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VJ Day

Volume 596: debated on Monday 8 June 2015

As this is my first Defence Question Time, I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Although I remain a member of the Army Reserve, I have requested that I be placed on the unposted list for the duration of my appointment as a Defence Minister.

The MOD will be supporting the national commemorative and thanksgiving events that will take place in central London on Saturday 15 August. The Government are committed to providing their full support to those events, which will provide an opportunity for the public, and the nation at large, to honour and pay their respects to those who fought during the far east campaigns.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and welcome him to his new post. Men such as my late grandfather fought in the east, enduring the harshest conditions, and of course many never returned home. Will the Minister commit to working with colleagues across the Government to ensure that schools, organisations and communities have all the support they need to recognise the bravery and commitment of our veterans?

I am delighted that the hon. Lady clearly shares my passion and determination to ensure that this year’s events will be a fitting tribute to veterans and their families, such as hers, who will be very much the focus. We are committed to marking the 70th anniversary of VJ Day and ensuring that veterans of the far east campaigns have a national event that provides an opportunity for the public and the nation to pay their respects and offer their gratitude. I will be delighted to work with any Member of the House who wishes to pursue that.

Last year I received a very moving letter from a veteran in Goole, Edgar Sheppard, whom I subsequently visited in his care home. He told me how concerned he was that young people did not know the sacrifice that he and his Burma veterans had endured. Can we ensure that our cadet forces and the Ministry of Defence work with the Department for Education to ensure that the school children of today know about the sacrifices of yesterday?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. He will be aware of the Government’s commitment to the cadet forces expansion programme. We increased the number of cadet forces by over 100 during the previous Parliament, and we are committed to increasing it to 500. I am a great fan of the cadet force, having previously been a member of it, and am determined that we should expand it.