I write to you again on behalf of the UK National Defence Medal campaign, the National Service Association, the Korea Post Armistice Medal Campaign, the Cold War Medal Campaign, the British Nuclear Testing Veterans Association, and Sub-Mariners Association, to seek your personal intervention.
Veterans totally understood that owing to the tremendous pressures on your diary you were unable to meet with me and why you passed their letter to the Cabinet Office to deal with the matters raised. Today I received letters from both the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, on your behalf, which can only be described as another shabby attempt to bury the National Defence Medal.
The Cabinet Office in their reply dated 8 December, written on your behalf, totally ignored the information, obtained through FOI requests and released by the Information Commissioner on appeal at a ‘first tier tribunal’, that the MoD had forwarded inaccurate details to the Honours and Decorations Committee which were used by the Committee to adjudicate on the institution of the NDM. In addition, the Head of the Honours and Appointments Secretariat relies in his reply on a factually inaccurate statement made by the Minister for Civil Society six months prior to the release on appeal of inaccurate MoD records, which had been kept out of the public domain, as the reason for not reopening the review of the NDM.
The MoD letter dated 13 December, written on your behalf, should cause the Secretary of State for Defence embarrassment and concern. It totally ignores the details provided by the Information Commissioner that shows MoD passed inaccurate information to the H&D Committee in respect of the institution of the NDM, in addition it rehearses arguments, which have over the past 10 years been shown to lack substance. To add to this unsatisfactory situation, the MoD letter is unsigned and where a signature should be are typed the words ‘Yours sincerely Defence People’.
I request that you now help our veterans who have kept this Nation and its interests safe and secure since September 1945, get a fair deal. All they wish is that the submission for the National Defence Medal is reviewed in an open and transparent way. Should this process mean the medal is to be turned down by Government, it is done so on facts and not as a result of subjective views made in a secretive manner. Surely our veterans deserve and have earned this simple courtesy.
A copy of the Cabinet Office and MoD letters are attached for ease of reference. Click to add text, images, and other content
Dear Prime Minister,
Veterans across the United Kingdom are aware of your personal support for them in respect of the contribution they have made in keeping this Nation and its interests safe and secure. I therefore seek a meeting with you at your earliest convenience on behalf of the UK National Defence Medal campaign, the National Service Association, the Korea Post Armistice Medal Campaign, the Cold War Medal Campaign, the British Nuclear Testing Veterans Association, and Sub-Mariners Association, to discuss the continued injustice they believe they have encountered in seeking medallic recognition for their service.
Since the ending of the Second World War there have been numerous attempts by organisations representing former service personnel to achieve medallic recognition by Her Majesty the Queen for their service. As each year has gone by, the activities of the medal campaign groups have lessened due to old age, frailty, illness or in many cases death. Consequently, in 2007 the National Defence Medal (NDM) campaign was launched by representatives of these organisations coming together to make one concerted effort to achieve medallic recognition in their lifetime.
As you are aware, in 2008 the Conservative Party commissioned a study into what had been termed the ‘broken military covenant’. The study highlighted concerns surrounding the lack of medallic recognition. This resulted in the Conservative Party stating they would review the structure and membership of the Honours and Decorations Committee (HD Committee) and also outstanding claims for medallic recognition. In late 2010, the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, tasked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with carrying out a medal review. Regrettably in carrying out this review there were a number of failings. The MoD failed to promulgate the start date; failed to promulgate terms of reference; excluded groups of medals from the review without reason, failed to consult with the medal campaign groups; failed to speak to a single veteran; and failed to make public the date the Medal Review process would conclude and report. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on appeal, revealed a desk based paper exercise in little over two weeks which lacked analysis, relied heavily on subjective opinions within the MoD from which to make unsubstantiated decisions to reject or disregard all outstanding claims for medallic recognition stretching over the past 65 years and affecting millions of former service personnel.
On 16 February 2011, the Secretary of State for Defence informed Parliament that he had signed off on the findings of the review. The Prime Minister was perplexed when informed this review had failed to engage stakeholders outside of the MoD, the review report was downgraded to a draft. On 25 May 2011, MoD circulated the relevant parts of the review report appertaining to specific medal campaign groups to them for comment. Although some of the medal campaign groups were contacted, many were not. It did however make no difference as the review was completed and report written and processed before the submissions were due to be returned.
The review was discredited, and on 30 April 2012 the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government was committed to recognising all that the Armed Forces do to keep the Nation safe and directed a fresh independent medal review be carried out under the auspices of the Cabinet Office and led by a former senior diplomat, Sir John Holmes. Its aim was to draw a definitive line under issues which in some cases had been controversial for many years, ensuring consistency and fairness were respected as far as possible, in a context where judgements are often difficult, but need to be clear and defensible.
This independent review was the most widely ranged for a generation, was open, transparent and gave the veteran community confidence that their claims for medallic recognition, stretching over many decades, would be fairly dealt with by a Government keeping its promise. Sir John encouraged all medal campaign groups to submit evidenced cases for their particular medal. Once studied Sir John carried out personal interviews with the representatives of each organisation.
Stage One of the review was completed and the report circulated to all who had contributed to it in July 2012. Stage Two of the review was a different matter, it was carried out with a total lack of transparency and the independence of the review ceased.
Medal campaign groups had been waiting for and expecting the final Holmes review report on Stage Two to be circulated to them in December 2013. This did not happen and it was not until Parliament rose on 29 July 2014 for the summer recess that the medal review decisions were finally made public by an announcement in the House of Lords. In December 2014 the Head of Honours and Appointments Secretariat of the Cabinet Office wrote to assure me that they were not holding anything back and there was no final medal review report. All the work produced by Sir John Holmes had been issued in the form of a series of review papers covering the various medal campaign submissions. In respect of the NDM this was difficult to accept as the published review paper turning down the NDM bore no relation to the submission made to Sir John by the campaign group or his findings and comments in the Stage One review report.
FOIA requests to the Information Commissioner together with ensuing appeals and first tier tribunals, stretching over a period of two and a half years and concluding in November 2016, revealed the various medal campaign groups had been subjected to yet another shabby review, but this time extending over nearly two years and not just a few weeks. It was established that Sir John had met with the Advisory Military Sub-Committee (AMSC), a sub committee of the HD Committee on the 29 August 2013 to discuss his findings. Twenty-one submissions were dealt with in a two-hour period by this MoD committee. The NDM submission was found to have been dealt with unfairly as had so many others such as the submission for a National Service Medal, the Cold War Medal, recognition of the nuclear test veterans and medallic recognition of service personnel killed or wounded in action.
In Stage One of the Holmes review in July 2012, Sir John asserted in his report that the NDM was an issue of broad national significance, which would require political and public consensus and consideration of the government as a whole in consultation with other political parties and concerned organisations. On introducing his Stage Two interim assessment to the AMSC in August 2013 he emphasised that the NDM was not a campaign medal but recognition of service medal; that Australia and New Zealand had such a medal and that there was a feeling the UK had been rather parsimonious when recognising service.
The AMSC committee accepted the NDM would probably be politically attractive, might go someway to resolving other medal grievances and that it should not be confused with campaign medals. However, the same subjective views, used previously in the discredited 2010/11 MoD medal review, soon surfaced; there was no appetite for such a medal; doubts about whether the medal had a strong following or was it just a campaign by a few individuals who had made their voices heard; it would cheapen campaign medals; and the cost would be totally prohibitive. The AMSC meeting minuted its recommendations that the claim for the National Service medal together with the Cold War medal should be swept up in a separate Cabinet Office led review of the National Defence Medal, which is in a different category from campaign medals and needs broad political consideration. No record of a separate Cabinet Office led review can be found although I am aware of a study carried out by two civil servants who had been recruited on to Sir John’s team to look at the costings of the NDM in concert with the MoD in early August 2013.
Three key but inaccurate observations were made by the AMSC in respect of the NDM; there was no support for the medal; its cost would be totally prohibitive and the institution of a medal for service would devalue campaign medals. As these subjective opinions appear to have influenced the decision of the HD Committee not to recommend the NDM, it is important you are aware of the actual facts.
First, the NDM is of national significance, has extensive support from service associations, and Royal British Legion branches, together with individual veteran support right across the United Kingdom, which continues to grow. The latest organisation to confirm unanimous support for the NDM was the Royal British Legion of Scotland at their annual national conference in May 2016.
Second, the anxiety over a £300 million cost for the NDM, the figure placed before the AMSC by MoD is understood, especially with so many other competing demands from a finite budget. However, as confirmed to the media by a former Armed Forces Minister, the MoD costing’s for the NDM have been wildly exaggerated. Experience of both Australia and New Zealand was a take-up rate of approximately a third of those eligible applied, spread over a number of years. It is therefore estimated that of the seven million UK veterans or next of kin eligible for the NDM, only two to three million are likely to apply. The latest written quote, obtained on 30 October 2016, from a reputable English medal manufacturer, for a British produced medal of the same quality as the current General Service Medal inclusive of ribbon and box, is £8.00 per medal. The cost to the tax payer from the defence budget or from the LIBOR fund would be between £16 and £24 million spread over six years with administration, postage and package costs sitting with individual applicants.
Third, minutes obtained through a first tier tribunal found that Sir John identified to the AMSC meeting on 29 August 2013 that the NDM was not a campaign medal but recognition of service medal. The AMSC also accepted the NDM was in a completely different category to a campaign medal.
In January and July 2014 the HD Committee met to deliberate on the review findings of the medallic submissions. They turned down the institution of the NDM. It is not known what documents or evidence the committee considered when formulating their decision, however, these have been requested via the FOIA and their release is now the subject of a first tier tribunal. The HD Committee’s decision was at variance with the conclusions and recommendations made by Sir John in his Stage One report in July 2012 and the recommendations of the AMSC in August 2013. Of concern to veterans was the inaccurate statement made by the HD Committee and used repeatedly by the Cabinet Office in their replies to letters from concerned MPs supporting the institution of the NDM: “The institution of the NDM would be against the tradition of British medallic policy and, in particular against the custom whereby medals are generally awarded to those who have participated in campaigns which have involved considerable risk and rigour.”
British medallic policy is made up of four categories of medals. These include; medals for individual brave and meritorious service such as the Victoria Cross and Military Cross; Medals for specific operational campaigns such as Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan; medals in recognition for periods of service in the regular, reserve and cadet forces; and medals in recognition of service at specific times in Her Majesty’s reign such as the Jubilee medals. One category does not devalue the other, they are just different and the NDM as a medal recognising service would fit into either of the latter two categories.
When commenting on the award of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal to those serving on a certain day with a number of years service in the Armed Forces during the Jubilee year, the Chief of the Defence Staff said, “This medal recognises the important and difficult job our Armed Forces have carried out defending our nation and its interests, both at home and abroad and is a fitting tribute to their dedication and professionalism”. The CDS’s comments mirrored the justification for the institution of the award of the National Defence Medal to all those who have served this Nation and kept it safe and secure since September 1945.
No avenues existed, either through the Ministry of Defence or the Cabinet Office, to redress the inaccurate assessment and decision made by the HD Committee. A meeting was therefore requested with the former Prime Minister in January/February 2015. Unfortunately his busy schedule due to a forth coming General Election meant a personal meeting with him was not possible. However, the former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP did reply to my request after discussing the issue with the Prime Minister.
In the Deputy Prime Minister’s letter of 24 February 2015, he wrote, “Sir John Holmes submitted a balanced options paper to the HD Committee which included proper consideration of the case for an NDM. Sir John gave evidence to the HD Committee, including in relation to the NDM, which fairly represented the views of the NDM campaign. So the suggestion that information about the NDM was withheld from the committee is not accurate. However, I agree with you that the HD committee should do more to achieve transparency and accountability so that veterans understand fully the decisions taken. My office has therefore written to the Committee requesting they clarify publicly what documents they considered in relation to their decision about the introduction of a NDM and I expect a decision from them at the end of the month.” No reply appears to have been received by the former Deputy Prime Minister from the HD Committee on this matter or if it was its content was not made known to me.
As previously mentioned, a FOIA request to obtain the relevant information has now reached the first tier tribunal stage. This tribunal was adjourned on 27 September 2016 awaiting further information from all parties, which the Information Commissioner has now received. It is hoped information surrounding the minutes of the HD Committee meeting together with details of what facts/documents were presented to the HD Committee, from which they based their decision not to recommend a National Defence Medal, will be received in the coming weeks.
The independent medal review was initially held in high esteem by the veteran community due to its independence, efforts to consult, and the government’s commitment to openness and transparency. Of note was Sir John’s assessment on completing Stage One of his review that the current system of decision-making is vulnerable to the charge of being a “black box” operation, where those outside have no knowledge of what is decided or why, and have no access to it. The process is largely invisible and inaccessible to those outside the system, which has substantially added to the frustration of veterans and other campaigners, unable to penetrate beyond bland official statements that a particular decision has been taken. He also stated that without access to the withheld information it would be impossible to assess the thoroughness of the review into the matter.
It is therefore unfortunate that during an independent review, established by the former Prime Minister, that veterans seeking medallic recognition through the institution of the NDM and other medal campaign groups, should be treated in such a shameful way. There is without doubt strong public interest in the AMSC and HD Committee now providing as much detail as possible about the decision not to recommend the NDM and clarification of their statement “a strong enough case could not be made at this time but that this issue might be usefully reconsidered in the future”. This bland statement without explanation is unacceptable after 10 years of campaigning for the defence medal by so many veterans. There is also a strong public interest in understanding more about why the UK continues to pursue an approach which differs from other commonwealth countries to which Her Majesty has awarded a National Defence Medal to its veterans.
The veteran community have continually been assured that the Government and the Nation as a whole hold the professionalism, courage and contribution of all who serve and have served in the Armed Forces in the highest regard. The institution of the National Defence Medal, if agreed would be the biggest step forward so far towards the government honouring its promise to meet the commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant. It is therefore requested that the review of the institution of the NDM is now reopened. That a study be carried out into the substance of the assessments made by both the AMSC and HD committees in reviewing the NDM submission and Sir John Holmes’s Stage Two review. Such a study should be both open and transparent in the public interest due to the large number of veterans affected by the HD Committee’s decision.
I would welcome a meeting, on behalf of the various veteran organisations that I represent, to discuss the contents of this letter and the next steps with you.
Terry Scriven See the reply HERE
Prime Minister, David Cameron, has stepped into the controversial and secretive Ministry of Defence Medal Review to insist that veterans have their say.
The Medal Review was a commitment in the Conservative Party General Election manifesto and a Coalition commitment in their ‘Programme for Government’.
The Government now claim to have met this commitment by undertaking a review to address the injustice suffered by hundreds of thousands former service men and women who, over the past 60 years, have kept this Nation safe and secure but have not received any recognition from Her Majesty the Queen.
However, the MoD decided not to make public the date the review started, its terms of reference, the date it should report together with its findings and recommendations and not to consult with those who have been campaigning over many years for medallic recognition.
The Prime Minister was said to be perplexed when he found out veterans had not been consulted and both he and the Deputy Prime Minister refused to endorse the final review report when it was presented to them.
Co-Chairman of the National Defence Medal Campaign, Tony Morland, a former Sergeant in the Royal Signals, said, “ The commitment by the Coalition Government was a positive indication that Her Majesty would shortly be requested, by the Government, to honour former servicemen and women by the award of the UK National Defence Medal in a similar way she has honoured Australian and New Zealand veterans. But this secretive, discredited review, which appears to have findings based on false arguments, is another kick in the teeth for veterans”.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has called on the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, to reconvene the Medal Review, appoint an independent chairman, widen its terms of reference, broaden its consultation and facilitate greater transparency.
Former National Service Royal Marine Officer, Charles Lovelace, said, “ For many aging veterans, who have served this Nation proudly, this is the last chance to be officially recognised in a way they deserve by Her Majesty. The Medal Review was supposed to be symbolic in addressing the broken Military Covenant. I am pleased the Prime Minister has stepped in and I hope Dr Fox will support the call, made by the Deputy Prime Minister, to reconvene the review with an independent chairman.”
FIRST OF THE NEW DEFENCE MEDALS TO BE PRESENTED
Veterans across the country are hoping that this week will see the Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg make their decision on the institution of the UK National Defence Medal
Coinciding with this decision is the inaugural presentation in Parliament of the New Zealand Defence Service Medal.
Chairman of the UK National Defence Medal campaign, Tony Morland said, “This medal recognises the contribution service personnel have made to the safety, security, peace and freedom that all New Zealanders enjoy today,”
About 30 recipients will receive their medals from Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Judith Collins and Defence Minister Wayne Mapp.
The new medal is awarded for non-operational military service in the Defence Force by New Zealanders. Those who have served in the military for more than three years since World War Two; those who did compulsory military training or national service, will also qualify as will Reserve personnel whose service comes on top of their normal job.
Ms Collins said.
“Our service veterans hold a special status in our society. This Government is committed to honouring those veterans who served their country”.
Dr Mapp said, “Many thousands of New Zealanders have met the demanding requirements of military service. They have served their country and community loyally and well, including responding to disasters such as the Christchurch earthquakes.” He went on to say, “Up to now there has been no recognition of this service, on which the Government places high value. This medal remedies that. It delivers on the National Party’s campaign commitment to recognise those people.”
Mr Clegg the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and the Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey MP have previously given their unqualified support for the UK National Defence Medal.
Hope that British Veterans will finally be treated equally with their Commonwealth allies could finally be coming to fruition. The long awaited medal review (some veterans have been waiting over 60 years) is due to be published. Although the review did not directly consult with interested parties and the MoD’s track record with veterans affairs has been poor to date, there is a real feeling of optimism and anticipation that under Andrew Robathans stewardship, a positive recommendation will emerge and Her Majesty will finally be given the chance to approve a National Defence Medal for the UK, as has already been the case for Australia and more recently New Zealand.
When Servicemen and women take the oath or affirmation of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen they are likely at any time to be called upon to make personal sacrifices. Many of these veterans believe their service in keeping this nation safe and secure has been forgotten and for years have been seeking recognition through the award of a UK ‘National Defence Medal’.
Denis MacShane Labour MP for Rotherham, who with 200 other MPs called for the medal to be awarded as soon as possible, has now secured an adjournment debate in Parliament to counter any continuing obstruction in the depths of the Ministry of Defence to honour our service men and women.
The award of the defence medal to our veterans is a UKIP policy and the first policy motion approved by the Liberal Democrat Party since being in Coalition Government. A medal review supported by the Conservative Party and contained in the Coalition ‘ Programme for Government’ is underway but its lack of transparency and consultation outside of MOD is causing thousands of veterans concern.
The MOD position in the past has been that awarding a medal for solely being a member of the Armed Forces would devalue the system and believe a veterans’ badge should be sufficient recognition.
Colonel Terry Scriven (retd), Chairman of Liberal Democrats Friends of the Armed Forces said,
“How can the award of a National Defence Medal, by Her Majesty to our veterans, who participated in the hazardous Berlin Airlift; or to the millions of National Servicemen who were compulsorily taken away from their homes, their families and their way of life, or recognition of thousands of service personnel involved in the Cold War which saw hundreds of them killed on duty and thousands injured; devalue our medal system?”
The National Defence Medal campaign is supported by service organisations throughout the UK, by serving and retired service commanders, by public dignitaries and veteran icons such as Dame Vera Lynn who question why successive governments have failed to institute a medal which appropriately recognises our veterans.
Tony Morland the co-Chairman of the UK National Defence Medal campaign said,
“The NDM is symbolic in this government showing it means what it says in addressing the broken military covenant. Veterans understand in this climate of austerity, the medal will need to be self-financing and at no cost to the ‘public purse’. However, we fail to understand why we are being denied such recognition when Her Majesty the Queen has awarded a defence medal to Australian and New Zealand regular and reserve forces together with their veterans”.
Notes for the Editor (see below)
The Debate is scheduled for 12:30hrs, Tuesday 8th February 2011, Westminster Hall, 30 Minute Debate.
Read the latest PressBox press release: HERE
The Chairman of the Liberal Democrats Friends of the Armed Forces will accuse the Ministry of Defence and the last Labour Government of being shameful, shallow and shabby in its failure to call on Her Majesty to recognise veterans who have become the forgotten heroes.
In a speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Liverpool, Colonel Terry Scriven (Retd) will call for a National Defence Medal to be awarded to all veterans in recognition of their service to the Nation. Such service includes the two million National Servicemen who were compulsorily taken from their homes under an Act of Parliament to serve; and those who served in the Cold War.
Colonel Scriven said, “I find it disappointing that despite their rhetoric, successive governments have failed to appropriately acknowledge those, who as members of the Armed Forces, have kept and continue to keep this country and its interests safe and secure.”
Her Majesty the Queen already awards a defence medal to all serving Australian Defence Force and former Regular and Reserve personnel. She is shortly to award a similar medal to New Zealand veterans.
Tony Morland, the co-Chairman of the National Defence Medal campaign said, “It is disgraceful that veterans who have put their life on the line for this country can have their contribution diminished by mandarins at the MOD who continue to ignore that her Majesty has already approved a similar honour for servicemen leaving the Australian Forces.”
Terry Scriven will urge the Conference to call on the Coalition Government to request the Queen approve the National Defence Medal to be presented to veterans, a symbolic first step in addressing the broken covenant.
An appropriate date for presentation of the medal would be 2012, the Diamond Jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth II whose reign will have spanned 60 years service of the Nation’s forgotten heroes.
Veterans’ icon Dame Vera Lynn said, “I am fully behind the campaign to award the National Defence Medal to our veterans”.
TO READ DRAFT SPEECH CLICK HERE
On Thursday 5th August 2010 the co-Chairman of the UK National Defence Medal Campaign, Colonel (retd) Terry Scriven had a personal meeting with the Armed Forces Minister the Rt Hon Nick Harvey MP. During this meeting the Armed Forces Minister undertook to recommend to the Veterans Minister Andrew Robathan MP that he meet with the co-Chairmen and other officials of the UK National Defence Medal Campaign to discuss the way forward as soon as possible.
We will of course endeavour to keep you updated on progress as further details unfold.
Now the dust has settled since the general election and we have a change of government it was felt appropriate to review where we are with the NDM campaign and the way ahead.
There is little doubt, despite all the evidence provided and submissions made by so many on behalf of the Campaign that the previous Labour Government, priding itself in its support to our armed forces, let our veterans down by refusing to recommend to Her Majesty the Queen the award of a UK National Defence medal. Freedom of Information requests even failed to identify any discussions within MOD or anywhere else in Government taking place, which led to the shabby decision by the Labour Veterans Minister.
Despite the major set back a successful re-launch of the campaign took place, attended and supported by Members of Parliament and Peers of the Realm. This was followed by the laying down before Parliament Early Day Motion 327, which called for the Labour Government’s decision to be rescinded. The motion attracted almost 200 signatures of support from MPs of all Parties. Significantly, over 90% of all Liberal Democrat MPs signed the motion and although a number of Conservative MPs signed the official position of their Party although they would not sign they generally supported it but would review the award of all medals once they were in Government. Only the dissolution of parliament for the general election precluded an adjournment debate on the award of the NDM taking place.
So where are we now? Well, we have a new Coalition Government made up of a Conservative Party who pledged to review all medal procedures and awards once in power and a Liberal Democrat Party who strongly supported the award of the NDM. In addition we have a Prime Minister who is actively calling for greater national acknowledgement and awareness of the armed forces, veterans and their families; a Deputy Prime Minister who prior to the election wrote a letter of support for the National Defence Medal and an Armed Forces Minister who has previously stated his support for the medal and signed Early Day Motion 327. In addition we have numerous letters of support from many influential people including Dame Vera Lynn. The future of the NDM has never looked so bright.
I have written to the Armed Forces Minister to draw his attention to the current situation and to seek guidance on how he would now like us to proceed. Clearly our position remains that we would wish the Coalition Government to recommend to Her Majesty the Queen the official recognition of veterans through the award of a National Defence Medal and that a working group be established to work with the Committee on the Grant of Honours Decorations and Medals to decide on the procedures and eligibility of the award. I have to say that in this current financial climate we may have to accept that some financial contribution may be required but this should not deter us from seeking the NDM be officially awarded by Armed Forces Day 2012.
Colonel (retd) Terry Scriven, Co-Chairman UK National Defence Medal Campaign
In June 2009 campaign organisers presented a detailed justification to Her Majesty, the Prime Minister and to the Ministry of Defence for the award of a National Defence Medal (NDM) to veterans.
Veterans Minister Kevan Jones MP, in a letter dated 20th September, replied to the veterans on behalf of the Queen and the Prime Minister stating, “The Secretary of State for Defence and I have taken careful note of this very thorough and comprehensive report and carefully considered all the points and arguments”.
The minister went on to say, “After much consideration I have concluded that it is not appropriate to institute a new National Defence Medal”
This should have effectively brought an end to a three-year campaign by veterans for official recognition of their service in the form of a medal. Even though the Queen already awards a similar medal to ex-service personnel in Australia and such a medal is about to be awarded to Kiwi veterans in New Zealand.
Colonel Terry Scriven, a former Military Police Commander, was brought on board as co-Chairman to help re-launch the campaign. A Lord, a number of MPs, Nigel Farrage MEP (then leader of UKIP), the national media and British Forces television, attended the event. Over 50 letters of support were also received from other MPs and MEPs.
To coincide with the re-launch Colonel Scriven submitted a FOI request to MOD in which he asked to see ‘all correspondence, together with minutes of meetings that Mr Jones or his Department had on the subject of the NDM, especially with the Joint Chiefs of Staff or their representative.’
Four months went by (statutory allowance is 20 working days to reply to a FOI request) with no reply from MOD. Regular reminders were made to MOD who failed to reply until two days after a complaint had been lodged with the Information Commissioner’s Office. (MOD has stated this was a coincidence.)
When a reply was eventually received, it was disappointing. It stated, “As the cost of the process would exceed £600.00, (the upper cost limit for FOI requests to MOD) it should be redefined and resubmitted. This did not deter the veterans.
A redefined submission requested, ‘all documents, memos and minutes relating to action taken by Mr Jones or his representatives in respect of the National Defence Medal, during the approx 100 day window of when the Minister received the veterans submission in June and his decision sent to veterans on 20th September’.
This time MOD quickly responded, “Although numerous discussions had taken place between Ministerial Offices and staff of the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Personnel) in respect of the institution of the National Defence Medal the discussions had not been summarised in minutes and a search of paper and electronic records identified that MOD did not hold the information requested”.
The MOD reply did however, enclose briefing notes in the form of ‘Loose Minutes’, which had been compiled by an undisclosed member of Mr Jones’s staff and had clearly been used by him in making his decision to turn down the NDM. The Loose Minute dated 3 September provided startling revelations:
- It identified a number of veterans had corresponded repeatedly with the MOD since May 07 campaigning for the National Defence Medal. As a result one veteran had been made vexatious and a further four campaigners are in the process of being made vexatious by MOD. This has come as a surprise to the co- Chairmen of NDM campaign.
- Although admitting the NDM campaign claimed support of thousands of veterans it also stated that MOD had received correspondence from only 98 veterans. The inference of this statement appears to be that the NDM campaigners were making a false claim. This is totally incorrect and misleading to the Minister.
- The Veterans Minister, in his letter to the NDM campaign team, indicated that both he and the Secretary of State for Defence had taken note of their very thorough and comprehensive report prior to making their decision. It therefore came as a surprise to those veterans of the many military campaigns the UK have been involved in over the past decades to read that their efforts in putting together the NDM Recognition Report had been briefed to the Minister as being, “a poorly written document, which raises weak arguments for the introduction of a NDM and that it contains numerous inaccuracies throughout and is contradictory.” A shabby way to assess the experiences of veterans.
- The author of the ‘Loose Minute’ went on to brief the Minister that discussions with outer offices of the S of S and US of S have concluded no purpose would be served by providing anything more than an acknowledgement of the work that has gone into this report and a statement that it does not change our position which NDM campaigners have been informed of many times. Sadly no written or electronic records of such discussion are held by MOD.
It is disappointing to discover, as a result of an FOI request, that only a limited review of the veterans’ NDM report was carried out within the MOD, and that no official records were made of such discussion on such a significant issue as the official recognition of 4.5 million veterans. The biased, misleading and factually incorrect staff briefing for the Minister on which he appears to have made such an important decision and supposedly, on behalf of Her Majesty, the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Defence is disgraceful. But the deceit does not stop there.
On the 2 December the Rt Hon Michael Mates MP put before Parliament an Early Day Motion (327), which had been drafted by the National Defence Medal campaign team:
EDM 327 ‘That this house notes the significant personal sacrifice our Armed Forces personnel make in their service to the Nation once they take the oath or affirmation of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen; acknowledges our ex-service personnel are proud to receive and wear Her Majesty’s Veterans Badge, but notes that it is not awarded posthumously and is considered insufficient recognition for the contribution veterans have made to the safety of the Nation since the ending of the Second World War; and therefore calls on Her Majesty’s Government to rescind their recent decision not to more appropriately recognise our veterans by the award of a National Defence Medal and instead to establish a working group to work with the Committee on the Grant of Honours Decorations and Medals, with a view to implementing a National Defence Medal as soon as possible.’
Over 170 Members of Parliament have signed EDM 327, placing it in the top ten of 900 EDMs placed before this Parliament. . Many more MPs have expressed support via email. Although, constraints imposed on Labour Government Ministers because of their appointments stop them signing EDMs, many have stated their support for 327. A directive by the Conservative Shadow Defence team to their Party MPs advised them not to sign the EDM as the ‘medal policy’ will be reviewed when they are in Government, consequently the majority of Conservative MPs have not signed. The majority of Liberal Democrat MPs have signed and a written statement of support was received from their Leader Nick Clegg. In addition a number of MPs, mainly Labour, wrote to the Veteran’s Minister to seek guidance before signing.
With over one third of Parliament either signing or voicing support for the call for the Government to rescind their decision not to more appropriately recognise our veterans by the award of a National Defence medal and instead establish a working group with a view to implementing the NDM as soon as possible, you would think the case overwhelming and the medal achieved! Not so.
The momentum of EDM 327 and letters written to Mr Jones by MPs, led him to write a letter to all 645 MPs on the 29th January, using the misinformation from the badly flawed brief he had been presented with. In this letter he referred to Her Majesty the Queen and the Prime Minister having received a copy of the ‘National Defence Medal – Veterans Recognition Report’. He went on to say, “ The points made in the report have been carefully considered and a collective response was sent to the Society (National Defence Medal campaign team) stating that after much consideration, it has been concluded that it is not appropriate to institute a new National Defence Medal. I hope this explains the situation and will enable you to respond to any enquiries that you receive from you constituents.
The attempt (knowingly or unknowingly) by the Veterans Minister to mislead Members of Parliament about the validity and strength of the veterans’ case for the award of a National Defence Medal; a ministerial decision made as a result of an imbalanced briefing document together with the lack of any written or electronic records of discussions or decisions, on an issue that is of concern to many tens of thousands of veterans is scandalous. You can tell the strength of a nation by the respect and dignity it shows its veterans, the MOD cosy cats in comfy corners have much to learn about its UK veterans.
Colonel Scriven has requested the case for the award of a National Defence Medal to all UK veterans be revisited by the Secretary of State for Defence and the Veteran’s Minister; that a working group be established to discuss the whole issue and that clear records of proceedings are maintained. In addition, he has requested an internal review be carried out within MOD as to how a four-month delay of the initial request under the FOI Act took place and resulted in no information being produced to the requester.
Colonel Terry Scriven
Co-Chairman, National Defence Medal Campaign
The shame surrounding the MOD increased during the past few weeks when they made the decision not to recognise the service of the millions of Servicemen and women who have become our ‘Forgotten Heroes’ by the award of a National Defence medal.
This comes at a time of great outpouring of support for our Armed Services by the public and a professed support for restoring the military covenant by the Government and the leaders of all political parties.
Evidence of appropriate recognition for the award of a medal and not just a badge to those who have served in the Armed Forces since the end of the Second World War is overwhelming. The reasons for non-recognition are shallow at best.
The lack of recognition of our ‘Forgotten Heroes’ includes service in Korea (post armistice); the Berlin Airlift; the Cold War, where hundreds of our service men and women died on duty and many more were discharged as a result of their injuries; the IRA atrocities outside of Northern Ireland which saw our soldiers killed and maimed on the streets of Germany and in England, and of course National Service veterans who are now in their 70s and 80s; the list is endless.
Colonel Terry Scriven, the co-Chairman of the National Defence Medal campaign said, “The MOD’s decision is dreadfully wrong. I hope that as this campaign grows with public support the Government, whose responsibility it is to decide on a medal of recognition of service, will speedily review this situation just as they did with the Ghurkha campaign.
I and my campaign colleagues have invited the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrat Party and UKIP together with other MPs who have shown support for this medal; and Directors of interested organisations such as the Royal British Legion, to what is a fresh launch of this campaign.”
Released 10th October 2009
Looking at the performance of the Government and Civil Service in the light of the ongoing revelations and accusations, it is difficult not to wonder just who is pulling what strings and why?
Given the experiences of those who have been in contact with the Ministry of Defence on the question of medal claims over the decades since WW2, it is easy to see why such confusion might be justified.
Letters to the relevant Minister always seem to end up in the hands of a small coterie of senior Civil Servants, indeed, even letters to Her Majesty, have after having been read, commented upon and the sender informed that it will be passed to an appropriate Official, also ended up in the same location. Once there, any response is stilted, aloof and generally unhelpful. Over any period of communication, the same stock responses are received ad infinitum, coloured occasionally by a dash of sarcasm. The fact is that the attitude expressed amounts to indifference and a total lack of sympathy or empathy for the points raised by the appellant, the intent to take in or comprehend the points being raised, is simply not there at all.
On occasions when the relevant Minister is personally approached and asked a pertinent question concerning the matter on which he was approached by letter, the indignant response is that no such letter ever passed across his desk. Can this mean that the Civil Servants have taken it upon themselves to intercept and summarily dismiss matters which constituents had expected to be attended to by a duly appointed Minister of the Crown? No other answer would seem to fit the bill so exactly it would appear. If, as seems likely they are doing this, it would be fair to argue that they are usurping the normal rights of the people to enquire of their elected representatives why certain decisions have been taken or requests ignored. They would then have effectively set themselves up to carry out a form of undemocratic censorship which really has no basis in law or properly established precedent. I would go further and suggest that if this is so, it could be construed as deliberate and undue interference with the proper process of government.
Proof that all is not as it should be in the MoD is abundant, it is being revealed in fact on an almost daily basis, with accusations surfacing of billions being squandered on questionable contracts and inefficient or eminently unsuitable equipment acquisitions. Outright and quite deliberate lying, on instruction, has now been admitted to by an officer of the MoD and it is highly unlikely that the MoD is an isolated case, so it now begs another question. With Ministers in all portfolios being advised by senior Civil Servants, how much of that advice is given for the right reasons? Those reasons should be for the good of the country as regards the aegis of the portfolio concerned but having seen the way that Civil Servants ignored the inventive expense claims by MP’s, it is only fair to wonder if the responses given are perhaps aimed at safeguarding the sinecures that many Civil Servants seem to have created for themselves?
The public, whether they be Veterans seeking answer from the Ministers for Veterans, or Defence or anyone at all, have a right to expect a degree of consideration. The public at large have a right to see the workings of government being applied for the general good of the country as a whole, rather than just applied for certain favoured sections of the community, as with MoD officials being paid out millions in bonuses, which was the case earlier this year. One could be forgiven for wondering if a scent of corruption was evident here, as the money was quite hastily doled out, just before the real truths about the delinquency of the MoD’s performance began to emerge in a steady stream.
If in fact the various Ministers, by default, laziness, incompetence, indifference or whatever, have delivered the country into the hands of a Civil Service that feels itself to be above criticism and virtually untouchable where accountability is concerned, then the UK is potentially liable to be in real trouble. The wisdom shown by these people, entrenched and unapproachable as they appear to be, is not if judged by the MoD’s lacklustre example, anything that should inspire confidence in the average citizen of
Let me put it like this, the nightmare scenario during the Cold War years was that of awakening one morning to find the
It is a fact that the MoD has more employees than the British Army has full time Soldiers but I know which of the two I would put my faith in if the chips were down! It is time for a thorough overhaul of the way that the arms of government work and interact with each other. It is time for accountability to be a part of the process at all levels and it is time that proper and due access to all levels of government was permitted once again. It is moreover, time for the Armed Forces to be brought in from the cold and treated on a par with those of other lands around us, through the emergence of a true Covenant and a National Defence Medal that underpins it.
I keep hearing mention of the so called ‘Covenant’ that is supposed to exist between the
It is purported to be there to see that the Servicemen and women are not adversely disadvantaged by their chosen career which also means giving up certain personal freedoms.
Of late I have observed the lack of long term care facilities for the wounded, maimed and psychologically impaired that recent adventures in
I cringe when I hear pompous politicians bleating that the troops have all that they need to do the job and then read in the same media outlet that there just aren’t enough trained air and ground crews available to man the helicopters that we might otherwise have had available. I wonder how procuring vehicles that have almost no protection against crude but deadly IED’s can be held up as examples of what is being done to afford the troops better protection? I puzzle and fret at how reducing the size of the Armed Forces can possibly help solve the problem of insufficient troops on the ground to the jobs required and expected of them.
This is not the sort of situation that the existence of a true Covenant would see extant, is it?
The simple truth appears to be, the Armed Forces are seen as nothing more than a necessary evil and utilised as something that is deemed as being quite expendable. There is no real Covenant and never has been, it is lip service and blind rhetoric that is artfully utilised to give an illusion that the Armed Forces have a special place in Society whenever alarm and despondency raises its head. If the government and the MoD really appreciated the sacrifices made by Forces personnel, why do they work so hard to hold them down? One simple example is that of national recognition for UK Armed Forces, or rather the lack of any! The
Perhaps the appearance of a National Defence Medal (http://www.nationaldefencemedal.webs.com/) would be a viable method of forcing the government to acknowledge that there should be a Covenant. A symbol that would focus attention on veterans and their on going needs. The Veterans Badge, an 80p bauble, is an indicator of a Government not prepared to do a job properly which maybe why only around 7% of those entitled have bothered to apply for it. It is an affront, like so much of what the government does, or does not do, for and to Veterans. Cost should not be an issue here, not least because many Veterans have indicated they would contribute for any retrospective award, provided the government disbursed any VAT component to selected Service Charities. A tangible sign of sincerity is badly needed and long overdue and the emergence of a NDM would fit the bill exactly! There will come a time when the last few National servicemen are media icons as were the last few WW1 Veterans, they may have nothing on their breast. There have been enough excuses and I’m no longer impressed by blathering about protocols and tradition, instead veterans want to help their successors overcome the problems they have had inflicted upon them in a practical and effective manner.
Dignity and respect should be the cornerstone of the way in which Veterans are viewed by the powers that be and the days when they are treated as expendable while in and expended once out, need to be ended once and for all. Let’s see all Veterans given a NDM, a proper symbol of their proud traditions of Service for Queen and Country, Let this be a first step in making the concept of a Covenant an actual reality, instead of a rather feeble and sick joke.
The MOD is encouraging councils, businesses and homes across the country to show their support for
If the intention was and is to honour and succour veterans, why have all of the Military Hospitals been closed? Surely if the Armed Forces were such an important part of the Government’s agenda, they would never have been closed at all. Would it not have made much more sense to keep them open and use them as adjuncts to the NHS rather than lose all that expertise? At least the long term wounded and maimed would not have had to depend so heavily on charities for their lifelong needs.
If the Armed Forces were so appreciated, why is it that pay and conditions have been allowed to fall off to the point that insufficient Brits are enlisting and teams of recruiters are having to go to poorer Commonwealth countries such as Fiji to find enough people to man the very thin lines that are all we have left of once creditable and formidable armies, aircraft facilities and fleets. The loss of
If the military is so high on the list of priorities, why is it that
What has been done to the Armed Forces of Britain is shameful and while it is fine to be proud of Britain’s men and women from past and present times, it is not enough to merely nod in agreement with sentiments expressed by those who have betrayed all that these men and women have done and are still endeavouring to do. These dedicated and loyal people are somehow doing all that they can, not with the help of the government and the MoD but rather, in spite of them! It is high time that the people of the
Yes, please support us and appreciate us past and present but remember as you do so, that the featherbedders at
20th April 2009
Since becoming involved in the growing demand for a National Defence Medal, I have been appalled by the way in which the letters and e-mails that have been sent to various people and departments within the present
In those responses, we invariably get what is a repetitive word for word outline, virtually a lecture really, of what the HD committee and MoD will not do, although in at least one instance we did get a rather malicious dash of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, doubtless due to our persistence. With regard to the HD Committee, it will not listen, it will not accept advice, it will not look beyond its own immediate confines for ideas and it will not admit to either mistake or misconception. It appears to believe that it is answerable to no one, is bold enough to have faced off Commonwealth governments in the recent past and is apparently willing to defy any serious challenge to its perceived remit from any quarter. In short, it comes across as a totally independent but wholly insulated body with no constraints upon its decaying aptitude and decreasing effectiveness, from any source. It is certainly not part of any democratic process that I have ever heard of! To be at the mercy of any group that appears to have assumed carte blanche in their area of influence and to have done so without any apparent attempts to instil any form of check or balance to ensure that it does not exceed its mandate, is wholly dictatorial in my book! Were its commandments handed down from Mt Sinai, it seems they could not be more deeply and indelibly etched in stone.
It seems remarkably odd that Armed Forces wielding the weaponry and using the tactics of the 21st Century, should still be encumbered by an Awards system that, alone of all those around it and contemporary to it, still putters along with the outmoded concepts of centuries past. It is also quite odd that Politicians, who are by their very nature, masters of the art of compromise, remain content to be chivvied into silence and thus tacit acquiescence by the senior mandarins of the MoD. It begs the question of who is the master and who the servant? Or perhaps this is payback for Oliver Cromwell's sins?
The HD Committee and by extension the MoD, have made mistakes and misconceptions in deed as well as in fact. It is mistaken if it believes that the ineffective and cheapskate Her Majesty's Armed Forces Veterans Badge ( 85P) will dampen the calls for an NDM. It is mistaken if it believes that ‘Action Man’ dolls will encourage recruitment. It is mistaken if it believes that sending the bodies of slain Soldiers as ‘freight’ by way of political expediency will ‘popularise’ what it is doing.
It is labouring under a misconception if it believes that ignoring the growing clamour for an NDM will solve the problem from their point of view. In fact, due entirely to the denial of an NDM as well as any of the other medal claims made over the years, we now have a flourishing industry of Commemorative medals that are an embarrassment to the MoD and the HD Committee. Even though all of the other claimants for various medals have agreed to accept a NDM as a reasonable answer to their demands for recognition too, there is no positive response from any quarter. As a direct result of this, thousands of Veterans are now showing up on parades with medals that are not official and this is not a good thing at all, as it makes a laughing stock of the current Imperial Awards system. Again, the blame can be laid against the ambiguities of those that set standards for what may or may not be ‘approved’. I will cite an instance to highlight what I mean. The HMAFVB and the unofficial (Commemorative) version of the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal both have portrayals of things pertinent to Royal protocol on them, Crown on the one hand and Royal image of HM the Queen on the other, both OK’d by the Royal Chamberlain's office and thus identical in licit status. So to sanction the wearing of the HMAFVB while decrying the wearing of the ‘Bling’ version of the QGJM, has to be something of a nonsense. Moreover, a nonsense created by the very people supposedly seeing it to it that the
All of us involved with the NDM Campaign are fully aware that, despite the very hollow assurances from Mr RT Coney, cost is always a factor when looking at any award for mass distribution. Into which category the NDM, if awarded retrospectively, would most assuredly fall. Given the current financial constraints imposed for many reasons, we are aware that some consideration has to be vectored in for this. To that end, we would seriously consider having the cost of any retrospective NDM applied to any individual Veteran that sought one. We would ask that in any situation of genuine poverty, exceptions might be made and that the VAT component, instead of going into government coffers, might instead be placed at the disposal of Service Charities such as BLESMA. If handled right, the NDM, instead of being a tiresome bone of contention, could become a win-win situation for all concerned. It would most certainly bring much positive publicity to the current somewhat beleaguered administration, as it seeks what approbation it can from the electorate of the
I would also point out that an NDM, instituted and awarded posthumously to the Next of Kin of the Amrizkar, Quinsey, Huntrod and McCall families, all of whom are still very badly traumatised as a result of the most untimely deaths of their kin, would benefit these families enormously, as it would enable some solace and closure for them all, as a result of such an act of contrition and recognition.
Be assured Mr Kevan Jones (Minister for Veterans) that the Campaign Committee for the NDM is most willing to meet with you and/or anyone that you might care to nominate or include. Please be aware that what we are seeking is simply that which all of our Allies and Commonwealth cousins apply within their own Armed Forces; nothing more, nothing less. We see absolutely no justice or sensible rationale in our people being denied that to which everyone else is entitled. As it is, the present situation is most unsatisfactory, highly discriminatory and should therefore be urgently addressed.
Overseas NDM Campaign Coordinator