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Committee on the Grant of Honours Decorations and Medals

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 13th March 2008.

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Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Labour, Islwyn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals uses when making recommendations to Her Majesty on whether foreign campaign medals may be accepted; and whether these criteria have ever been set aside.

Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The criteria are set out in the Government's rules governing the acceptance and wearing of foreign orders, decorations and dedals by citizens of the UK and her overseas territories. The Pingat Jasa Malaysia required a special exception in 2006. Similar exceptions were made for medals from the Saudi and Kuwaiti Governments after the first gulf war, as well as for the Greek War Medal, in 1992.

I will arrange for copies of the rules governing the acceptance and wearing of foreign orders, decorations and medals by citizens of the UK and her overseas territories to be placed in the Library of the House.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes0 people think so

No22 people think not

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Annotations

Gerald Law
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 2:07 pm (Report this annotation)

Ms Munn's response answers the direct question as asked but does nothing to explain why, in a supposedly democratic society in the 21st century, a group of non-elected Civil Servants can make a decision affecting thousands of Her Majesty's loyal Veterans who have been honoured by a friendly Commonwealth nation. The deliberations of the HD Committee are made in secret and are not open to the scrutiny of those who pay their salaries. The PJM costs the UK taxpayer nothing but the awarding of it has given joy to many who are now in their twilight years. Mr Touhig is to be commended on championing the cause of the Malaya/Borneo Veterans - he is a man of honour who stands head and shoulders above many in the corridors of power.
Gerald Law

john fenton
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 2:24 pm (Report this annotation)

The restricted recommendation for the PJM places Her Majesty the Queen in the invidious position of having told her British citizens that they must be content with rights inferior to those which she has previously conferred upon her Australian and New Zealand citizens, our Commonwealth comrades, despite the ‘Brits’ being the only ones to serve in all parts of Malaysia throughout the period.

A critical point to bear in mind, is that those eligible for the PJM are now ageing civilians, who will never again wear the Queen’s uniform. Some Ministers and MP’s appear to be confusing us with serving members of HM Armed Forces who are subject to Military dress code.

John Rushton
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 2:31 pm (Report this annotation)

Gerald Law is absolutely correct in his comments about the secretive, unelected and (seemingly) unaccountable HD Committee.

This same committee however, have the audacity to change these so called rules when it comes to themselves and the chance to "grab another gong".

For example, a member of this same HD commitee who adds to his collection, a Commemorative Medal marking the 25th year of the Independence of Antigua and Barbuda breaking the 5 year rule, distant past rule and whilst still a Servant of the Crown. These so-called rules of longstanding regulation.

Great respect to Don Touhig MP for trying to raise these contentious issues on behalf of 35,000 Veterans.

These same Veterans who have their correspndence ignored by certain senior mandarins.

Barry Fleming
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 2:43 pm (Report this annotation)

Meg Munn is not well informed. The Rules she refers to are already in the Library.

They are the Rules that the civil servants manufactured one year after Malaysia offered the medal to the Commonwealth just so that they could deny British veterans the right to wear their medal. They are therefore retrospective rules applied with a single and mean-spirited aim.

Ms Munn might like to have a word with Ian Pearson, the FCO Minister whose name is on the January 2006 PJM Statement and so was responsible for issuing the flawed notice. He will tell her that she should not rely on those flawed Rules and that he now agrees that his statement is wrong and should be amended to allow the Malaysian medal to be worn.

It beggars belief that one can put ones life on the line for Queen and Country, but that it is civil servants, and not Queen and Country (i.e. Parliament), who dictate to us whether an honour acknowledging that service should be worn or "stuffed back in our Kellogs packets, for all its worth as a medal", as one MoD civil servant put it to me.

Barry Fleming
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 3:41 pm (Report this annotation)

Meg Munn has been briefed by the very civil servants who created this problem in the first place.

To bolster their untenable arguments, she has been given three examples of medals that are in no way similar to the Pingat Jasa Malaysia.

Why was she not given examples that are identical to the PJM. For example the Malta Medal and the Russian Medal (and the other 40-odd that are similar). Both were double medals. Both were recommended for wear 50 years after the events they commemorate.

Let's compare apples with apples and not indulge in this interminable and tasteless spin put out by civil servants just so that Ministers of the Crown, Parliament, the public and the press can be mislead.

These Rules affect ordinary men and women and must be open and understandable - and they must be applied consistently. Not just at the behest of a handful of public servants with an axe to grind.

John Cooper
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 4:37 pm (Report this annotation)

Don Touhig is to be congratulated for standing up and telling it the way it is, not some silly rule going back to 1855 when ostrich feathers were still being in hats. The HD Committee have frapped up that there is no doubt, the have boxed themselves into a corner and sadly they won't accept their error.

Well this subject just isn't going away, and let me just remind those that are for us 35000 Veterans that come election day we will remember your support, those agin us well goodbyeeeeee............

Andy Nicoll
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 5:56 pm (Report this annotation)

It has already been said that Megg Munn, the Permanent under Secretary of State at the FCO is making statements about the Pingat Jasa Malaysia and confusing it with medals awarded to British Military Personnel (Servants of the Crown). She either refuses to acknowledge, or is in deliberate denial, of the fact that the PJM was conferred by Her Majesty the Queen upon British citizens and to refuse them permission to wear on the pretex of non-statutory rules is unlawful and in breach of their democratic parliamentary rights and possibly basic human rights under the Human Rights Act.
She says that the PJM is subject to the criteria contained in the Government Rules yet I am in possession of a letter from her in which she says the rules do not apply to the PJM, so what is it to be Meg Munn? This, of course, is no change to the attitude British Citizens have been receiving from the bureaucrats for the past three years. The rules are non-statutory, the 2005 rules only 'reviewed' the 1969 Regulations which, incidentally were approved and initialled by Her Majesty the Queen, (but they did actually change the 1969 rules), and the rules are discretionary and have been changed, altered and ignored by the Honours and Decorations Committee who believe that they can instruct British citizens what to wear, or in the case of the PJM, what not to wear. It shows just how much (or how little) Meg Munn knows when she says she will place the rules in the House Library. Rt Hon Jack Straw MP put them there on 21st. November, 2005, and before making these wild statements she should have known this. It is time British citizens were treated fairly and justly and we can only hope that our parliament starts to take note when sensible politicians like Don Touhig MP show just how unjustly and undemocratically British veterans in this case have been treated by an unelected bunch of civil servants.

Andy Nicoll
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 6:22 pm (Report this annotation)

PS.

Would the Permanent Under Secretary of State at the FCO, Meg Munn be prepared to answer the following question -

'Are the rules Governing the Acceptance and Wearing of Foreign Orders, Decorations and Medals by citizens of the UK and Her Overseas Territories, which she is arranging to be placed in the House library, the rules which have been used by the Honours and Decorations Committee to prevent the wearing of the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal?'

David Dilley
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 6:38 pm (Report this annotation)

In the Westminster Hall debate on the 11th December 2007, it was stated plainly by the Minister replying for HMG said "I have been told that the committee does
not plan to reconsider the matter"......."The HD committees plans will ultimately be determined by Parliament" Right! Before their re-consideration of the November 2007, two current Ministers the Rt Hon Derek Twigg MP and the Rt Hon Ian McCartney wrote a joint letter to the HD Committee seeking a favourable
answer to their request for the PJM to be "formally worn"......."The committee's members, however, were not sufficiently exercised by that correspondence to change their minds". Parliamentary Democracy - where did that go? The Pingat Jasa Malaysia has been graciously accepted by Her Majesty. The caveat "permission to wear formally will not be given", I and I believe others feel was added in a fit of pique because we had the temerity to challenge the original rejection by Baroness Symonds in the House of Lords in February 2005, and when obliged by a review of the rules by the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw,
they re-wrote the 1969 Foreign and Commonwealth Office
regulations, with Part C of the new, 2005 Regulations being, so it seems, written especially to preclude the formal wearing of the PJM, rules which together with the superceded and defucnt 1969 Rules are still being quoted to and by the Prime MInister, the Foreign Minister (Meg Munn), and the Ceremonial Departments of the FCO, Cabinet Office and the MoD DS Sec despite the fact the the Cabinet Office Ceremonial Officer, who, incidemtally is the Secretary of the HD committee, has informed our Secretary in writing that these rules have been superseded. Whenever our campaign seem to gain an advantage - The Goal Posts are MOVED (again).

The PJM is a different case to that of the 1992 Suez Medal campaign, and the Arctic Medal (which eventually became a badge) except for the fact that it was initially handled (mishandled?) by the same Senior Civil Servant who with his Senior was severley criticised by the newspaper, and described the then Current Minister as being a prisoner of his Civil Servants. Nothing changed then. It is possible that the Prime Minister and Ministers (but not all ex Ministers)find it difficult to disagree or censure their Civil Servants, which no doubt accounts to three years of waste of public money in trying to cover their backs (not forgeting the mess of other Ministries and MOD procurement services).

No this writer is not paranoid;just infuriated by the way Senior Civil Servants appear to break every rule in the Civil; Service Code and get away with it.

The question now is when are our Prime Minister and part time Defence Secretary, who has responsibility for the MOD per se, and the Foreign Minister going to practice the transparent processes of Government which is constantly trumpeted by the Government as a whole i.e.real Parliamentary Democracy or has the spin got out of control?

John Rushton
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 6:43 pm (Report this annotation)

Questions:-

1. When asked in Parliament about this (PJM)issue in October last year, why did the Prime Minister seem unaware of the difference between this medal and the Veterans Badge?

2. Why have the Australian Veterans and New Zealand Veterans who were involved in the same active service, receive permission from Her Majesty the Queen
to wear their PJM whist British Veterans were denied?

3. Why were British Veterans given permission to wear the PJM in Malaysia, but only for the brief period of the 50th Anniversary Merdeka celebrations? Could it be to attempt to deceive the Malaysian people and avoid the embarrassment of the truth coming out after this country initially snubbed the Malaysian peoples offer of accepting the PJM at all.

4. Why are these unelected HD Committee members making up/changing these rules on the one hand whilst refusing to have anything to do with helping the Malaysian High Commission in distributing the PJM or even confirming peoples qualification for this medal.

5. Finally - Why am I asking these questions?
Answer, because the guilty people have openly refused to answer any more communications asking such questions of them from Veterans like myself.

Paul Alders
Posted on 14 Mar 2008 9:12 pm (Report this annotation)

Meg Munn,
What is the point of placing these so call Foreign Award Rules in the library when not only are these rules flawed but are rules that have been made up by unelected Senior Civil Servants who answer to no one.
These are the same people who allowed a certain person to make up his own references so that he could be awarded an OBE or was it a MBE.
That person is now in Jail I could name 8 other people who should join him for misleading Ministers and Parliament.

Hamish Waters
Posted on 15 Mar 2008 3:49 am (Report this annotation)

The Imperial Honours system is an anachronism from the past. The so called ‘rules’ used by the bureaucrats from Whitehall are so contradictory and obscure in content that few politicians if any understand the garbage put forward by senior civil servants who earn a CBE as part of the course. I am a dual national, who served in the British Army. The Queen of Australia is happy for me to wear my Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal. The Ceremonial secretariat of the Cabinet office and the MOD say that whilst I can wear my medal in Australia I would be discourteous to the Queen of the United Kingdom if I wear my medal in the UK. What rubbish, especially given the London Gazette notice of May 1968 allowing those who are no longer crown servants to accept and wear foreign awards. This notice which has never been rescinded. The gullibility of politicians believing everything that is told them by the Sir Humphreys of this world amazes me.

John Feltham
Posted on 15 Mar 2008 10:58 am (Report this annotation)

A few questions for the Permanent Under Secretary of State at the FCO, Meg Munn - however, I doubt that I will ever see an answer.

I am a UK citizen and now resident in Australia. On ANZAC Day I can wear my PJM, awarded for my service in the RAF during "Konfrontasi" during the early 1960's in Malaysia. But. If I happen to be in London on Remembrance Day I cannot wear my PJM. Why is that? What rule does this come under? I am unable to find such a "Rule". Perhaps they are the "rules" she claims she is going "to place in the "Library of the House"? What Rules will they replace? Were these "Rules" debated on in the Houses of Parliament?

Why does the Cabinet Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office together with the Ministry of Defence still insist that that I am a "Servant of The Crown" some 40 years after I was released from my service with the RAF?

Why do these three Ministries refuse to accept HM The Queen's directive in the London Gazette, that states - "The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve that Orders, Decorations, and Medals, conferred with Her Majesty’s permission upon United Kingdom Citizens not being servants of the Crown by the Heads of Governments of Commonwealth countries as defined above, or of foreign states, may in all cases be worn by the recipients without restriction."

To my knowledge, there has not been a notice in the London Gazette rescinding that notice.

Further, why do these same three ministries still encourage PJM Veterans to wear their medals "as no one will stop them", when they know that there is a MoD directive to all former members of the Armed Forces that wear their PJM will be displaying "discourtesy to HM The Queen?

Do these three Ministries support veterans displaying "discourtesy to HM The Queen?

Finally, why do members of the HD Committee award themselves medals from Foreign Governments and give themselves permission to wear them?

John Feltham, Townsville, Australia.

john fenton
Posted on 15 Mar 2008 11:10 am (Report this annotation)

Permit me to point out that the MoD has no responsibility for the PJM, its recommendation, or its administration. And let me state that I agree completely with the previous correspondent, John Feltham of Australia's most cogent remarks. On umpteen occasions I have read, in weary disbelief, the oft-repeated mantra of some nameless MoD 'spokesperson', that the wearing of the PJM 'does not break any law and will not be policed'.

This specious statement does nothing to resolve the PJM controversy and indeed, projects a completely erroneous impression of wearability.

Defence Instruction and Notice - DIN 10-002 of January 2006 states, with great clarity, as follows:

"Wearing of medals after leaving the Service"

"Clause: 21. On leaving the Service personnel cease to be bound by these instructions but they are expected to conform to the general instructions published in the London Gazette and in particular not to add any order, decoration, medal or emblem to which they are not verifiably entitled or which has not been approved for acceptance and wear. The wearing of unauthorized awards is a grave discourtesy to Her Majesty The Queen."

Therefore, we must assume, that to the MoD mentality, it is infinitely preferable for thousands of veterans to engage in public displays of discourtesy to Her Majesty, than it is to suggest that the anomalous decision of an unelected, 8 man 'quango' should be reversed.

By persistent propagation of this misinformation, in flagrant denial of the facts, it would appear that the MoD is not merely condoning lack of courtesy to Her Majesty...it is, effectively, advocating it!

John Ireland
Posted on 15 Mar 2008 4:04 pm (Report this annotation)

It is high time that those ministers who have taken the view of the unelected civil servants without argument listened to the people who elected them in the fist place.

The issue of the PJM has highlighted some terrible flaws in the UK honours system that are in great need of reform. HM The Queen placed in the London Gazette as long ago as 1968 an over rider to the rules of acceptance which was obviously intended to cover such matters as the PJM and to reduce the cost to the nation of protracted arguments such as is the case here. Why then do the so called great and good refuse to accept that? is it because they have made a monumental error in the first place and are too pig
headed to admit as much! I think so.

Remember just what those 35000 veterans have done for you and this country and show some humility and common sense!!!

John Rushton
Posted on 15 Mar 2008 10:31 pm (Report this annotation)

"“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed” (Adolf Hitler)".

If this is the big plan of the unelected and apparently unaccountable members of the HD Committee, then I have news for them:-

*Not in my lifetime will I accept your persistent propagation of this misinformation, in flagrant denial of the facts, and the London Gazette entry of May 1968.

*I strongly suspect that 35,000 of my comrades will not accept it either. They will of course speak for themselves as those that are fair and honourable do.

*In all honour, why can't they accept they have made two major errors in judgement.

First they quite unjustly recommended to Her Majesty that British servicemen alone should be refused their right to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal.

Secondly, that they thought a group of old soldiers would just have a quick grumble (as is the tradition) and then meekly accept the injustice visited upon them.

On both counts - WRONG,WRONG,WRONG.

John Cooper
Posted on 15 Mar 2008 11:28 pm (Report this annotation)

To Don Touhig

Don, you know it, we veterans know and more than likely the HD Committee and FCO know also that they have made a catastrophic error, can you advise those people who have this power how wrong they are.

If they accept they are wrong and just correct this anomaly allowing us the right 'officially' to wear the PJM then most of us will retire to our shells. If they persist in their doggedness then so too will those 35000 veterans, that there is no doubt.

Again thank you for your very valued support......

David Dilley
Posted on 16 Mar 2008 3:21 pm (Report this annotation)

Actually, the first Major wrong, was that the initial, gracious offer of the PJM by the then Agon of Malaysia, was rejected outright in the House of Lords, without debate, by Baroness Symons on the 11 Jan 2005 in response to a question by Lord Chadlington in December 2004, the PJM having been offered by the Agon (Malaysian King) in July 2004 and ignored by HMG until a further request by the Malaysians. Since then it has been a question of BC/AD, ie as far as the Civil Servants advising the Government are concerned the date from which the PJM matter officially starts (AD) is February 2005, and not, truthfully, from July 2004 (BC) when the initial offer was made, presumably to hide the ignorance of the FCO in ignoring the first offer in July 2004, and the questionable advice given to Baroness Symons by the Civil Servants, it is believed, quoting 1969 FCO Rules for the acceptance and wearing of foreign medals which I believe were not the rules by which any decision regarding the PJM should have been made.

Since then the Prime Minister, Ministers and Members of Parliament have continued to be mislead by Senior Civil Servants in the Cabinet Office, MoD DS Sec, and the Foreign Office who continue to quote superseded 1969 rules, and rules revised in 2005 with a new, PART C, in my view, specically written to preclude the PJM from being formally worn.

What I and others are waiting to see is for those who are democratically elected to question the motives and advice of Senior Civil Servants. It amuses me to see how often, particularly after a major hiccup, the Ministers get the sack, and smugly, the advisers await
the coming of the next mug, in the safety of the knowlegde of their unassailable positions, large pensions and a decoration or knighthood at their retirement; certainly, it is not made public if any civil servants are made to account for their mistakes or conduct. Perhaps it is about time that they were.

John Ireland
Posted on 17 Mar 2008 12:07 am (Report this annotation)

I went to Meg Munns web site and I used her Parliament e-mail address to send her my thoughts.

Guess what, I got a reply but not from Meg Munn, from an answering service that told me it was an FCO problem and that my e-mail had been deleted further more that if I sent anymore they would not be accepted and automatically deleted.

Well dear me does that mean that she is above answering a member of the public! She should remember that it is us who pay the bill, she just takes the money!

John Rushton
Posted on 17 Mar 2008 4:17 pm (Report this annotation)

Regarding Mr John Ireland's comments on how he was shoddily treated when trying to make his legitimate point with Meg Munn:-

Is she not a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the same FCO ?

Therefore how can it be referred as a "FCO problem" as if it was someone else?

Maybe there is some progress at last. At least someone is refering to it as a problem !!

At least there are some people left who act with honour like Don Touhig. A man who keeps his word and is worthy of respect.

John Cooper
Posted on 18 Mar 2008 2:19 pm (Report this annotation)

I should hope that some Parliamentarian will raise the problem that Mr. Ireland has had with Ms. Munns office, that is no way to treat anyone especially so a Veteran of The Armed Forces.

I am disgusted