Brown to back national armed forces day in honour of troops
A NATIONAL armed forces day to honour servicemen and women is set to be endorsed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown this week.
Military campaigners welcomed the idea, but warned it would be seen as an "empty gesture" unless the Government increased defence spending.
The event would involve open days at military bases, parades and talks to schools and youth groups in order to raise public awareness of the work of serving personnel.
Some campaigners suggested pubs, restaurants and shops could offer free drinks, meals or discounts to uniformed members of the armed forces.
Ministers are thought to have ruled out the idea of an additional bank holiday because of concerns about the impact on business, but a day, most likely in the summer, would be designated as armed forces day.
Dozens of other nations, including the United States, Iran, China, Israel, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, already set aside special days to honour their military.
Campaigners want to see the British public replicate the kind of reception given to the military in those countries, where people shake the hands of servicemen and women and children give soldiers flowers to put in their helmets and rifles.
A UK armed forces day will form part of a package of measures in a report by backbench Labour MP Quentin Davies into how to improve the public's perception of the military.
Other proposals are likely to include events to celebrate the departure and return of troops from overseas operations. Soldiers will also be encouraged to wear their uniforms in public. Defence secretary Des Browne said the Government would give "careful consideration" to Davies' proposals.
"A few days ago I was in Basra and Baghdad and once again I saw first-hand the bravery and professionalism of our forces.
"Their dedication deserves the nation's respect and gratitude. I want to ensure that, as a nation, we show our appreciation to all our troops," said Browne.
The campaign is likely to win the support of the Prime Minister when Davies presents his report to him on Wednesday.
Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former adviser to Brown on security, applauded the idea but stressed it was important that the event was not seen as an "empty gesture" at a time when defence spending was being eroded.
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