The Government wish to hide the true cost of the war in Afghanistan by drawing attention away from the loss of lives.
Today I visited the Brize Norton repatriation centre for the fallen. The Government were embarassed by the raw grief visible on the streets of Wotton Bassett. The spontaneous displays of respect and mourning spoilt their fable of the 'success' of the continuing blunder of an unwinnable war.
Three times they tried to make the bereavments less visible. Instead of making speeches on the conflict in the Commons, I read out the names of the fallen. That made a deeper impression than rhetoric. Commons rules were changed to end the practise and it is no longer permitted.
David Cameron changed the announcement of the recent war dead from the crowded Commons of PMQs on Wednesday and announced one group of deaths on a Tuesday and another on a Monday when the House was relatively empty. I protested with points of order and EDMs. There were denials that this showed a lack of respect and the announcements on Wednesday were restored.
There was a change of airport for receiving the fallen. Advantage was taken of this to route the corteges away from the village centre of Wotton Bassett to quiet country roads that skirt the village of Caterton. The respect shown by passers-by in Wotton Bassett is no longer possible. The TV pictures are less dramatic and the repatriations are ignored by the media. 'Out of sight: out of mind' fits the Government agenda of burying bad news. My worst fears on the route were reinforced by my visit today.
However the new facilities have been sensitively conceived. About £2 million has been spent to make the nightmare of witnessing the 'return' of love ones bearable. A large lounge, overlooking the runway, is comfortably furnished into family groups of easy chairs. Professional staff are on hand to console the bereaved. Coffins are placed in individual small chapels which have been prepared according to the rites of all religions. As many of the fallen are parents of young children, a nursery is available equipped with Peppa Pig books and toys.
Local people have lovingly produced tapestries to add beauty, warmth and calm to the surroundings. Mercifully there has been only one soldier's body repatriated this year. A new approach to avoid pointless patrols and dangerous bomb-dismantling has sharply reduced casualties. May this long continue. But the lesson of this futile war has not been learned.
Parliament still hears the parrot cry that we Britons are proud to punch above our weight. That means spending beyond our interests and dying beyond our responsibilities. These facilities are superb. The devotion of those who designed them and who comfort the bereaved is commendable.
I hope they never witness British casulaties returning from Syria or Iran.
Inside the big beast the C-17 that transport the fallen to Brize Norton.