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Armed Forces: Homecoming

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 11 November 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they cancelled a proposed flypast in Belfast on 2 November for the homecoming of local soldiers; who took that decision; and who was consulted; and [HL6082]

Whether they placed restrictions on the music played by a military band at the soldiers’ homecoming parade in Belfast on 2 November; if so, why; and what the restrictions were; and [HL6083]

Whether they have placed restrictions on music played by military bands at any homecoming parade for soldiers since 2002; and [HL6084]

Whether they placed any restrictions on the use of flags and weapons by the members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces who took part in the homecoming parade in Belfast on 2 November; and, if so, what they were. [HL6113]

There are no restrictions placed on music played by a military band at soldiers' homecoming parades and the choice is left to the director of music of each band.

On Wednesday 29 October the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland (GOC NI), Major-General Chris Brown, issued a special signal to all military personnel taking part in the many events over the weekend 31 October to 2 November. In that signal he stressed the significance and importance of being able to give thanks for the safe return of those who had served overseas. Equally he emphasised the need for recognition that the Armed Forces did not have the undivided support of all sections within the wider community. He also outlined that he had taken a number of measures to ensure that the thanksgiving parade did not increase the potential for friction. These measures included that all on parade would be unarmed and the musical repertoire would reflect the thanksgiving and tri-service nature of the event, including regimental tunes, while also recognising that the parade was happening on a Sunday.

In a further statement from the GOC NI on Friday 31 October it was announced that he had decided that there would be no flypast, which further underpinned the appreciation of the sensitivities surrounding this element of the parade.