SMILING and posing with Arctic Convoy veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell in 2004, shadow defence minister Gerald Howarth pledged his support for an Arctic Star medal to honour the forgotten war heroes.
But now Mr Howarth is in government, The News can reveal the current defence minister has turned his back on the veterans and denies he ever promised them a medal the next time the Tories came to power.
It comes after we revealed David Cameron went back on his word to honour Arctic veterans.
In a shocking letter sent to the veterans last week, Mr Howarth claimed he only ever pledged a Tory government would review their case for a medal.
This is in stark contrast to when he visited Portsmouth eight years ago and promised the veterans: ‘When we return to government we shall instigate an award.’
Mr Howarth has long been a supporter of the medal campaign. In 2005, he signed an Early Day Motion calling for an Arctic Star Medal and last February he attended a glitzy event thrown in support of the veterans at the House of Lords.
But in his latest letter to the war heroes, he said: ‘I did consult with the then leader of the opposition, Iain Duncan Smith, and we both agreed that were we to form the next government, we would indeed review the situation regarding medals with a predisposition to the creation of an Arctic Medal.’ He added the Tories have honoured this promise.
But furious Arctic Medal campaign leader Cdr Grenfell, 91, said: ‘Gerald Howarth is trying to wriggle out of what he promised us in 2003.
‘He was quite clear – the next time the Conservatives were in power they would award us a medal. There was no talk of a review.’
When the coalition government was formed in June 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron angered the veterans by ordering a Ministry of Defence review into war medals.
As reported in The News yesterday, that review has now been stopped following concerns that MoD officials had turned it into a ‘whitewash’. It will be replaced by a new independent review, which Cdr Grenfell says should not include the Arctic Convoy veterans.
He said: ‘David Cameron has already wasted 18 months on a review we didn’t need. The Conservative Party promised us a medal and they must honour that promise immediately.’
The MoD said Mr Howarth was unable to comment.