HL Deb 16 June 1992 vol 538 cc115-6

2.57 p.m.

Lord Carver asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will review the system of awards to members of the armed forces for gallantry and for distinguished service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, the Ministry of Defence keeps under review the system of awards to members of the armed forces for gallantry and for distinguished service. That position remains the same.

Lord Carver

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his informative Answer. Can he assure the House that a review body will do its best to recommend a method of removing the anomalies in the present system as regards differences between the three armed services, the different ranks, the sexes, the awards which can be made posthumously and those which cannot, and those which are gained for gallantry and those for distinguished service?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, we should be grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for giving the House the opportunity to air this important Question. As noble Lords will be aware, we now live in a classless society. I was not aware that that piece of news had not until now been appreciated by your Lordships. It is timely that the noble and gallant Lord should give the House an opportunity to comment. I assure him that his remarks will be closely noted in the Ministry of Defence, a Ministry of which he was such a distinguished ornament in the past. Any review that takes place will certainly take those matters into consideration.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, since the noble Viscount referred to the routine review by the Ministry of Defence, are we to understand that the Prime Minister's statement that he intends to review all honours does not apply to the military? With reference to the noble Viscount's reply to the noble and gallant Lord, do we understand by his reference to the "classless society" that the Prime Minister is now contemplating ending the distinction between barons on the one hand and viscounts, earls and so on on the other?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, in my very junior capacity as a member of the Government, I am never as privy to those important matters as I should like to be. However, I assure noble Lords and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, in particular, that any review which takes place at a more general level will include the matters raised by the noble and gallant Lord.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, will the noble Viscount please give an indication of the Government's thinking, apart from saying that we live in a classless society?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, it is fair to say that that phrase has become more current under the present Conservative regime than perhaps it was under the previous Labour regime.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that the position put forward by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has considerable support within the armed forces? While there may be a reason for differences between men and women in the services and perhaps a reason for differences between awards for gallantry and distinguished service, there are no longer seen to be any reasonable grounds for distinction between ranks in the services as regards awards for gallantry and distinguished service? Will the Ministry bear that in mind when it continues its review?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, with the greatest pleasure, I give the assurance which the noble Lord seeks.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Viscount on his ability to get a laugh. I assure him that it is not the way he tells them; it is what he says.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord.