A SOUTH Yorkshire MP has been rebuffed in his efforts to persuade defence chiefs to award medals to those who served in the armed forces.
Denis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham, used a parliamentary debate to accuse the top brass in the Ministry of Defence of blocking the introduction of a universal medal.
But defence minister Andrew Robathan said more than four million former servicemen and women would be eligible for a medal - leaving the taxpayer with a bill of up to £300 million.
The minister, who served in the Coldstream Guards and the SAS, said: “I have to say there is no evidence whatsoever that today’s personnel have any particular desire for a universal defence medal.
“Medals awarded to the members of the British armed forces have a relative scarcity about them, which is not shared by many other nations.
“One can think of the former Soviet Union, North Korea and, indeed, that includes some of our allies.
“This leads people in no doubt that they have been truly earned.
“ This ethos has stood us well in the past and I think we should be cautious about changing that.”
Under Mr MacShane’s proposals, everyone who is still alive who served at some point in the armed forces would receive a medal.
He used a debate in Westminster Hall - the second Commons debating chamber - to highlight how following the 1950s Cyprus campaign, when 371 British servicemen died, troops needed to be on the island for 120 days to get a medal.
Now, soldiers serving in Afghanistan qualify for their campaign medal after a month.
But Mr MacShane says gongs should also go to two million who did national service until 1960, as well as to nuclear test veterans.
He highlighted how Australia and New Zealand have such universal medals.
Mr MacShane said: “Can I politely suggest the Ministry of Defence is out of step with public opinion, with the 184 MPs who signed the Early Day Motion, and with what is happening in the Commonwealth.
“While our Whitehall warriors ponder and pontificate, the New Zealanders, with Her Majesty’s approval, are getting ready to award their first medals in February this year.”