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British Service Personnel Memorial

Volume 651: debated on Wednesday 12 December 2018

1. If the Government will make it its policy to build a national memorial to British service personnel killed on service in Northern Ireland. (908071)

May I start by paying tribute to my predecessor in this role, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara), who has been typically generous and helpful with his time and efforts during the handover?

I am sure that everyone on both sides of the House will agree that we all owe a vast debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of British servicemen and women who were killed upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. Within the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire sits the armed forces memorial. Rightly, it includes the names of every member of the armed forces killed while serving in Northern Ireland, as a permanent reminder of their bravery and sacrifice.

Anthony Dykes, who came from Harworth, a mining village in my constituency, was murdered on 5 April 1979. His parents, Fred and Kathleen Dykes, are two of the finest people I have ever met and represent everything that is good about my community and this country. Other grieving parents have specific memorials. For Fred and Kathleen’s son and others who were killed or murdered on duty in Northern Ireland, there is no such memorial. Is it not now time that, as with other conflicts, there is a specific memorial for those who served our country and lost their lives in the conflict in Northern Ireland?

I understand and empathise with the hon. Gentleman and his constituents. In fact, as I visited the former Massereene Army barracks in Northern Ireland last week, I paused to pay my respects at a local memorial to two former Army engineers who were killed in 2009. There are many such memorials to individual acts of heroism or tragedy scattered not just across Northern Ireland, but around the rest of this country. Those commemorate individual actions and tragedies. The national memorial is the one in Staffordshire, and we should not underestimate its importance or value—it having been opened by Her Majesty the Queen and recording the names of everybody who has been killed on service in Northern Ireland and other conflicts.

I would gently point out that this is not an essay exchange competition; this is Question Time. For goodness’ sake, let’s speed up.

Will the Minister remind the House how many brave British service personnel were killed or wounded in Operation Banner, which was the defence by this country against a terrorist onslaught in Northern Ireland?

Having been in the job for three and a half weeks, I am afraid that I do not have the precise number, but it was very many and the tragedy was huge.

One of the last formal acts I did as Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2013 was to unveil a memorial stone in the Belfast City Council memorial garden to the Ulster Defence Regiment and others who served in Operation Banner. May I invite the Minister to come with me to see the memorial there and to consider how best nationally we could reflect the Government’s recognition of sacrifice in Northern Ireland?