Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday

Today I attended the Remembrance Sunday parade and service at Camborne. The attendance was higher this year than for many years previously - almost certainly linked to the fact that the difficulties and the casualties our forces are suffering in the current mission in Afghanistan has had an impact on the whole country.

The parade started at 10.30 from Camborne Community Centre. There had been concerns about the weather. It was breezy to say the least but the rain held off which was what mattered. As well as many local forces veterans, there was a strong turn out from the cadets, the Scout movement and the Brownies. Following behind the veterans were representatives from local politics and business: the chambers of commerce, councillors and the candidates from the three political parties.

The mission in Afghanistan would be the gravest responsibility of any future government and Prime Minster. I travelled with David Cameron to visit British forces in Afghanistan in July 2006 when I was his Press Secretary. I saw first-hand the work that our troops were doing in Kandahar, Camp Bastion and Lashkar Gah. The fighting was intense even in 2006 and then, as now, there were issues around equipment and support – particularly helicopters.

Our armed forces have a “can do” attitude and get the job done without complaining. But I feel very strongly that government has a duty to do its bit to ensure that, if we ask our forces to put their lives at risk, then we must do all we can to ensure they are properly equipped and that their families are supported and that if they should be wounded they are properly looked after. It is because they don’t complain that we should all take extra care to make sure they are not taken for granted.

After that visit to Afghanistan in 2006, David Cameron set up a commission to look again at the “Military Covenant” – the unwritten agreement between society and the forces which says that, in return for taking extraordinary risks on our behalf, we will do our bit to see they are looked after. The Commission took a detailed look at conditions for our forces today and it came up with a raft of proposals to improve the way they and their families are treated. It would be an important step forward.