It was Armed Forces Day on Saturday which is a chance for all of us to show our appreciation to the Armed Forces, past and present, for their service and dedication. This event, now in its tenth year, is a way of extending thanks to serving personnel, reservists, veterans, cadets and their families. I know there was a big event in the Forbury Gardens and Broad Street in Reading with the Waterloo Band of the Rifles, my former regiment, amongst many other attractions. Other events took place all across the county with the Band of the Royal Logistics Corps leading the parade down the High Street in Hungerford on Saturday.
As leader of the UK delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I spoke in Parliament the week before in a debate on NATO to argue for the need for all countries in the NATO alliance to step up to their commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. I also spoke about the cyber threat and how this needs to be seen in a similar way to a century ago when the RAF was formed to meet the demands of a new battlefield in the air.
My campaign continues to bring in a Statute of Limitations for the Armed Forces. This would ensure that no case could be brought against any current or former member of the armed forces for what they did in combat if 10 years has expired since the alleged incident. Unfortunately, as is very often the case with Private Members’ Bills, it did not get a reading in Parliament on Friday 15th June but it was humbling to see so many veterans gathered in Parliament Square to show their support, including 78 year old Dennis Hutchins, the veteran who is still being pursued with reference to an incident in 1974, despite twice being told that there is no case to answer. This week I am meeting with the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence to learn what actions are being taken in Government to resolve this issue. This is much more likely to make it into law if it the Government leads on it rather than a Private Member’s Bill and that is what I will be pushing for.
The week before last I was privileged to visit 77th Brigade at Denison Barracks in Hermitage where the Band of the Royal Artillery beat the retreat. Behind the picture-book scene, on an idyllic summer’s evening, lies a modern, creative organisation practising new and different ways to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare. We are fortunate to have this unique organisation in West Berkshire and it brought home to me again the need to support our Armed Forces in every way possible and let them know that they should feel revered for the difficult job they do and not be under threat of persecution by any form of biased or politically motivated judicial witch hunt.
On Sunday I attended a service to mark the laying up of the Royal British Legion standard of the Cold Ash and Hermitage branch. They are amalgamating with the Thatcham branch and it was a poignant but dignified moment to appreciate the many people from both communities who have served in our armed forces over the last 100 years.