Pressure mounts on ‘insulting’ veterans minister

MEETING Cdr Eddie Grenfell with veterans minister Andrew Robathan in the Great Hall in Winchester in June
MEETING Cdr Eddie Grenfell with veterans minister Andrew Robathan in the Great Hall in Winchester in June
Police at the scene near Waddesdon 810054fd-364c-4ef5-84d3-89d35d70

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THE pressure is growing on veterans minister Andrew Robathan to resign following his ‘crass’ remarks about Arctic Convoy veterans.

The defence secretary Philip Hammond appeared to distance himself from his MoD colleague after Mr Robathan outrageously compared the Arctic heroes’ calls for a medal to the large number of honours ‘thrown around’ by tyrants like Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

As the veterans called for Mr Robathan to be sacked, Mr Hammond told MPs on the defence select committee: ‘I don’t think he intended to cause any offence but there was an unfortunate juxtaposition of words.

‘The role of the Arctic convoys is well known and if any offence has been caused I deeply regret that.’

But Mr Robathan showed no regret yesterday in a statement which failed to even say sorry to veterans.

He said: ‘There was no intention to cause any offence. I was making the point that we honour people for their service in a very different way to that of authoritarian regimes.’

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy called the slur ‘a crass and stupid insult’.

He added: ‘This is a slap in the face to the heroes who took part in one of the most dangerous campaigns in the Second World War.

‘The Minister should apologise personally to those he has insulted.’

Labour’s veterans spokeswoman Gemma Doyle demanded that Mr Robathan apologises in the Commons.

But a Downing Street spokesman stood by Mr Robathan last night and said: ‘He is carrying out an important role in the Ministry of Defence.’

MEDAL CAMPAIGN

MORE than 3,000 British sailors died to keep the Soviet Union fighting in the Second World War. Of 900 allied warships and merchant ships on the 78 convoys, 104 merchant and 21 Royal Navy ships were sunk by Nazi U-boats, planes and battleships in temperatures as low as -60C.

Around 66,500 men took part in the convoys of cargo and munitions to Russia. If they had failed to deliver, Hitler could have defeated the Red Army and turned the full might of his military against Britain.

However, those men have never been given their own medal.

The Tories had promised to strike an Arctic Star medal when they next came to power, but ministers have so far snubbed the veterans.

Only 200 of the veterans are still alive and time is running out for the government to do the right thing.