The eleventh anniversary of the Afghan War must not be buried by other news on Sunday.
That is what all major parties hope for. They do not want to see, hear or speak of the deepening futility of Afghanistan. Debate is banned at all conferences because debate reveals the truth.
It's unlikely that the media will report the reading of the names of the fallen on Sunday in Trafalgar Square. At one o'clock a tribute that is banned in the Commons will start. There is real hope that in the not-too-distant future an event will be held that will confront parliament and people with the consequences of decisions to send soldiers to die.
This is what happened when I tried to read the list the day before I was 'named' in the Commons.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the exchanges earlier about Afghanistan, reference was made to the three soldiers who have died since last Thursday. I believe it appropriate that the House also remembers the others who have died in the past few years. They are: Guardsman Jamie Shadrake, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, aged 20, from Wrexham; Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith, Corps of Royal Engineers, aged 26, from Aldershot; Lieutenant Andrew Robert Chesterman, 3rd Battalion the Rifles, aged 26, from Guildford; Warrant Officer Class 2 Leonard Perran Thomas, Royal Corps of Signals, from Cardiff; Craig Andrew Roderick, 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards, aged 22; Guardsman Apete Saunikalou Ratumaiyale Tuisovurua—
Order. It is with some reluctance that I interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he will understand that I cannot know how long is the list that he plans to read out. I want to say politely to him—because he deserves this response—that I have not forgotten the exchange that he and I had on, I think, the first or second day back in September, when he raised with me his view that there should be a formal oral recording, periodically, of lives lost, and asked me to look into the matter. I said that I would, and I am doing so, and I think it wise to proceed on the basis of consultation. I intend to speak very soon to the Leader of the House, the shadow Leader of the House and various others about the matter, and then to revert to the hon. Gentleman. I intend him absolutely no discourtesy, and naturally I intend no discourtesy to the deceased whose names he was planning to read out, and I hope that in return he will do me the courtesy of allowing me briefly but properly to reflect on how to take this matter forward. If he would be good enough to leave it there for the day, his generosity of spirit would once again have got the better of him.
You will recall, Mr Speaker, that I have in the past read out the names of the 179 men and women who died in the Iraq war and the names of more than 200 of those who have died in the Afghan war. By a deliberate decision, this is now banned in the House, and the only protest that I can make against that attempt to disregard and show a lack of respect for the fallen is to continue reading out this list, until we reach an obvious conclusion—
Order. Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to take his seat? I note what he has said, but I say to him and the House that I intend no discourtesy to anybody. In all fairness, we cannot make policy on the hoof. I understand his impatience for what he regards as a satisfactory resolution of this matter, and I hope that such a resolution, in whatever form, can be achieved. Meanwhile, however, we have to operate in accordance with some norms and practices, one of which is acceptance of the decisions of the Chair. I was happy to let him proceed for a short period and to read out some names, and he has done that, but it would not be right today to have a long list read out, without regard to what decision the House might reach. I shall reflect and consult on the matter, and I undertake to him, in full view of the House, to return to him and the House very soon. I hope that that is fair for today.
I accept that ruling.
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his forbearance and courtesy