Theresa May: Salisbury to host 2019 Armed Forces Day in wake of Skripal attack
The city where a Russian former spy was poisoned earlier this year will host next year’s Armed Forces Day celebrations, Theresa May has announced.
Ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were both hospitalised in March after being poisoned by military-grade nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury.
The incident triggered a furious diplomatic row between Britain and Moscow, with ministers pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin, and the UK and its allies expelling scores of diplomats. Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack.
Downing Street revealed today that Salisbury will play host to 2019’s main annual event to honour the armed forces in a bid to mark the "bravery and professionalism" shown by military staff in the wake of the poisoning.
Unveiling the location of the 2019 day, Theresa May said: "The military response to the nerve agent attack here has been remarkable.
"In the days immediately following the attack, expert military teams helped to safely move contaminated vehicles, the Defence Science and Technology Library at Porton Down then expertly tested the nerve agent and today around 200 specialist military personnel from the Army and RAF continue to support the recovery.
"By holding Armed Forces Day here next year, we are also celebrating the tremendous resilience and great spirit of Salisbury and showing clearly it is open for business. It’s a great city, enriched by military history and a wonderful place to visit."
Number 10 said the city would be handed a £25,000 grant from the Ministry of Defence in exchange for hosting the event, and predicted "hundreds of thousands" of people would turn out to mark the occasion.
Armed Forces Day - originally dubbed 'Veteran's Day' when it was brought it under Labour in 2006 - takes places on the final weekend of June every year, with Mrs May today attending this year’s national event in Llandudno, Wales.
The day aims to honour current and former members of Britain's armed services, and sees a main national event accompanied by a string of smaller local events across the UK, with medals handed out to service personnel and military charities raising cash for their work.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described Salisbury - which plays host to regular military exercises on a vast training estate on Salisbury Plain - as a "natural choice" for next year’s celebrations.
"Our extraordinary service men and women continue to help Salisbury and the people of this beautiful cathedral city through the clear up and investigation, and it’s extremely fitting that next year the city and the entire nation will be able to thank them here for their commitment and unwavering service to protecting our nation from the deadliest of threats," he said.
Ministers are also promising to set up a new national sports event alongside charities Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion to help rehabilitate more than 400 injured service personnel.
Mrs May said: "Through these new British athletic games and the rehabilitative power of sport, we can help those who have sacrificed so much for our country to lead full and rewarding lives."
CORBYN: WE MUST DO MORE FOR OUR TROOPS
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn heaped praise on Britain's veterans and service personnel - but he said the UK needed to do "so much more" to recognise their "sacrifices" through better pay and public services.
"Every day we must remember what you do for our safety and security," the Labour leader said in a video message.
"And it’s not just people here in the UK who rely on you. You have world-renowned expertise and experience in providing life-saving humanitarian assistance.
"This work means you spend so much time away from your families and friends. And for all your sacrifices and all that you have done for us, we must do so much more for you.
"Labour strongly supports the Armed Forces Covenant by which this country promises that those who have served and their families, are treated fairly. Whether it’s healthcare, housing or pay, we must do more to ensure that our duty to you matches your service to us."