§ 11. Mr. Kelley
asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will invite by public announcement on television and other media all persons awarded the Military Medal prior to September 1939 to register with his Department.
§ Mr. Kelley
Is the Minister aware that this question has now become rather jaded and that it is not a political matter —because the answer we have received today is the same as that given by the previous Government, and the answer given by the previous Government was the same as we received from the Government before that. Is he aware that, compared with the total of defence expenditure, the price of dignity for this nation is a paltry few pounds? To give these men £20 a year to buy a new suit to wear at the armistice celebrations would not bankrupt us, and probably the fact that we are treating our people like this has a lot to do with why we are spending less than the Warsaw Pact countries on defence.
§ Mr. Blaker
I do not accept the implication of the last part of that supplementary question. The facts are that when it was decided in 1945 to extend the gratuity of £20 to those who won the medal in the 1939–45 war the decision was then taken that the award could not be back-dated beyond that. One reason was that it would have been impracticable to trace all the 116,000 people who were awarded the medal in the 1914–18 war. If that was the decision at that time, it is difficult to see how, 28 years later, one could reverse it.
Major-General Jack d'Avigdor Goldsmid
Does my hon. Friend agree that the gaining of a decoration of this sort lies in the honour and not in the financial reward?
§ Mr. Kelley
I am completely dissatisfied with the Minister's reasons for rejecting this request. We now have a medium which was not available in those days, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to consider finding out what is the total cost to the nation involved in 209 buying dignity and giving to people who served this country in the 1914–18 war the same rewards as those who served us in the Second World War.
§ Mr. Blaker
The total cost, so far as can be estimated, would be about £450,000 for the gratuities, plus £130,000 a year for those who would receive an addition to their pension. But that is not the point. The point is that this is not a practicable suggestion. It is more complicated than the hon. Gentleman seems to realise because also involved would be the question whether the award would be paid as it was for those who died in the 1939–45 war, namely to the heirs of those who have won the medal.