum and the Armed Forces Memorial, so he knows well that they were established primarily to commemorate the fallen from 1 January 1948. He will also know that I am the Prime Minister’s special representative for the centenary commemoration of the great war. In that capacity, I am well aware of a number of projects that will involve the National Memorial Arboretum. As my hon. Friend takes such a close interest in both the arboretum and the memorial, I am sure that he will be intimately involved with them.

I will.

I will be attending the memorials for Armed Forces day on 22 June in Penarth in my constituency. What assessment has the Minister made of the scale and support of memorials on Armed Forces day this year? I assume and hope that they are growing.

Memorials are certainly a focus for our remembrance and always central to any commemoration of the fallen. I look forward to Armed Forces day this year. I am sure that, as ever, it will be a great success.

On Armed Forces day at the National Memorial Arboretum and around the country, I hope that hon. Members will join me in remembering Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who was recently posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery in Afghanistan; he is only its 14th recipient since the second world war. The commitment of our troops in the field in Afghanistan lends itself to a proper recognition at the National Memorial Arboretum.

I add my tribute to that of the hon. Gentleman. It is our intention to remove the memorial currently in Camp Bastion to Staffordshire when that is appropriate. Preparatory work for that will begin later this year.