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THE SUMMER 2020 UPDATE BY THE CHAIR


As I write this update for you in July 2020, I find it difficult to accept that we are a country that values and respects those who have served in the Armed Forces and kept this Nation and its interests safe and secure since the ending of the Second World War.


Since the ending of the Second World War, there has been a failure of successive governments to positively tackle the myriad of medallic submissions by campaign groups. Together with a failure to address the inconsistency and injustice of medallic recognition, which has been experienced by those who have served in the Armed Forces.


The UK National Defence Medal campaign was established in 2007. It came about through the leaders of the various veteran medal campaign groups such as National Service, Cold War, Korea Post Armistice, Sub Mariners and Nuclear Testing, failing to achieve medallic recognition for their individual group medal submissions. Some dating back to the 1960s and others for service dating back to 1945. Many of the individuals concerned were suffering from illness, were frail and many dying through old age or indeed illness suffered due to their military service. These groups decided that should their medal submissions finally fail, the institution of a generic National Defence Medal would provide their veterans the last opportunity, in their lifetime, to achieve medallic recognition of their service to the Nation.


Former Prime Minister David Cameron was sympathetic to their plight. He made a commitment to carry out a review of these outstanding medal claims with the aim of drawing a line in the sand on the issue once and for all. Two reviews were carried out by the MoD in quick succession in 2010 and 2011, both failed to address the issues and were discredited. The Prime Minister was exasperated by these successive failures. He removed the responsibility from the MoD and in 2012 established a reconstituted independent Military Medal Review led by a senior diplomat, Sir John Holmes, and sponsored by the Cabinet Office. It was billed by Government as the most wide-ranging Military Medals Review for a generation.


The Cabinet Office Review got off to a good start. Sir John spoke to all the various medal campaign groups and obtained their detailed written evidence-based submissions for review by a sub-committee of the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (HD Committee). However, concerns soon permeated the veteran community about the subsequent secrecy of what was taking place and questions about just how independent it was from those in the MoD who had carried out the previous two discredited reviews. In July 2014, the results of the Cabinet Office Military Medals Review were released in a Ministerial statement to Parliament. It was apparent this third Military Medals Review in four years had been another fudge. It had failed to be carried out in an open and transparent manner and failed to draw a line in the sand on the medal issues, which Prime Minister Cameron had assured the veteran medal groups it would do.


Evidence obtained over the next five years through Freedom of Information Act requests and from seven separate Judicial Tribunals, identified significant and startling facts. It showed that some medal submissions had not been reviewed appropriately and 21 medal submissions had not been reviewed at all. There had been attempts by the Honours and Appointments Secretariat to conceal failings of the Advisory Military Sub-Committee, a sub-committee of the HD Committee and of the HD Committee itself.


The prestigious HD Committee reports to Her Majesty and is comprised of a chair and seven members, all of whom are some of the most senior civil servants in the Land. It took a Freedom of Information Act request over two years, culminating in a Judicial Tribunal Direction, to obtain details of who the members were who sat on the three meetings of the Committee which dealt with the most wide ranging Military Medals Review for a generation. Surprisingly it found that over half its members had not bothered to turn up at the three meetings; that many of its absentee members were not represented and had not submitted any comments on the medal submissions or the way they had been assessed. The failings of this prestigious HD Committee question the recommendations made to Her Majesty, question the substance of the decisions made and question the HD Committee’s credibility.


Ministers were found to have been misled through inaccurate briefs from which they made misleading statements to Parliament. Individual Members of Parliament and Military Medal campaign groups were misled through Cabinet Office correspondence relating to the Medal Review. Inaccurate statements were also submitted to Judicial Tribunals by senior civil servants, some under oath. Details of the expenditure of an inordinate amount of taxpayers’ money (over £200,000) in funding Government Legal Department barristers and solicitors, in attempts to keep the inadequacies of the Military Medal Review process and lack of due diligence out of the public domain were uncovered.


These concerns were brought to the attention of both Prime Minister May and Prime Minister Johnson with a request that the Military Medals Review be reopened. No reply was ever received, and certainly no remedial action by the Cabinet Office took place. On numerous other occasions, between 2014 to 2019, attempts were made, but to no avail, to get the Military Medals Review reopened so that medal submissions not reviewed appropriately or not at all in the review of 2012 to 2014 could be revisited.


On 12 July 2019, the Senior Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office wrote to me to state the matter was now closed and recommended if I and Dr Halligan were not satisfied, it should be referred to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.


Clearly it was inappropriate for the leaders of all the military medal campaign groups to refer their cases to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. It was therefore decided that Dr Halligan, the leader of the medal campaign for those ‘Injured in Conflict’, would submit a representative complaint to the Ombudsman, highlighting the injustice and maladministration of the Cabinet Office. On 11 August 2019, just five weeks after the Cabinet Office had officially closed down all avenues of redress, Dr Halligan, via his constituency MP, the Rt Hon Ian Blackford, submitted the following request to the Parliamentary Ombudsman with the aim of achieving a recommendation that the Military Medals Review be reopened:


“To investigate a complaint that injustice has been caused by the maladministration on the part of the Cabinet Office in respect of the Military Medals Review and involvement in what appears to have been an attempt to cover up what was a dysfunctional process. All efforts to resolve this matter in any other way have been exhausted.”


On 4 September 2019, the Parliamentary Ombudsman appeared to confirm the request for an investigation had been accepted by allocating an investigation case number to replace their initial reference number allocated in August. The Ombudsman also apologised for the delay and that although they had made enquiries with the Cabinet Office it had not yet responded.

Nothing more was heard until 9 January 2020 when a senior case officer for the Parliamentary Ombudsman wrote to myself and Dr Halligan informing us that no investigation had commenced and none was likely as the award of medals was outside the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. It had taken the Ombudsman six months to reach a decision that they would not investigate. A decision which was at variance with the fact that an investigation case number had been allocated in September 2019. When being informed that the complaint was not about the award of a specific medal but about the injustice, lack of due process and maladministration of a Government Department, we were informed it would have to be discussed with the Ombudsman’s legal department.


On 24 February information was received from the case officer stating the legal team had found the matter complicated and it would require a few more weeks to determine whether to commence an investigation. This was followed by communication from the Case Officer on 18 March 2020 in which the initial reason for the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s non-involvement had been dropped and a different reason given as to why the complaint could not be investigated. The reason given now was that Dr Halligan did not have proximity to the case. Dr Halligan refuted this, and the Case Officer went back to seek legal advice. Further communication along a similar vein took place in April and May with the Ombudsman.

However, on 19 March 2020 I wrote a letter of complaint to the Chair of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman on behalf of Dr Halligan and many leaders of the medal campaign groups. In my letter I expressed concern about the delay in the decision to carry out an investigation of Dr Halligan’s complaint, about the inaccurate and changing assessments made and requested that the Chair and the Board of the Parliamentary Ombudsman revisit the decision not to investigate. I received no reply to my letter.


Dr Halligan and I finally received a letter from the Parliamentary Ombudsman dated 8 July 2020. It was an apology from the senior case officer for the delay in dealing with the request for an investigation and for the misunderstandings by them of the complaint and of Dr Halligan’s proximity to it. In addition, a new senior case officer had now been assigned to reassess Dr Halligan’s request.


In summary, here we are, 10 years on since we first managed to obtain a Military Medals Review promised by former Prime Minister David Cameron to address the injustice and inconsistency of medallic recognition. We have experienced three Military Medal Reviews being discredited and the issues surrounding medallic recognition of hundreds of thousands of veterans have still not been addressed. Seven Judicial Tribunals have provided clear evidence of injustice and maladministration by senior civil servants in the Cabinet Office and attempts to cover up what took place in the 2012-2014 Military Medals Review and subsequently. Having exhausted due process in attempting to reopen the Medals Review and received a clear statement from the Cabinet Office in July 2019 that they would not deal with the matter any longer. We took their advice and in August 2019 requested the Parliamentary Ombudsman to investigate the injustice and maladministration of the Cabinet Office, with a view to reopening the Military Medals Review which would revisit the medal submissions that were not dealt with appropriately or not at all. It is disappointing that having made the request to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the complaint has effectively been sat on for almost one year. Sadly, whilst all this prevarication has been on going many of the likely recipients of the medals concerned have died.


I remind readers that all the military medal campaign groups have ever sought, yet continually been denied, is an open and transparent medal review, where their submissions are fairly assessed. If it is determined they have a case, their submission is recommended to Her Majesty for institution of the relevant medal, and if not, evidence-based reasons are provided as to why not. This is not an unreasonable request. Consequently, many veterans do find it difficult to reconcile the disrespect that has been shown to them during the three discredited Military Medals Reviews and the subsequent attempt of a cover up, with the outpouring of support for former service personnel on Armed Forces Day in June this year.


Let us now hope that belatedly, the Parliamentary Ombudsman will agree to investigate Dr Halligan’s complaint, which if successful, will encourage the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office to reopen a review of all the medal submissions which were not dealt with appropriately or not at all in the 2012-2014 Military Medals Review.


Colonel Terry Scriven
Chairman, UK National Defence Medal Campaign

2019 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN

Dear Veteran,


Sadly, as in previous years, more of our activists and campaigners have suffered illness and some have passed away. We who remain are grateful for their contributions over many years and our thoughts are with their families at this particularly difficult time of year. 


It has been a year of many successes. However, it may appear to those who have not travelled with us over the past decade that after discrediting three military medal reviews, we are still no closer to achieving medallic recognition for our millions of veterans.

 

For new readers of my annual Christmas message it is perhaps worth stating why the National Defence Medal campaign was first initiated. The following was contained in our submission to the Cabinet Office sponsored military medals review in 2012 and has not changed:


“There has been injustice and inconsistency of medallic recognition of those who served and have kept the Nation and its interests safe and secure since the ending of the Second World War. Over the years this led to the formation of many medal campaign groups such as National Service veterans, Cold War veterans, Nuclear Testing veterans, Korea Post Armistice veterans, and Service personnel injured in conflict, to name but a few seeking medallic recognition. As the years have gone by, the campaigners representing these groups have all got older, some have become frail, others ill and many died. Consequently in 2007, the National Defence Medal campaign was launched by representatives of these organisations coming together to make one concerted effort to achieve medallic recognition in their lifetime through a generic medal should their own claims fail.” 


So where are we now and what should we realistically look forward to in 2020?


By early March this year, nine different judges in seven separate legal judicial tribunal proceedings, directed that information sought by various military medal campaign groups in their Freedom of Information Act requests should be released. Many of these cases had been ongoing for three years due to the refusal of both the Cabinet Office and MoD to release the information. The information released supported the complaints by veterans that senior civil servants within the Cabinet Office Honours and Appointments Secretariat had misled Parliament, misled individual Members of Parliament and been responsible for misleading statements submitted to judicial tribunals. It was found that 21 medal submissions had not been reviewed by the Advisory Military Sub-Committee (AMSC) a sub-committee of the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (HD Committee), in what the Government had declared was to have been the most wide-ranging military medals review for a generation. Other medal submissions were shown not to have been reviewed appropriately by the AMSC and its members found to have made unsubstantiated statements. There also appeared to have been a lack of due diligence by the HD Committee.


On behalf of the various medal campaign groups I submitted on 22 March a detailed complaint, which encompassed the irregularities of the review, to the Minister responsible for the Cabinet Office. I also requested the Minister initiate an independent investigation into the lack of openness and transparency, lack of due diligence and the on-going attempts to cover up these failings. In addition, the Minister was requested to direct that the newly formed AMSC, which in December 2018, Her Majesty had directed should be re-established, re-visit all the medal submissions which the previous AMSC had failed to deal with appropriately or in the case of 21 medal submissions, not at all.


In July, I received a final response to my complaint from the Senior Private Secretary to the Minister. It was an attempt to close the complaint down. The failings of the medal review process, unearthed in the judicial tribunal proceedings, were totally ignored. It was in effect an attempt to continue the cover up of what was the third discredited military medal review in a decade.


The only way forward on behalf of the various medal campaign groups, who had been shown such disrespect, was to now seek an investigation into the whole distasteful episode by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Such a request can only be submitted by a Member of Parliament on behalf of a constituent. Therefore, on 5 August the Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP submitted on behalf of his constituent Dr Martin Halligan, the leader of the campaign for medallic recognition of those injured in conflict and a National Defence Medal activist, the following request:


“To investigate a complaint that injustice has been caused by the maladministration on the part of the Cabinet Office in respect of the Military Medals Review and involvement in what appears to have been an attempt to cover up what was a dysfunctional process. All efforts to resolve this matter in any other way have been exhausted.”


The submission dealt with the complaint I had submitted on your behalf on 22 March and the response received from the Minister’s Senior Private Secretary. It covered the judicial directions of the seven tribunals and provided details of those individuals in senior appointments who had been involved in the dysfunctional medals review of what was ‘billed’ by government as the most wide-ranging military medals review for a generation. 


Although the Queen had agreed to the re-constitution of the AMSC in December last year and it had been expected to be operational by the Spring of this year, nothing materialised. However, surprisingly on 9 August, two weeks after I had informed the Honours and Appointments Secretariat that a request was being submitted to the Parliamentary Ombudsman for an investigation, the Terms of Reference for a newly constituted AMSC were promulgated and it commenced work. The concerning part of the reconstituted AMSC’s Terms of Reference is the following sentence: 


         “Claims submitted must not have been considered as part of previous work in 2013 to 

          consider specific medals claims (list and reports here) unless new evidence emerged.”  

          (No list was attached to the AMSC document or available).


It was considered prudent to test this situation therefore one medal group whose submission made to the 2012 medal review and was not reviewed by the previous AMSC was submitted to this reconstituted sub-committee. The submission was turned down on the grounds it had already been presented previously. 


On 4 September the Parliamentary Ombudsman confirmed the request for an investigation had been accepted. To date no further communication from the Parliamentary Ombudsman has been received other than to request copies of additional documents. However, the sheer magnitude of the documents to be assessed by the Ombudsman in discussion with the Cabinet Office and the recent General Election may well delay any outcome being promulgated until the early Spring of 2020. It should be noted that a copy of all correspondence in respect of the recent rejection by the reconstituted AMSC outlined in the previous paragraph has been submitted to the Parliamentary Ombudsman for inclusion in the investigation.


So, what should we expect in the coming Year? Hopefully, the Parliamentary Ombudsman will recommend to the Cabinet Office, on behalf of the Government, that all the original submissions to the military medals review in 2012, which were never properly considered by the AMSC or not at all, should be updated where appropriate and resubmitted to the newly reconstituted AMSC. However, it is worth remembering that many of those submissions were written by veterans, who were then senior in their years. Those submissions were placed in good faith in 2012. These veterans are now seven years older and it is likely that some of their number are no longer with us. Even a requirement to re-submit their original claims may be too much to ask. However, to simply discount them from inclusion in this new review would be a disgrace and nothing short of a national scandal. 


Veterans have welcomed the creation of a new Government Office for Veteran Affairs. The Minister in charge, who is also the Cabinet Office Minister, has been informed of the investigation being carried out by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and therefore will no doubt become fully involved.


Finally, I remind readers that all the military medal campaign groups have ever sought, yet continually been denied, is an open and transparent medal review, where their submissions are fairly assessed, and if they have a case, their submission is recommended to Her Majesty for medallic recognition, and if not, evidence based reasons are provided as to why not. This is not unreasonable. It is therefore worth reflecting on the amount of money that has been expended by Government Departments in trying to cover up this unsavoury situation over the past twelve years and in their disrespectful treatment of those who have served the Nation. Perhaps this will all change in 2020 with a new Government responding to a Parliamentary Ombudsman investigation report. I will keep you briefed.


Thank you for you continued support throughout 2019. Happy Christmas and best wishes for a healthy 2020.


Colonel Terry Scriven
Chairman, UK National Defence Medal Campaign


2018 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN

Dear Veteran,
 
Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones.  Sadly, as in previous years, some of our activists and campaigners have suffered illness and some have passed away. We are all grateful for their contributions over many years and our thoughts are with their families at this particularly difficult time of year.
 
Each year my letter reaches new readers. I therefore take this opportunity in my Christmas message to explain the rationale for the National Defence Medal.
 
"There has been injustice and inconsistency of medallic recognition of those who served and have kept the Nation and its interests safe and secure since the ending of the Second World War. Over the years this led to the formation of many medal campaign groups such as National Service veterans, Cold War veterans, Nuclear Testing veterans, Korea Post Armistice veterans, and Service personnel injured in conflict, to name but a few seeking medallic recognition.  As the years have gone by, the campaigners representing these groups have all got older, some have become frail, others ill and many died. Consequently in 2007, the National Defence Medal campaign was launched by representatives of these organisations coming together to make one concerted effort to achieve medallic recognition in their life time through a generic medal should their own claims fail." 

In 2010, former Prime Minister David Cameron, directed this injustice and inconsistency be addressed with a line drawn in the sand on the matter of medallic recognition once and for all. 

The MoD (2010) and Cabinet Office (2012) who had been tasked with providing an open, transparent and fair hearing of all the various medal submissions failed to do so.  Successful Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests identified:


"The loss of government department documents; a failure of the Advisory Military Sub-Committee (AMSC) of the Honours, Decorations and Medal Committee to appropriately review the NDM submission together with other medal submissions and with some submissions not reviewed at all; the absence of members of the Honours, Decorations and Medals Committee from key meetings which discussed the institution of the NDM; unsound decisions made by this committee and who, when made aware of these flaws, failed to take any remedial action; a failure by the Cabinet Office staff to exercise due diligence of the medal review process; the production and promulgation of erroneous NDM costs; the misleading of Parliament and the public; a less than adequate investigation into official complaints made about the flawed medal review process; the failure of the Cabinet Office to provide openness and transparency in respect of the review of the NDM; and the inordinate amount of undisclosed  expenditure of taxpayers? money on legal fees to keep information of public interest on the medal review out of the public domain."
                       

Judgement on the release of information, regarding further alleged failings by the Cabinet Office in relation to the provision of a fair medal review, is awaited from four different FOIA Tribunals which are currently deliberating on their findings. Hopefully, the results of these Tribunals will be known within the coming weeks. I will ensure details of these judgements and judicial directions are placed on the NDM website as soon as they are received.


Last year I closed my Christmas message by reminding those veterans, non-veterans and the media, who read my letter, that all the medal campaign groups have ever sought, yet continually been denied, is an open and transparent medal review, where their submissions are fairly assessed, and if they have a case, their submission is recommended to Her Majesty for medallic recognition, and if not, evidence based reasons are provided as to why not.  This does not seem unreasonable or a lot to ask by our veterans who have kept this Nation and its interests safe and secure since the ending of the Second World War.


After much work by the leaders of many of the medal campaign groups, on what seemed on occasions an almost impossible task, a Parliamentary statement was made on 13 November 2018, which indicated that the AMSC was to be reinstituted. I wrote to Sir Jonathan Stephens, the current Chair of the Honours, Decorations and Medals Committee, on behalf of the various medal campaign groups, requesting he confirm that all those medal submissions, which were either not reviewed appropriately or not reviewed at all by the AMSC in the 2012-2014 military medal review, would be reviewed by this reconstituted sub-committee and that the process would be open, transparent and not protracted due to an aging veteran community.



A week ago, on 6 December, the following Parliamentary statement was made:

"Both the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence have received requests from campaigners for either historic decisions of the award of medals to be reconsidered or new claims to be considered. It is for these reasons that the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals recommended to Her Majesty The Queen that the Advisory Military Sub-Committee be reinstituted earlier this year. Her Majesty graciously agreed to their request. Details of the Sub-Committee?s independent membership and terms of reference will be announced by the Cabinet Office in due course."


Yesterday (11 December) I received a reply from Sir Jonathan Stephens to my letter of 16 November. He informed me that this newly reconstituted AMSC will commence work in the Spring of 2019 and that the independent Chair will be made aware of the history of the previous AMSC and the views of campaign groups such as the National Defence Medal. So far, I have no details of who the Chair or the members of this sub-committee are, however once this information becomes available it will be placed on the NDM website. Sir Jonathan further informs me in his letter that it will be for the AMSC to decide how to engage with veteran groups and that this sub-committee of the Honours, Decorations and Medals Committee have been allocated a page on the gov.uk website. The AMSC will draw their own conclusions as to which cases, if any, should be re-examined and all claims will be considered on their merits. 


Although this situation takes the NDM and other medal campaign groups back to where they were in 2012, it is in the circumstances a major step forward in achieving a fair, open and transparent review of the submissions for medallic recognition, albeit sadly too late for many veterans who have been involved in these campaign groups. I have placed a copy of Sir Jonathan?s letter on the NDM website for your information with my Christmas message and will keep you updated on any further progress as it occurs.

Happy New Year
Yours with best wishes
Colonel Terry Scriven
Chairman National Defence Medal Campaign