The News has won many accolades over the years, including Campaigning Newspaper of the Year for its efforts to win an Arctic Star medal for British veterans of the wartime Arctic Convoys.
The convoys notwithstanding and acts of immense courage aside, medals are often awarded for particular campaigns and a qualifying length of service in a particular theatre. However, this philosophy of recognition is not as equitable as it might seem.
Submariners do not receive medals for tours of duty, despite the dangers they face and the awful conditions in which they work. Ten months at sea, often submerged for three months at a time with little communication, and always in potentially hostile waters, is no picnic.
Likewise, we do not recognise those members of our navy on patrol countering narcotics or piracy, though these men and women regularly come under fire.
It is unfair that a submariner is unable to display his service record and achievements on his chest just because his brave actions and hardships were endured to prevent warfare rather than to practise it. These men spend their working lives prowling the dark of the deep so that we may spend the hours of darkness above the waves peacefully in our beds.
I recently met a submarine captain who had just clocked up his 3,000th day at sea. I do not believe in ‘prizes for all’, but I do believe in proper recognition for dutiful service and courage in the face of terrible odds and grave danger. As such, I’m pleased that the MoD is reviewing the medal system.
Parliament has established a tradition of welcoming returning servicemen and women home from a deployment by hosting them at a reception in the Palace of Westminster.
I have now asked that we honour all those personnel whose contribution to our security is less easily defined. Happily the House has agreed and submariners will shortly be recognised and received when they return.