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Part of Armed Forces Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 4th October 2011.

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Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Liberal Democrat 6:15 pm, 4th October 2011

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 14. I waited until everyone had spoken on Amendment 13. This does not stop me saying that I agree entirely with all noble Lords who spoke on that amendment. I hope that the Minister will change his mind.

I will talk about a national defence medal. We have heard very poignantly about medals for gallantry, for campaigns and for being in the armed services. However, since the end of the Second World War there has been an inconsistency and an injustice in medallic recognition. Noble Lords have spoken about medals they and others received, but many people in the armed services have received no medals. I found some amazing cases in my research. The Minister talked earlier about spreading good practice. It would spread good practice if we had a national defence medal issued to those who served in the Armed Forces. I thank the Minister and his colleagues who have given us a lot of verbal and written information on the subject. One civil servant commented that there were 4 million such veterans. Not all would apply for the medal, but the fact that there are 4 million veterans shows that this is an incredible group of people to whom we owe a debt of honour. In the United States they would all be in a veterans' organisation and very powerful politically. I am afraid that the only politics here is today in your Lordships' House.

A number of people do not support such a medal. This was also the case in Australia and New Zealand, where a very vocal minority opposed it. However, the medal was introduced and I believe that it is very successful and appreciated. I feel that I am on a losing wicket in trying to get this incorporated into the Bill. However, at the very least we should have a medal review that is independently chaired, transparent and open and that consults veterans. Sadly, the MoD review, which has been going on for a long time, is seen by veterans as flawed. The draft report that has been wandering around for a long time has been greeted with little enthusiasm.

The reality is that of 7,500-plus e-petitions on the government website, the one requesting a national defence medal ranks 46th. Of the 60-plus e-petitions that affect the Ministry of Defence, the one calling for the introduction of a national defence medal comes top. It would be extremely popular and symbolic if this came as part of the five-year review of the Armed Forces Bill. The cost would be about £2.50 per medal. Is that what is stopping this? Why can we not have this symbolic recognition of people's service to their country? I hope that the Minister will at least pursue an independently chaired committee that will be transparent. It may in the end decide not to have a medal, but at least the veterans will see that the decision has been made transparently and not in the back rooms of power.

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Tony M
Posted on 5 Oct 2011 5:29 pm (Report this annotation)

Very well put, one wonders why on earth the Government are frightened of an independent chair if they are so certain of their position.

The fact is they have misled and pedalled false arguments, and the cost they have come up with is laughable, no wonder the MoD has such a poor record of procurement.

The petition in question is at:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/2311