HC Deb 01 March 2004 vol 418 cc595-6
1. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab)

What medals have been awarded to British citizens who served on the Arctic convoys. [156729]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence(Mr. Ivor Caplin)

Two campaign medals were awarded to those who saw service in the Arctic convoys. The qualifying criteria for the campaign medals awarded after the second world war were published in Command Paper 6633 in May 1945, and subsequently modified by Command Paper 6833 in June 1946. Both awards specifically stated that service on the convoys to north Russia was to be marked by the award of the Atlantic star in acknowledgement of their exemplary conduct.

In addition, in 1994, on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Her Majesty the Queen granted permission for surviving veterans of the Arctic convoys to accept and wear the Russian 40th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War medal, which was instituted in 1985.

Mr. Allen

I thank the Front-Bench team, the Prime Minister and Members in all parts of the House for the recognition of the Suez veterans a few months ago, which was much appreciated by them and showed that it is possible to recognise veterans even at such a late stage.

Given that it is at least 50 years since the last serious discussion of this issue by the Ministry of Defence, will my hon. Friend have another look at it? There are very few surviving veterans who served our country on the Arctic convoys. As he said, the Russian Government have awarded them a specific medal. I hope that he will bear in mind the feelings of Members in all parts of the House and consider the matter again while a few of those heroes still survive.

Mr. Caplin

I assure my hon. Friend that the contemporary documentation has been looked at again. The evidence confirms that the HD committee—the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals—of the day did not overlook the convoys to Russia; indeed, the Command Papers specifically mention service in the Arctic. Like my hon. Friend and all other Members, we recognise the bravery of those who served on the convoys. Their service is recognised and covered by the award of the Atlantic star.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

My father was an Arctic convoy veteran. He received the Russian medal in the mid-1990s, and wore it with great pride until he died a few years ago. He would be the first to want me to stand up in the House and say that there were very special circumstances on the convoys, and that the Government should now find it in their heart to remember and recognise those who gave such valiant service to this country.

Mr. Caplin

We do exactly that through the award of the Atlantic star. I recognise the bravery of the hon. Gentleman's father, but the award of the Atlantic star is the right one according to the Command Papers published for the House in the 1940s.

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