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Andrew Nicoll has ask that the written version of his meeting be put on the Forum.

Public Petitions Committee Official Report 15 November 2006

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Scottish Parliament

Public Petitions Committee

Wednesday 15 November 2006

[THE CONVENER opened the meeting at 10:00]

New Petitions

Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal (PE991)

The Convener (Michael McMahon): Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 18th meeting of the Public Petitions Committee in 2006. I have received apologies from John Farquhar Munro, who has amendments to the Crofting Reform etc Bill that are being discussed elsewhere. He will try to join us if he gets through them, but he might not be able to attend this morning.

The first petition to be considered this morning is PE911, by Andrew Nicoll, who is calling on the Scottish Parliament to support the right of Scottish veterans to wear the pingat jasa Malaysia medal. Andrew Nicoll will make a brief statement to the committee in support of his petition, supported by Donald Fairgreave. I welcome both witnesses. You have a few minutes to speak and then we will discuss the issue.

Andrew Nicoll: I am holding up the pingat jasa Malaysia medal, which comes in an attractive box with the Malaysian crest on the front. Inside the box is the medal, a miniature medal and a medal ribbon. On the inside of the box lid is a metal plate with an inscription, details of which I sent in with the petition, so the members will have that in front of them. The medal also comes with a citation, which I submitted with the documents that I sent in later, so members can read that at their leisure.

The pingat jasa Malaysia medal was awarded by the supreme head of the federation of Malaysia. It was sent to me by post from the Malaysian high commission in London. The British Government has had nothing to do with it, but that has not stopped it saying publicly that it is a souvenir or trinket, or a commemorative award that is not to be worn.

The petition is not solely about the PJM; it is about an abuse of our democratic right to have our freedom restricted only by rules and laws that are properly promulgated through our elected Parliament. It is about our right not to have unelected civil servants, quangos or individual ministers of the Crown making non-statutory rules to restrict British citizens from wearing a medal. It is about our constitution and about Her Majesty

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the Queen not restricting her subjects without the consent of Parliament. It is about discrimination against British citizens. Australian and New Zealand veterans have received royal assent from our Queen to accept and wear the PJM, but permission to wear it has not been given to British veterans.

The Scottish Parliament has a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association that states that it is

"united by community of interest, respect for the rule of law and individual rights and freedoms, and by pursuit of the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy".

Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth.

The people's Parliament of Scotland is asked in this petition to protect the "individual rights and freedoms" of Scottish veterans who are eligible for the pingat jasa Malasyia by declaring null and void the undemocratic rules made by unelected civil servants in the British Government, thereby giving Scottish veterans the right to wear with pride this honourable and well-earned medal.

I conclude with two questions. Why should British citizens be discriminated against by the withholding of the right to wear the PJM, and how can the combined efforts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and the honours and decorations committee not reach any conclusion after almost six months of deliberation on this shameful decision?

I thank the committee for its time.

The Convener: Thank you. I invite members to ask questions or comment on the information that you have given us.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con): Good morning. I thank Andrew Nicoll for submitting the petition and for his presentation. I found it most odd that citizens of other Commonwealth countries are allowed to wear the medal, whereas British citizens are not. Why has that discrimination, as you described it, taken place?

Andrew Nicoll: The civil service in Whitehall has been obstructive and has not helped to find a solution to the problem, which is why I brought the petition to the Scottish Parliament. The Governments of Australia and New Zealand asked the Queen for permission for their troops to accept and wear the pingat jasa medal.

First, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean said in the House of Lords that British citizens would not be allowed to accept or wear the medal. Then Jack Straw had a turnaround and said that the rules would be reviewed. There was then a written statement from Ian Pearson MP, who was then at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which said that the Queen had been asked to make an

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exception to two of the rules, to allow us to accept the medal. I sent the committee a copy of the ministerial statement. However, the rules were then reinstated and permission to wear the medal was not given. On the one hand, the FCO said that there would be an exemption from the rules, to allow us to get the medal; on the other hand, we were told that we could not wear it.

The Cabinet Office was asked about people with dual nationality and responded that a British citizen in Australia who has dual nationality can wear the PJM in Australia. Such people are tax-paying British citizens, but British citizens in Britain cannot wear the medal, which is ludicrous. That is why I asked the Scottish Parliament for help. The rules that are quoted are not statutory; no law says that I cannot wear my PJM.

John Scott: What reason was given for the decision change that meant that you were refused permission to wear the medal, even though the rules seemed to have been relaxed to allow you to wear it?

Andrew Nicoll: The rules.

John Scott: What rules? I still do not understand the reason for the decision—I want to press you on that.

Andrew Nicoll: It is a bit complicated. The honours and decorations committee's 1969 regulations are in two parts: part A covers persons in the service of the Crown; and part B covers persons who are not in the service of the Crown. The first section says that it is the wish of Her Majesty the Queen that her subjects do not accept or wear a foreign medal without her permission—I stress "wish".

In November—some eight months after the offer of the pingat jasa medal was made—Jack Straw submitted rules to the House of Commons library, which changed the original rules to say that no British citizen would wear the medal without the Queen's authority. That was a direct order—it was a rule. The Government also says that it is a rule that medals cannot be issued after five years.

We have submitted a rebuttal on all those points, and I can leave a copy of the rebuttal with the committee. Unfortunately, it is 53 pages long and takes some reading.

John Scott: We will take your word for it.

Andrew Nicoll: The five-year rule has been broken many times. The 1969 regulations did not say anything about double medalling—the idea that if a person has a British medal for their part in a campaign, they are not allowed to accept a foreign medal. That is rubbish, because people who served in Korea got two medals: the United Nations medal; and the Korean medal. In Northern Ireland you must have a general service medal to

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be able to get the accumulated service medal. I could give you other examples, but I will not waste your time.

The double-medalling rule was put into the rules retrospectively, after the Malaysian Government had offered the PJM. It was said that the rules would be dropped and that Her Majesty the Queen would exempt the medal from the five-year rule and the double-medalling rule to allow us to accept it. Those rules were then reintroduced, so we could not wear it. The rules, which are non-statutory—they are not the law—do not contain anything that states that the Queen can say that a person cannot wear their medal. An award can be restricted, which means that it can be worn only at events that are connected with the country that awarded it, or unrestricted, which means that it can be worn at any time. That is what the civil service's rules said, but they were changed so that people do not now have permission to wear the medal.

John Scott: What would happen if a person wore the medal anyway? I am not suggesting that, as ex-servicemen, you would do so, but what would the ultimate sanction be?

Andrew Nicoll: We have dealt with the civil service and individual ministers, who said that a person who wore the medal without having the authority to do so would be grossly discourteous to Her Majesty the Queen.

Ms Sandra White (Glasgow) (SNP): Good morning, gentlemen. I have read the background papers, listened to the evidence and found that quite a conundrum is involved. John Scott picked up on quite a few issues, but I would like to clarify matters. People in Australia and New Zealand, which are Commonwealth countries, are allowed to wear the medal. Our briefing paper says that the Governments of Australia and New Zealand approached the Queen to ask whether their ex-servicemen could wear it. Has the Westminster Government asked the Queen whether you should be allowed to wear the medal?

Andrew Nicoll: We sent a petition to Her Majesty the Queen and were told that she had read it. Indeed, she sent us a letter in which she stated that, because of her position as constitutional head of state, she must deal with matters through her ministers. She therefore sent the petition to Margaret Beckett at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We believe that Margaret Beckett has not yet seen it. It filtered its way down to the honours and decorations committee, which made the non-wearing rule in the first place. We submitted a rebuttal to that committee in June this year and asked whether it would reconsider the matter, but it will still not give us any answer. Nobody will tell me who made the order that we cannot wear the medal. Did the Queen or the

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honours and decorations committee make it? I suspect that, because we have not been told who it was, some individual who had no right to do so made it, rather than the Queen.

Ms White: You mentioned a quango in your submission. Were you referring to the civil servants?

Andrew Nicoll: I meant the honours and decorations committee, which is an unelected quango.

Ms White: Obviously, you lodged the petition to find out what the Scottish Parliament could do. Do you want the committee to ask the Scottish Executive or the Scottish Parliament to approach the Parliament at Westminster on the issue?

Andrew Nicoll: I think so. We are simply asking for fairness, democracy and someone to approach the British Parliament so that Scottish veterans will be authorised to wear the medal. No law exists that says that we cannot wear it. The rules that have been quoted are non-statutory. Our elected Parliament in London has not considered the issue and the civil service will not answer any questions. It is obstructive and fabricates things. The situation has got to the stage where the civil service has written to us to say that it will not answer our letters any more.


The Convener: I will come to other members in a minute, but I want first to ask for clarification. We are trying this morning to find a way to address your concerns. You have suggested that we write to the Scottish Executive to ask it to take the matter up with Westminster. In the information that you provided us, a paragraph says that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—the people whom we would contact—

"in the form of Ian Pearson MP, and Ian McCartney MP, the Cabinet Office and members of the Honours and Decorations Committee have all agreed that the non-wearing rule is not a legislated rule and there is no law available in our country which forbids British Civilians from wearing a medal if they are qualified to do so. Also, they stated that the wearing of the PJM will not be policed and individuals may wear it if they like without authority."

That is already the Government's position, as you have stated in black and white.

Andrew Nicoll: We can wear it without authority, but that would be grossly discourteous to Her Majesty the Queen.

The Convener: That is the point I am trying to get at. Sandra White asked whether you wanted us to take the matter to the Government, but it has already made it clear that it has no objection to your wearing the medal. The person who has the objection is the monarch, or someone on her

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behalf who has made the ruling. Therefore, taking it to the Government will not take the matter forward, and I am trying to find a way that allows us to take it forward. Have you any suggestions other than approaching the Government, which has already made it clear that it has no objection to your wearing the medal?

Andrew Nicoll: I came here because I believe that we have our own people's Parliament in Scotland. The rule is a breach of our democratic rights. It is also a breach of our basic human rights for someone to prevent us from wearing something. The Government told us that there are no laws to say that we cannot wear the medal only because we told it that. The Government did not say that in the beginning, when there was a strict rule that we could not wear it.

The Convener: Again, I understand what you are saying about the democratic process, but even if both the democratically elected Parliament of Scotland and the democratically elected Government at Westminster said that you should be able to wear the medal—which Westminster has said—the reality is that you do not want to offend the Queen, who says that you cannot. How, through our taking the petition through the democratic process, can we convince the Queen that she should allow you to wear the medal?

Andrew Nicoll: We are here in frustration at not being able to find out what is going on and at not being told that it was the Queen who decided that we cannot wear the medal. If someone tells me that the Queen says that we cannot wear it, we will know what we are doing. However, nobody will tell us that, so we have come to the Scottish Parliament. We are not an independent country—not yet, thank you—but I think that the Scottish Parliament should take the side of the Scottish veterans.

Like the rest of the Commonwealth, we should have official permission to wear the medal. We do not need an MP to tell us that we can wear it if we like. Of course we can wear it if we like—I can go down the street in a grass skirt and two coconuts as long as I am not breaking the law.

It is not a question of the Government saying that we can wear it. Ian Pearson's written ministerial statement, which was deposited in the House of Commons Library, says that permission to wear the medal has not been formally granted because of the two rules, which were formerly exempt but which have been brought back in. Individual ministers may say that we can wear the medal if we like—of course we can.

Mr Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab): Have you asked your MP to take the matter up in the House of Commons?

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Andrew Nicoll: David Mundell has been working on the issue from day one. Recently, he asked the Prime Minister a question about a document that is held in the Cabinet Office. The document is allegedly signed by the Queen and it concerns the recommendations that were made on the pingat jasa Malaysia. We asked to see the document, but our request was refused. The question that David Mundell asked was:

"To ask the Prime Minister, if he will place in the Library a copy of a Ceremonial Secretariat document dated 21st December 2005 relating to the Pingot Josa Malaysia medal."

The Prime Minister's written answer reflects the answers that we have been getting since the word go:

"Information relating to internal advice is not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 7 November 2006; Vol 451, c 1174W.]

Mr Gordon: Is Mr Mundell aware of your petition? If so, does he support it?

Andrew Nicoll: Yes. We got Alex Salmond to sign it, but I did not ask Mr Mundell to sign it because he is in the Parliament in London and I was coming to the Scottish Parliament.

The Convener: Mr Salmond is an MP as well. Why did you ask him but not Mr Mundell?

Andrew Nicoll: Let me just—

Mr Gordon: I want to pursue the point that you made in your answer, Mr Nicoll. Is Mr Mundell continuing to pursue the matter with the appropriate ministers in the Westminster Parliament?

Andrew Nicoll: Yes. There are many, many people doing that, so—

Mr Gordon: So Mr Mundell is pursuing it.

Andrew Nicoll: Yes. I quoted the answer that David Mundell got for us on 7 November. He has been acting on our behalf recently.

Campbell Martin (West of Scotland) (Ind): First of all, I think that you are right. Like so many things that come from the Westminster Government, its position on the matter is nonsense. I doubt whether the monarch even knows about it. It is some civil servant in London who is preventing you from wearing the medal.

Why is it so important to you to be allowed to wear the medal? Clearly, you could wear it. Will you tell the committee what service personnel did to be allowed this honour from the Malaysian Government and why it is so important for you to be allowed to wear it officially?

Andrew Nicoll: The PJM comes with a citation, which is stamped by the high commission of

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Malaysia in London. I have a copy of it here. If you had a fortnight, I would read the whole thing, but instead I will read the final paragraph. It says:

"In appreciation of the meritorious acts and supreme sacrifices made by the security forces and civilian staff from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Nepal to Malaysia for one decade.

The supreme head of the Federation of Malaysia wishes to award medals to all those who distinguished themselves in chivalry, gallantry and loyalty while performing their services. The medal takes the form of an award entitled Pingat Jasa Malaysia."

Does that answer your question?

Campbell Martin: That is what I wanted to get on the record.

Donald Fairgrieve: I have just come back from Malaysia. I spent two weeks there last month along with 72 other veterans who served there 50 years ago. We had a wonderful trip. Quite honestly, the fact that we are not officially allowed to wear the medal is a slight on the Malaysian Government. I accepted the medal with pride at a reception in Kuala Lumpur, as did 35 other fellows who served in Malaysia at the same time. We were met with warmth and courtesy everywhere we went. It is disgraceful that our Government is slighting the Malaysian Government by not allowing our people to wear the medal officially.

We also visited the Kranji cemetery, where we laid wreaths on the graves of some 130 Scottish soldiers who died during the emergency. We lost a lot of people over there. The Malaysian Government knows that we did a good job and it is extremely grateful. The fact that we are not allowed to wear the medal is a slight on the Malaysian Government.

Campbell Martin: I agree that it is a slight on the Malaysian Government, but I think that it is also a slight on the British service personnel.

Donald Fairgrieve: There is a civil servant in London who sat on 10,000 applications for this medal for three and a half months.

Andrew Nicoll: He refused to put them through to the Malaysian high commission for no reason other than that he could.

Donald Fairgrieve: There is great resentment in Malaysia on this matter. I do not need to remind anyone that we need all the Muslim friends that we can get.

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): I apologise for having missed your opening statement, gentlemen. I am sorry if, in answering my question, you have to repeat something that you have already said.

I cannot imagine a set of circumstances in which anyone would want to slight anyone who has

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performed services abroad for our country and other countries. However, there seems to be a convention that, if you get a British medal for services that you have performed, that takes priority over a foreign medal for those services. Have I got that convention right?

Andrew Nicoll: On their medal bar, someone would wear their British medal first.

Donald Fairgrieve: There are exceptions. There are several examples of dual medals.

Jackie Baillie: Sure. I see that you cite the examples of Australia and New Zealand. However, is it not the case that the PJM is the primary medal for them because they do not have an equivalent?

Andrew Nicoll: They have Australian medals for service in Vietnam, Malaysia and so on. I could not be 100 per cent certain about that, but I think that that is the case.

Jackie Baillie: So, in those countries, the convention is different from the one in this country, which says that you should wear your British medal.

Andrew Nicoll: In those countries, they are being led by intelligent people. Here, we are being led by idiots.

Jackie Baillie: I am trying to establish what the difference is rather than solicit subjective comments that do not help your case. If we understand what the problem is, we are more likely to arrive at a solution. Is it the case that, in this country, there is—and has been for decades—a convention that a British medal takes precedence over a foreign medal that has been awarded for the same service?

Andrew Nicoll: No. There is a five-year rule, which has been in place for a long time. We have asked for the files on the five-year rule and they refused to give us them—they told us to go to Kew and do our own research. Eventually, we found out that the files had been booked out to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Then, the file concerning the five-year rule disappeared. At this time, therefore, we cannot say how long the five-year rule has been in place. However, we can tell you that the double medal rule was introduced only in November 2005 when Jack Straw deposited documents in the House of Commons library. Although Her Majesty the Queen was told that that rule was a long-standing rule, it had been in place for only three weeks or so before the Queen signed her recommendation. The short answer to your question is that the relevant rule is not a long-standing one.

Jackie Baillie: I asked the question because I know that a member of my family could not accept an award that he was offered by a foreign country because he had received a British award. I

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hesitate to give his age, but I know that the rule has been around for a considerable period.

On another issue, my understanding is that foreign Governments can ask Her Majesty's Government to recognise the honour that they wish to bestow. I understand that the Malaysian Government put in such a request and then withdrew it. I do not know whether it resubmitted that request.

Andrew Nicoll: Yes. It put in the request in February 2005 and withdrew it for some reason—nobody seems to know why—before resubmitting it in March 2005. Three months before that, Baroness Symons had said in the House of Lords that we were not going to get the medal.

Jackie Baillie: The very latest e-mail that we have suggests that, as of 3 November, the honours and decorations committee is still considering the issue.

Andrew Nicoll: We have been considering our rebuttal and our petition to Her Majesty the Queen since June and we are told that there might be a decision by the end of November.


Jackie Baillie: Excellent, so the right people are looking at it as we speak.

Andrew Nicoll: The wrong people are looking at it.

Jackie Baillie: No, the people who have the power to make the kind of decision that you want to be made—rightly or wrongly, that power belongs to them and nobody else—are looking at it.

Andrew Nicoll: The people who decided that we should not wear the medal are now being asked to review the decision. So the police are policing themselves.

Jackie Baillie: One is hopeful, though, that the strength of your argument might persuade them to make a different decision.

The Convener: Linda Fabiani has an interest in this matter. Do you want to make some comments, Linda?

Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) (SNP): Thanks, convener. Brigadier Fairgrieve talked about the trip to Malaysia in October—

Donald Fairgrieve: Actually, I was a second lieutenant national serviceman. I do not profess to be a brigadier.

Linda Fabiani: Really? It must be because you look so distinguished sitting there.

Donald Fairgrieve: It is kind of you to say so.

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Linda Fabiani: Am I right in thinking that Allan Alstead is a brigadier?

Donald Fairgrieve: Yes.

Linda Fabiani: That is where the confusion comes from, obviously. Discussing this matter with Brigadier Alstead, I was fascinated to learn of the trip in October. Seventy or so veterans travelled to Malaysia along with members of their families—I understand that your son was there, Mr Nicoll. They went to Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Johor and Singapore. They were welcomed and shown respect by people in Malaysia, who feel that the fighting in the emergency in the 1950s gave them a democracy and made the countries what they are now and, indeed, ensured that they were friends of the United Kingdom.

The Malaysians have a huge amount of respect for the people who fought—some of whom died—in the emergency. I think that we in this country should also treat those people with respect and I feel that we are not quite doing that, given the way in which the system that we are discussing works.

I know that people such as Mr Nicoll and Mr Fairgrieve feel strongly that they were part of their regiments and did good work for their country and their Queen. However, they received a note from a Mr Coney saying:

"As a civilian you can do what you like. You are not breaking any laws if you choose to ignore the decision, but it is considered a discourtesy to The Sovereign if you do."

That is a terribly disparaging statement. Obviously, it means a lot to people who served in Her Majesty's forces that Her Majesty gives them the right to wear that medal with pride, which is the right that has been given to Commonwealth troops in Australia and New Zealand. I find it bizarre that British soldiers are not allowed that same right.

It is true that the matter is being considered by the honours and decorations committee and that David Mundell is working on the veterans' behalf. However, while the discussion is on-going, I would like this committee, on behalf of the Parliament, to write in support of this cause in the interests of the Scots who died in the emergency and the veterans, who want to wear that medal with full honour. I hope that the committee will consider adding its voice to that cause.

Donald Fairgrieve: If I may add one small point, 95 per cent of the people who have been presented with this medal are national servicemen.

The Convener: On that point, my father served in Singapore and Malaya with the King's Own Scottish Borderers and would be entitled to receive this medal if he were still alive. I fully appreciate exactly where you are coming from.

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Andrew Nicoll: This medal is available to the next of kin of people who have died since the emergency or who died during it. You would be able to get it for your father, if he served after 31 August 1957, when Malaya was made independent.

The Convener: Thanks for that information.

Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East) (Lab): I, too, apologise for arriving late and missing the petitioner's statement. I notice in the papers that you have kindly supplied to us that the then Minister for Trade, Ian Pearson, said:

"Her Majesty's Government welcome, and believe it is important to recognise, the generous gesture by the King and Government of Malaysia, and their wish to acknowledge the service given by veterans and others in the years immediately after Malaysian independence. The exception recommended reflects this and our strong and important relationship with Malaysia."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 31 January 2006; Vol 442, c 11WS.]

He seems to be recommending to a committee that your medals should be given an exception to be worn. The Government has clearly stated that it will recommend to that committee—it is mentioned in your papers, but I have lost its name, which is to do with honours and decorations—that an exception should be made. As the convener said, the Government has said clearly that the exception should be allowed.

My suggested recommendation to the convener—other members might want to speak—is that we should send the Official Report of our discussion to that committee. We can pick up on the point that the Government's will, as expressed by the Minister for Trade, seems to be that the exception should be granted and we can say that the Parliament supports that exception.

The Convener: I would endorse that.

Ms White: I endorse Helen Eadie's suggestion. She laid out what Mr Pearson said. The letter from Mr Coney, from which Linda Fabiani quoted, was sent on 7 August 2006. It makes it clear that wearing the medal without the Queen's permission would be discourteous. We need clarification on that, so I support sending the petition and the Official Report of the meeting to the committee on the grant of honours, decorations and medals and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will await their replies for the petitioners, who need an answer.

Mr Gordon: My late uncle served in the Malayan emergency but, personal considerations aside, I think that the petitioners have made a powerful case. I am always wary of people asking the Scottish Parliament to express a view on something that is clearly being pursued at Westminster. That is not because I have constitutional misgivings but because I take the

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practical view that if every piece of work that was being pursued at Westminster were duplicated here, that could clog up the system.

I will put that argument to one side. A more fundamental point is about the accountability of civil servants. The parliamentary culture of Westminster has been replicated in this relatively young Parliament in the notion that civil servants' advice to ministers or to the sovereign should always be given in private and in secret. I come from the different background of local government, in which chief officers are compelled by law to give the same advice to all councillors of all parties and they usually have to give it in public and in a document. A fundamental issue for the future course of the Scottish Parliament and the Executive is whether we should continue the British home civil service tradition of always keeping advice secret.

An unnecessary fiasco has arisen over the matter that the petition raises. To be frank, people are entitled to know not just the Government's decisions but the reasoning behind the decisions. The petitioners have unnecessarily been given the runaround between the sovereign, the ministers and a shadowy committee. The Malaysian Government is rightly upset, you are rightly upset and here we are, taking quite a bit of time in the Scottish Parliament to discuss the issue. That all strikes me as totally unnecessary. The situation could have been sorted out correctly and swiftly without giving offence and without the need for you gentlemen to start your admirable campaign.

Although I support the recommendations that the convener has outlined, I simply want to put on record my strong feeling that this is another example of why it is wrong for officers' advice to be given in secret.

The Convener: I entirely endorse that well-made point.

Donald Fairgrieve: I should also point out that a documentary made by the BBC team that accompanied us on our expedition to Malaysia and Singapore will be shown on BBC2 at 8 pm on 27 November. It might embarrass the honours, decorations and medals committee in London somewhat.

The Convener: Let us hope so.

John Scott: Perhaps we should broaden things out by writing to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which might be interested in this matter. If it notes the anomalous position in which you find yourselves, it might—if it sees fit—be able to contribute to the debate by letting the committee on the grant of honours, decorations and medals know its view.

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The Convener: That is another good suggestion.

Campbell Martin: I support the recommendations made by Helen Eadie and other members and Charlie Gordon's comments. However, I hope that when we forward the petition to Westminster we do not get back a letter that says simply, "Thanks very much. The matter has been noted." Instead, I hope that, by submitting the Official Report of this evidence and showing our support for the petitioners, we can get across to the Westminster Government that we want a constructive response.

The Convener: I am more than happy to include in our request for information a note that we are seeking a full response, not just an acknowledgement. As we will also send a copy of the Official Report, the honours, decorations and medals committee will be aware of how we arrived at our decision to write to it and should take cognisance of the fact that we are doing so on behalf of British ex-servicemen. If it does not consider the Scottish Parliament worthy of a reply, it should at least show some courtesy to the people who served their country.

We will write back to you with any responses that we receive, and I wish you good luck on your campaign.

Donald Fairgrieve: Thank you. You have been very helpful.

Andrew Nicoll: Thank you for listening to us. The rest have not listened to us, but you have.

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