Dear Veteran,

May I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a safe and healthy 2023. Sadly, the past year has seen more medal group campaigners and veterans suffer illness, and some have passed away. We who remain are grateful for their contributions over many years, and our thoughts are with their families as we enter this New Year.

As the Chair of the UK National Defence Medal campaign, I have been involved in co-ordinating the efforts of the leaders of several military medal campaign groups in achieving a reconstituted Military Medals Review (MMR) which is open, transparent, and fair. Until that is achieved it is pointless making any further historic medal submissions.

The Cabinet Office sponsored MMR should have been successfully completed in the late Autumn of 2012, yet here we are, over a decade on, and with no end in sight. Quite rightly many veterans do not understand the reluctance of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Cabinet Office to do the right thing. Therefore, as I compile my New Year’s letter to you, I believe it is important to record details of where we are and what we can expect in the coming months.

A Prime Ministerial Commitment

On being elected Prime Minister of a Coalition Government in May 2010, David Cameron directed the MMR be carried out by the MoD. It was to address the claims by the various military medal campaign groups of past injustice and inconsistency of medallic recognition. Some of the claims dated back to the Second World War but the majority were post September 1945. This was always going to be a difficult task as both the MoD and the Cabinet Office were considered to have been responsible for many of the impediments to medallic recognition.

Discredited MoD and Cabinet Office Medal Reviews

A plethora of FOIA requests discredited the MoD 2010 and 2011 MMR attempts. This led to Prime Minister Cameron removing the responsibility for the completion of the MMR from the MoD and establishing an independent review under the sponsorship of the Cabinet Office. The newly constituted 2012 MMR (later to become the 2012-2014 MMR) was supposed to be the most wide-ranging MMR for a generation, drawing a definitive line under the issue once and for all.

Judicial Tribunals

A myriad of Judicial Tribunals between 2016 to 2019 laid bare the failings of the 2012-2014 Cabinet Office sponsored MMR. These included: inaccurate statements being made to Parliament; misinformation promulgated by the Honours Secretariat in correspondence to Members of Parliament; the loss of official documents; and attempts by civil servants to hide documents from release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Evidence of incompetent or avoidance of investigations by the Cabinet Office heightened the suspicions of an attempted cover up by the Honours Secretariat

The 2012-2014 Advisory Military Sub-Committee

Details emerged of a clumsy and inadequate performance by the 2012-2014 Advisory Military Sub-Committee[1] (AMSC) of the HD Committee in addressing the Cabinet Office remit to draw a definitive line under the injustice and inconstancy of past medallic recognition, together with substantial malfunctions of the HD Committee.

Documents released on the direction of FOIA Judicial Tribunals between 2016 and 2019, revealed that of the 30 medal submissions made by military medal campaign groups, to the 2012-2014 MMR, 21 were not dealt with appropriately or not at all by this AMSC. Therefore, these 21 medal submissions are still eligible to be evaluated by any future historic MMR.

The Scandal of Medallic Recognition

Throughout 2022, I and the leaders of the other medal campaign groups, continued to work for the reopening of a MMR, regardless of what format it may take. However, as the Cabinet Office has prevaricated over the past decade in addressing the failings of the discredited MMRs and addressing the injustice and inconsistency of medallic recognition, it has become more difficult for civil servants, who take on the responsibilities for medallic recognition, to find time to read all the documents that are now available, and to make valid judgements in their communications with the leaders of the medal campaign groups. They just do not have the time.

I have therefore produced a 250-page evidenced based report on the scandal of medallic recognition for a generation of the Nation’s armed forces veterans, which was published on the 27 January 2022. It has compiled all the relevant information on the MMRs into one document and therefore has become an easy reference manual. It is a damning indictment on the failings of both the MoD and the Cabinet Office to fulfil the promises that Prime Minister Cameron made to veterans. On 18 April 2022, the National Army Museum accepted the report into their library and archives and is now available to the general public, researchers, and the next generation of the Nation’s armed forces.

The extensive involvement of medal campaign group leaders in Judicial Tribunal proceedings from 2014 to 2019, led the Cabinet Office, in May 2019, to reconstitute the AMSC. Its structure is totally different to its predecessor, which last met on 29 August 2013. Consequently, there were high expectations within the veteran community that this new sub-committee would evaluate the submissions made to it in a more open, transparent, and fair way, thereby drawing the definitive line under the inconsistency and injustice of historical medallic recognition, which Prime Minister Cameron had promised the veteran community in 2010 and again in 2012. This was not to be the case.

The 2019 newly constituted AMSC

Work by the leaders of the medal campaign groups during 2021 and the early part of 2022 identified that the AMSC, had attempted to operate under a cloak of secrecy, falsely claiming independence from government and the accepted public sector processes of governance. It refused to provide details of when it would meet, what submissions it had reviewed or the substance for the decisions it made. Although it is an advisory sub-committee of the HD Committee it appears to have been making decisions without any accountability.

In the three years of its existence the AMSC has dealt with only seven submissions by military medal campaign groups in respect of their historic medallic recognition claims. Of these only two are from the 21medal submissions outstanding, the most notable being the submission from the Nuclear Test veterans medal campaign. The AMSC advised the HD Committee that seven submissions should not be recommended to Her late Majesty. It is assumed this was agreed by the HD Committee although no record can be found of this.

Three of these medal campaign groups appealed to the AMSC against their rejection. The most notable being the Nuclear Test veterans. These appeals were rejected by the AMSC without referral to the HD Committee. This was outside the remit of the AMSC, and no public records have been published.

Cabinet Office informed of weaknesses of the 2019 AMSC

There were clear indications that the AMSC was not fit for purpose: it claimed to be independent of the Cabinet Office, it was not; failed to promulgate dates of its meetings; totally lacked openness and transparency in its decision making; provided no time table for reviewing submissions made to it; refused to provide details of how many submissions were made to it and how may submissions it rejected; failed to release minutes into the public domain; failed to inform those making submissions what advice they made to the HD Committee; and operated outside of its own TORs.

Although the Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office and the Honours Secretariat were informed of these weaknesses and the reluctance of medal campaign groups to submit their historical submissions, there was no response, and no remedial action took place.

Request for the minutes of the AMSC and HD Committee meetings

Evidence of the failures of the AMSC was needed. Nine previous Judicial Tribunals, which the leaders of the various medal campaign groups had been involved in during 2014 to 2019, had created Judicial precedence in respect of the release of the minutes of the AMSC and HD Committee meetings.

The release of the minutes covering the period 2019 to 2022, albeit in a redacted form, were requested in March 2022 under the FOIA. It was considered they would provide sufficient evidence to obtain a government review of the AMSC’s failed procedures and its impact on the veterans of the Nation’s armed forces. The Cabinet Office ignored the Judicial precedence, refusing to release the minutes of the seven AMSC meetings and the four HD Committee meetings, which had dealt with the medal submission rejections.

Understandably, until the issues surrounding the AMSC have been addressed, leaders of the military medal campaign groups are reluctant to make any further submissions to this sub-committee which has not recommended one medal submission in its three years of existence.

In addition to requesting the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to attempt to obtain the meeting minutes on my behalf. I sought a meeting in June with the Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office, Mr Alex Chisholm, to request his intervention. There was no reply.

FOIA requests to the Cabinet Office

As a result of my involvement with the various military medal campaign groups over the past 13 years, I considered I had a public duty on their behalf and the veterans they represented, to try and clarify why there was such reluctance to make their long overdue medal submissions to this relatively newly reconstituted AMSC; why this advisory sub-committee was being perceived as dysfunctional in such a short time of being in existence; and why there was such a desire for its appraisal

The only way now open to me to achieve the information sought and an investigation into the failings of the AMSC, was to obtain evidence through FOIA requests and present it to the new Prime Minister and the new Cabinet Office Minister, whoever they might be after September 2022. No one could have envisaged that in a period of just four months the country would have had three different Prime Ministers and four Cabinet Office Ministers.

Ten separate FOIA requests were designed to address the perceived failings of the AMSC and were submitted to the Cabinet Office between July to September 2022. This should have provided the visibility needed of this sub- committee operating outside of the Government regulatory framework; outside of its scope of authority; its lack of accountability, transparency, and failure to place timely information in the public domain; its lack of objectivity; failure to generate trust; its propensity to act as judge and jury; questionable value for taxpayers’ money; and an apparent lack of governance by the HD Committee or its Secretariat, which had allowed all of these issues to flourish.

None of my requests were to receive the information sought. All became the focus of actions by a person or persons unknown within or associated to the Cabinet Office, attempting to block and/or conceal the information requested from being released into the public domain, and all were designated vexatious.

I have to say that I found it difficult to comprehend that instead of the Cabinet Office being concerned about the performance of the AMSC, it was more concerned that I had asked for information about a government organisation, which should have already been promulgated voluntarily into the public domain or been readily available. In addition to designating all my FOIA requests vexatious, the Cabinet Office claimed that my personal attempts to hold them to account over the past decade was without due cause and amounted to harassment of staff. They would therefore not respond to me again on the matter of military honours. However, the Cabinet Office failed to provide evidence to justify their claims and redress is sought.

Investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office

The reluctance of the Cabinet Office to release, the minutes of the HD Committee and the AMSC; the failure to release information in respect of the ten FOIA requests which deal with the inadequate performance of the AMSC; and the erroneous designation of those requests being deemed as vexatious, are now all the subject of ICO investigations. All of which, on my past experience of the Cabinet Office, is likely to be withheld until Judicial Tribunals direct the information requested, to finally be released.

In addition, I have requested the Criminal Investigation Department of the ICO to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to initiate a criminal investigation into the person or persons unknown, who have attempted to block or conceal information, that I had every right to believe should have been released into the public domain. This is a criminal offence, which only the ICO are authorised to investigate. I await the ICO decision on whether criminal proceedings will proceed. Time however is not on our side as the deadline for this case to be with the Magistrate’s Court is 31 March 2023.

Despite all of this turmoil I do want to highlight the recent success story of the Nuclear Test Medal Campaign as it does have implications for other medal campaign groups.

Nuclear Test Medal Campaign Success

The Nuclear Test Medal campaign has had many drawbacks. Their submission was turned down in both the MMR attempts by the MoD in 2010 and 2011; dismissed in the Cabinet Office MMR by the AMSC at their meeting on 29 August 2013; turned down twice by the reconstituted AMSC some time in 2020 and 2021, and on appeal by the AMSC in October 2022. Despite all of this, I am now delighted to congratulate the Nuclear Test medal campaigners in their successful achievement. Prime Minister Sunak announced in Parliament on 21 November 2022 the creation of the Nuclear Test commemorative medal, which has been graciously approved by His Majesty the King. This important medal will recognise the service to the Nation by participants in the UK’s nuclear testing programme. Interestingly a similar process took place in 2012 when on 5 December the AMSC turned down the Arctic Convoy Medal Star submission, lost the minutes of their meeting, and on 16 December 2012, just two weeks later, Prime Minister Cameron announced in Parliament, the Arctic Convoy Star would be awarded.

Current Situation

The current situation is, we have an AMSC which is not fit for purpose; the Cabinet Office are ignoring all of the AMSC failings; and the military medal campaign groups are reluctant to make submissions to such a flawed organisation. The ICO is involved in carrying out four investigations into the failure of the Cabinet Office to release information, which the public could reasonably expect them to have released, together with the erroneous designation of ten of my FOIA requests being deemed vexatious. A decision is awaited in respect of the criminal investigation that I have requested. Until this is all resolved, any communication that I attempt to make with any part of the Cabinet Office, in respect of military medals will be ignored. This is a desperate situation for a government department, such as the Cabinet Office, to have got itself into in respect of medallic recognition of the Nation’s veterans.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Labour Party have recently gone on record in Parliament, stating that they would institute a fresh review of all outstanding historic medal claims. The Liberal Democrats and SNP are supportive of an historic medal review; it also appears clear from Prime Minister Sunak’s recent intervention in respect of the Nuclear Test veterans that he and the Conservative Party also support such a review. The problem however are the obstacles placed in the way of a fresh MMR by the civil service, who have been operating in a political vacuum for some considerable time.

I will therefore continue to seek a meeting with the Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office and representatives of the MoD, to achieve an amicable solution to the institution of an open, transparent, and fair MMR, in whatever form it may take. We require the support of both of these government departments, if a definitive line is to be drawn under the issue of historic medallic recognition, once and for all.

Keep safe and well.

Yours with best wishes

Terry Scriven

[1] The MMR 2012-2014 AMSC only met on two occasions, December 2012 and August 2013 after which it was shelved by the MoD and Cabinet Office.