A DEFENCE minister gave his support yesterday to the campaign to create a memorial to the men who served in the Durham Light Infantry (DLI), in their home county.

Speaking in the Commons, Mark Francois paid tribute to the "proud history" of the regiment - promising to travel to Durham City to visit the statue, once it is erected.

However, Mr Francois ruled out the Ministry of Defence (MoD) contributing to the cost.

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The minister was quizzed on the plan by Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield MP, after The Northern Echo threw its weight behind the campaign last week.

The statue will symbolise a moment when DLI buglers sounded the ceasefire in Korea in 1953, and will be a replica of a statue unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, last July.

Two former DLI soldiers - signaller Keith Straughier and bugler Richard Softley - revealed their dismay when they visited the arboretum, only to find the DLI was not represented.

Yet more than £90,000 was raised for the memorial, much of it coming from Northern Echo readers, prompting the two veterans to launch an appeal to fund a replica, in Durham City.

Mr Francois told MPs: "By tradition, the Ministry of Defence doesn't pay for war memorials. The tradition, for many years, has been that they are funded by public subscription.

"However, if the DLI veterans and others manage to raise the money for the memorial, I promise I will come to visit it."

Speaking afterwards, Mr Wilson said: "I'm pleased that the minister gave his support to the campaign, even though it is not the tradition to offer financial support."

Negotiations have begun to find a suitable site for the statue in Durham.

Donations for the appeal, made payable to the Regimental and Chattels Charity of the former DLI, should be sent to DLI Memorial Appeal, The Rifles Office, Elvet Waterside, Durham, DH1 3BW.