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Suez Medal

Volume 400: debated on Monday 3 March 2003

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When he will make an announcement on the award of a service medal for veterans of the Suez canal campaign in 1951–54. [99864]

A sub-committee of the HD Committee—the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals—chaired by Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, took evidence from canal zone veterans and the Ministry of Defence on 22 November last year. The recommendation regarding the possible case for a medal in respect of service in the canal zone between 1951 and 1954 was passed to the HD Committee for its consideration. Until the members have concluded their deliberations, the matter must remain under review, but I will make an announcement when their findings have been published.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and hope that the announcement can be made soon. Does he agree that there are very special circumstances relating to the case for awarding a medal for the Suez veterans? In particular, the commander in chief at the time applied for a medal, but the claim was never properly considered by the HD Committee. Are these not unique circumstances that justify the award of a medal retrospectively?

I think that my hon. Friend is well aware of my views on this subject, but we must be very careful in this matter to ensure that, if retrospection is to be breached, there are very clear and watertight reasons for doing so. The confusion about what happened when the action took place is well documented. Clearly, that was behind the decision to refer the matter back through the HD Committee to a sub-Committee for its consideration. In the very near future, I hope to be able to tell him and others the results of the deliberations.