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Armed Forces: Memorial

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 5 June 2008

My honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Armed Forces memorial, dedicated to some 16,000 members of the United Kingdom Armed Forces killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since the end of the Second World War, was constructed at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and dedicated by Her Majesty The Queen on 12 October 2007. The concept for the memorial was first announced in the House of Commons by the then Secretary of State for Defence, on 10 November 2000 (Official Report, col. 414W).

In May 2006, following parliamentary approval, via the departmental contingent liability Minute dated 22 May 2006, the Ministry of Defence provided an indemnity of £3.3 million to the trust which provided for money to be loaned to underwrite the costs of the project that were not then covered by donations. This underwriting allowed the trustees to proceed with contractual arrangements to meet successfully the unveiling deadline of October 2007.

The costs of the project are now expected to be in the region of £7.3 million and the trustees of the Armed Forces Memorial Trust have raised £6.7 million. This sum includes £1.5 million met from the proceeds of the sale of Trafalgar Coins which the then Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 13 February 2006. The trust also secured a Millennium Commission grant of £2.417 million. The remainder was raised from public subscription.

While there has been no call on the underwriting, the Armed Forces Memorial trustees have recently advised the Ministry of Defence that there is no realistic prospect of significant further public contributions. Consequently, the trustees have sought payment, forecast at some £500,000 in total, to meet outstanding construction costs owed to contractors and expected construction costs. The Ministry of Defence now intends to meet these costs and the cost of inscription of names of those who died since 2007 as an unrecoverable charge to defence funds. These costs will be treated as special payments and recorded in the Ministry of Defence annual report and accounts.This expenditure will be authorised on the sole authority of the Appropriation Act.Provision for payments will be sought through the normal supply procedures.

The Ministry of Defence also intends to provide an annual grant-in-aid to the Armed Forces Memorial trustees to cover maintenance of the memorial and to fund the inscription of names of those who have died since the original inscriptions were made and those who die on duty or as a result of terrorist action in future. Annual maintenance costs and engraving is expected to cost some £120,000 to £150,000 per annum. Subject to negotiation with the trustees, the Ministry of Defence is therefore proposing to make a grant of some £120,000 to £150,000 per year to be reviewed by April 2010 and subject to uprating in the interim.

The payment of these costs is a departure from the established policy that the MoD does not fund military memorials from public funds, and a change from the Statement made by the then Secretary of State for Defence on 10 November 2000 (Official Report, col. 414W). The Ministry of Defence considers that the unique circumstances warrant an exceptional departure from established policy to provide an element of funding for the Armed Forces Memorial.