James Sunderland welcomes the statement on the review into the historical actions of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and asks the Secretary of State about future challenges, particularly for sites located in Africa, across the far east and in more far-flung places.
I welcome the statement, and I publicly thank the commission for its excellent work over many years. I, too, have visited several sites. What challenges does the Secretary of State see for sites located further afield? My sense is that the sites in western Europe, the UK and the Falklands are easily maintained and will be safe for the future, but are there particular difficulties that may lie ahead for sites located in Africa, across the far east and in more far-flung places?
My hon. Friend raises one of the key challenges in maintaining sites, sometimes in places that have been quite hostile. One of the strengths of how the modern-day Commonwealth War Graves Commission does its job is that it uses local staff and engages locally. Indeed, it is supported by the Department and the defence diplomatic network in working with host Governments. I am, in a sense, more optimistic, because I think this report will help open the door further for commemorating, finding and maintaining some of those sites. If we come along and say to the host countries, “Hands up, this is what we could have done better. This is what we didn’t do right,” we have a far greater chance of collectively being able to commemorate those people and educate their populations and our population about the contribution that was made.