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Thursday, November 13, 1997 Published at 11:33 GMT

UK: Politics

Defence Secretary apologises for flag blunder

The tatty Union flag

The Defence Secretary, George Robertson, has apologised personally to war veterans for flying a tatty Union Flag upside down at the Remembrance Sunday service for war veterans in London.

Mr Robertson ordered that the flag be replaced immediately.

He said: "I very much share the annoyance felt by veterans who deserve better than this.

"I deeply regret that the otherwise outstanding arrangements for the day should have been marred by carelessness over an important detail.

"I have instructed my officials to ensure that the flag in question is replaced immediately and I have written personally on behalf of the Department to the Royal British Legion to apologise for any distress caused by this unfortunate incident."

Veterans were outraged at the appearance of the flag flying upside down from the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Whitehall during the Remembrance Sunday wreath laying ceremony.

[ image: War veterans were upset at the MoD's updside down flag]
War veterans were upset at the MoD's updside down flag
After the apology Jeremy Lillies, from the Royal British Legion, said: "Of course we would accept the apology graciously. We don't want to rub anyone's nose in it.

"We do understand that things like this can happen - it is unfortunate and is bound to annoy some people, but we take the view that mistakes can happen.

A Downing Street spokesman added: "The Prime Minister was appalled not only to see the flag fly upside down but also at its state of repair."

Julian Brazier, Conservative MP for Canterbury and a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, called for the official responsible for the blunder to be disciplined but he said he did not think anybody should be sacked.

Mr Brazier said: "This was regarded as offensive by a number of veterans, with good reason, and I think disciplinary action should be taken against the official responsible." Senior Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes said: "An apology is the least that can be expected from the MoD. "Someone must be called to account for the double insult of a scruffy flag, hanging the wrong way up on Remembrance Sunday. "If past and present service people and their families cannot look to the MoD to lead the nation's respect, where can they look?"

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