Several months ago the Sunday Telegraph reported that the Government had ordered a review into the safety of the Snatch Land Rovers being used in Afghanistan. These vehicles are so unsafe that they have contributed to the deaths of more than thirty British service personnel. An SAS officer resigned recently in protest at the fact that despite all the evidence, they had not been withdrawn from active service.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, my good friend Lord Ashcroft put down a question in the House of Lords, which seems to have prompted some action on the part of the MoD...
Lord Ashcroft to ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the adequacy of protection afforded by Snatch Land Rovers to United Kingdom troops serving in Afghanistan. HL63The question was due for answer on Thursday, but this afternoon the MoD has organised an informal briefing on the subject for MPs and Peers on what they are planning to do. It will be preceded by the release of a Ministerial Statement. Sadly, the spin has already started and any MP who can't attend the meeting or get hold of the Statement might just as well read this morning's Daily Telegraph to which it has all been leaked.
The main thrust is that the political leadership of the MoD is very keen to point out that it is a military decision - not a political one - to keep the Snatch Land Rovers in service. Nothing to do with me, Guv, is John Hutton's message. He has already ruled out an independent inquiry into their use, a decision which may now cause the families of those who have died to seek a judicial review.
I am far from qualified to comment on military decisions, but I wonder how much this is down to the fact that the military have been told that it's either Snatch Land Rovers or nothing in the short term as there aren't the resources to do anything else? If you were presented with that choice I guess you'd have to with the first choice, wouldn't you?
How many more lives have to be lost before our armed forces are given the tools they need to do the job?
UPDATE: Liam Fox has just criticised John Hutton for saying that these vehicles should eventually be used “only within our bases”. He points out that the fact that they are still being used elsewhere is "testament to Labour’s failure to invest in sufficient armoured vehicles during the years our forces have been operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that our brave troops are put at unnecessary risk is a national disgrace."