Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How Many More Lives Will Be Lost?

Image hattip Rogue Gunner

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 An SAS officer resigned recently in protest at the fact that despite all the evidence, they had not been withdrawn from active service.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. HL63

The 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."

46 comments:

Cato said...

What is it with this shower of incompetent oafs?

They want our boys to fight wars but then refuse to give them the tools.

They make me sick.

Dick the Prick said...

The Yanks are claiming that we're not doing as well as should be expected in Helmand. As per Cato - what do they expect?

Ainsworth denies that Hercules are dangerous, the Chinook crash a whitwash, a whole squadron of Chinooks grounded since 2001 because of software rights issues, the PFI screwing up their wages and training, the centralization of the press office preventing disent, the blocking of blogs, the attempt to hold Coroner's courts in camera...etc..etc..

Sure the Yanks think George Bush is a dick but he funded the military, the one's we've had treat ours with contempt.

trevorsden said...

The military have bought into the FRES (high-tec) family of armoured vehicles which might have been fine on the North German Plain or for hurtling up the Euphrates Valley but will be useless in Afghanistan.

So they are reluctant to give it up for mine protected patrol vehicles, and the govt have been reluctant to pay for extra on top of FRES. Various stop gaps have been wrong headed decisions.

Military and Govt are both guilty. FRES is a white elephant, as are the 2 new aircraft carriers (the navy will have no planes for them).

The whole issue is an appalling mess since the Taliban's main hope or eventual victory is to weaken our will with these drip drip of casualties so the major plank of our campaign should be to minimise them.

The other point not mentioned is that we are massively, massively, under provided with helicopters. As usual we have wasted masses of money, masses, on Apaches which are pointless in Afghanistan.

Overall our armed forces are in a complete mess - improperly equipped for their main immediate task. The recent 'campaign' in Basra must mark one of the low points in post war British military history.

graybo said...

I'm no expert, athough I drove a civilian Land Rover for years. Surely the issue isn't that the "Snatch" Land Rovers are unsafe - it is that they are not adequately armoured for the job in hand. There is nothing wrong with the Land Rover when it is deployed in the right environment - it's simply a case of right tool, right job. And for this job, this vehicle is not the right tool.

Don't blame Land Rover. They need support (they employ rather a lot of people in Solihull). Blame the MoD and HMG.

T England said...

I'd like to stick unelected Brown in one & send him on a long journey into the badlands.

Jess The Dog said...

MoD are wide open on this. Mr Justice Collins ruled (April 2008)that sending troops on duty with defective equipment may breach their human rights. The weaselly MoD appealed the ruling, not sure of the outcome.

The only way to force the wretched MoD to do anything is through the courts or through the press. Thankfully most media commentators will recognise the "snatch or nothing" choice being spun as the decision of military commanders.

Alas, there will be more deaths, more inquests and more criticism before anything is done. Hopefully commanders will recognise this and a few more will resign and go public. We need a campaign - perhaps a mass dispatch of soap to Downing Street, the Treasury and MoD to "wash the blood off their hands"

By the way, I resigned in 2004 in outrage over Iraq lies and Hoon cutbacks.

ScotsToryB said...

EU Referendum have been posting about this for years.

Their latest posting is on their sister site DefenceOfTheRealm:

http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/2008/12/plea-for-help.html

Any politician who states that this is solely a Forces' decision is to be polite, lying.

STB.

trevorsden said...

DoR have been pointing the finger at the MoD, as well as politicians, for a long time.

"it is that they are not adequately armoured for the job in hand." - they are also the wrong design. The undersides of a mine protected vehicle need to be 'V' shaped and higher of the ground to deflect the blast.

In any evolving war situation there are occasions when you have to make do with what you have got. Sad but inevitable, war is not an exact science and the situation can change rapidly.

However in this case the necessity has been there a long time, not only is it vital to our whole strategy to protect our troops properly, there has been plenty of time to evolve a solution and indeed there are ready made vehicles available.

The MoD and the Govt. have been negligent.

I foresee and fear a significant disaster awaiting our troops somewhere down the line.

Jimmy said...

Lord Ashcroft was in London?

Unsworth said...

@ Trevorsden 1:13 PM

True of mines, not true of many IEDs which can/do inflict lateral forces. The Iraqis and the Afghans are fully aware of the tactical weaknesses of all our vehicles.

Lola said...

Classic story of UK military cock ups in peace time visited upon troops in battle. The history of the British Army is at least consistent. We have entered pretty well every conflict we have ever fought inadequately or wrongly equipped (tanks in WW2 for example). Politicians will not stump up the 'insurance premium' investment in times of peace, preferring to spend the money on buying votes with benefits to their own constituents or on other pet projects. The MoD is a scandal of bureaucratic inefficiency bedevilled by civil serviceness and no sense of urgency.

This time the whole thing is made worse by the most incompetent government I can remember. This governemnt does not run any part of the country for the sake of the country. Everything is run for the sake of New labour. Every decision is based upon the first premise of 'what will this do for our poll rating?' No-one in New labour has any military experience nor any real understanding of the needs of soldiers and of the military ethic. They are an absolute disgrace.

The Landrovers are not in themselves a bad vehicle. They are an effective all terrain 1/4 or 1/2 tonne transport for personnel and light duties. But they are not a battlefield vehicle. They were not designed to be armoured and up armouring them can only have limited benefits. The snatch version was useful in Belfast where its speed, relatively small size and manoeuverability were appropriate and its armour was adequate for rifle fire. It is not designed to withstand, nor can it be made to withstand, assualt from sophisticated IED's or landmines.

The answer is to put a minister in charge of defence and give him the authority, support and budget to sort this out and put to a rocket up the MoD. IMHO he needs to be military exeperienced or at least have an understanding of and sympathy with the needs of the military. New Labour has no such person. They are a bankrupt administration in both people and in our money and need to go soon, so that someone who does know what they are doing can get it sorted.

PS I drive a Landrover every day and the one place I would not take it is where I thought there might be an IED or in range of an RPG.

TheMadCobbler said...

It's also the arrogance and "desperate need" to continue to buy and build everything here in the UK, despite better vehicles being offered at much much lower prices.

For example, the Snatch LandRover could be easily, cheaply and quickly replaced by the American equivalent, the HMMV [HumVee] but this won't happen because they weren't nailed together in a BAE facility.
Even the supposed replacement, the "Jackal" is slow of the mark because the military refuses to buy them in the large numbers blatantly needed, opting instead for just 172. Leaving some 900 or more still in service.

Every squaddie I've spoken to [now 6, 4 proffessionals and 2 TA members] talk about what a god-awful thing it is.

Springheel said...

The trouble is not just snatch landrovers (in fact the appropriate kit is now, finally, on order). It's not the Hercules, it's not the Nimrod or the SA 80 rifle any one item of kit. It's not poor procurement - thought that is certainly a major issue. The problem is fundamentally that Government has cut defence spending to the bone. So the army brass can either have the right kit for Afghanistan OR the right kit to fight a major war against an industrial nation...but not both.

And the army is not the worst issue - just the current one. Look in particular at what Brown has done to the Navy. The cuts border on the insane when you live on an island - especially one that can't feed its population itself.

Peter said...

"How many more lives will be lost?"

Before will pull our troops out of this pointless unwinnable war!

strapworld said...

Iain.

This government just does not care how many of our brave armed services are killed.

As long as Straw can spend over £100 million on the Ministry of Justice! as long as Brown can throw Billions at banks! they could not care a toss about a simple soldier's life.

Will Brown be driven around in Snatch Land Rovers? He should be, especially when he goes on this tour of his kingdom, in the new year!!



Tomorrow at PMQ's we will get the usual garbled announcement from our beloved prime minister about the loss of lives. He may even pronounce their names correctly!

But, without even a pause to draw in breath, he will pass on.

At every meeting I have ever attended when the Chairman annouced the death of a colleague etc. ALL stood for a moments silence.

Do our elected members of parliament EVER stand in silence for anyone?

When did Brown EVER stand in honour at the return of any of the coffins at Brize Norton? Blair never had the guts.

I do recall Mrs Thatcher so attending! But there again, she was a real leader!

I am sorry, Members of Parliament have proved they are only interested in self, as the expenses scandals proved!

Take another issue in relation to our armed services.

Servicemen and women, have just discovered that if they have served eight years, they are not entitled to the revised bonus scheme which, for new recruits who serve eight years, will be £15.000.

At present those who have served the eight years, receive £5.500 which is paid in two instalments £3.000 at the five year point and £2.500 at the eight year point.

My son's fiancee wrote to her MP, about this injustice, who sent her a copy of a letter from The Parliamentary Under secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans, Kevan Jones MP. in which he states:-

"that he recognises that her fiancee and those of his colleagues not receiving the increased amounts, and that they are reviewing the existing scheme with the aim to have any revised arrangements in place concurrently with the introduction of the new scheme on 1st April 2009."

Does that mean they will pay ALL servicemen and women the same ? Of course not.

Be it in pay, in conditions, in equipment, in accomodation the Armed Services are dealt with in an appalling, disgraceful manner.

But, who cares? The trades unions would be spitting blood if this happenned to one of their comrades! But they should be shouting for people who are not allowed a trades union or any Representative Body to negotiate for them!

Parliament should be ever so vigilant for these people who must accept whatever they are given, without argument.

But will David Cameron come out fighting for them all? Somehow I doubt it. They did not help the Military when they were in power!

What would they do if our brave armed services REFUSED to travel in Snatch Land Rovers or fly in out of date aircraft etc!! WHAT WOULD Bottler Brown do then?

But our servicemen and women have more pride and courage in the little fingers than this bully of a prime minister and his incompetent cabinet.

A plague on all their houses!

trevorsden said...

Good to see Jimmy using the deaths of British soldiers to make a cheap party political point.

Jimmy said...

Yes trevorsden, obviously I'm the one that's doing that here.

Chris Paul said...

It is horses for courses Iain and the scoring of cheap points about military equipment is not a good sport for any serious person.

Each type of vehicle has its strengths and weaknesses and light, fast vehicles have got a use, just as heavy, slow ones do.

The Taliban are in light, fast ones as it goes.

I was very struck by an interview on R5L a few months ago in which they patched a serving squaddy teenager through to his dad live on air. Peter was trying to get the lad to protest about the lightweight BP vests they had been issued with up to that point and to welcome the heavier ones they had just been issued with.

But the lad did the opposite saying that the lighter gear allowed him to take cover and take aim very quickly and the heavier gear did not. he thought he was likely to miss a shot or get shot more with the new heavy stuff.

I also remember some helicopters being delivered many years after their order and the Tories getting on high horses about them being unsuitable trying to blame the current MoD and Govt ... turned out it was the Tories who had ordered the bloody things.

Those who cast stones etc ...

Ewan Watt said...
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Savonarola said...

Lola has said it all or almost. Particularly on how and why any decision is made.

To go back eight years. Kosovo. Blair triumphant. 9/11. Blair triumphant. Brown a nobody. Hurt resentful. Blair saviour of the world(Does this have a ring?)

Afghanistan. Then Iraq. Troops not enough. Equipment not adequate. Hoon(Placeman in NULab tradition)in Defence. Blair asks for more money. Brown fed up with his posturing popularity and with his own inbred hostility to army, delights in starving MOD of funds. Neither Hoon nor Blair man enough to deal with Brown. Some of our Defence Chiefs, notably Mike Jackson, have meanwhile been politicised, so take sides with the engaging Mr Blair.
It is obvious from an early date that LR Snatch cannot withstand these remotely controlled explosive devices.
Nothing is done. No will to take on Brown.
Brown must feel like a whited sepulchur when he takes his photo ops with the troops. Maybe not. He only measure actions in votes harvestes. He is an evil man. Blair is a weak man. Hoon is not a man at all.

Ewan Watt said...

How are the Apaches useless in Afghanistan?

Chris Paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Iain Dale said...

Chris Paul, I deleted your last comment because it was libellous. But you knew that when you posted it.

Unsworth said...

@ Chris Paul

Have you actually served in any of the armed forces?

And do you know anything at all of the procurement history of the Chinooks to which you are apparently referring?

strapworld said...

Chris Paul..just what was the point of your observation?

You appear to be saying that it doesn't matter what vehicles our equipment they have.

Surely, whatever political party forms the government they all must uphold the military covenant!

Things are particularly bad at this moment in time. In accomodation (well documented) conditions (well documented) equipment (well documented) and pay (well documented)

It is up to all people, who are not in the military, to ensure that our government at whatever time ensures that the troops are getting all the best equipment.

As a father of a son who is bloody proud to be in the army. Who is bloody proud of his colleagues but who is contantly getting me and his mum to buy equipment that the army should be providing!

We are both extremely proud of him. But we do feel that too many of his friends and colleagues are being killed through a lack of proper equipment and the Snatch land Rover has taken far too many young lives to be even considered for further duty!

Can I say that I found your comments quite sick!

Savonarola said...

In a nutshell. Labour uses and abuses the army.

Chris Paul get your head out of your partisan backside. This is not party politcal.

Wyrdtimes said...

Bring them all home.

Afghanistan and Iraq - both fools errands. Deeply flawed tactically and strategically.

If they want to counteract Islamic extremism they'd be more effective concentrating on Birmingham, Manchester and London etc.

Yak40 said...

Does anyone seriously expect a Labour government to give a damn about the Forces ?

Nigel said...

>>the scoring of cheap points about military equipment is not a good sport for any serious person.<<

So complaining that troops die because of the failure to replace obsolete equipment is scoring cheap points ?

Chris Paul, you are a serious arse.

bobthedog said...

Jimmy, I expect that Lord Ashcroft is in the country quite often, as he is preparing to open the Ashcroft wing which he has donated to the Imperial War Museum in the next few months, where he will be displaying his collection of Victoria Crosses.
Back to the main topic.
I used the Snatch Landrover in Northern Ireland where it was intended to be operated, it was fine in the streets of Belfast, Derry or any of the other cities, but of little use outside of the cities, where bombs in culverts was the main threat. It certainly was not designed as a rural warfare transport system, as the armour is far too light to take anything more than a pipe or blast bomb.

Jimmy said...

Bob,

I feel for him, having to travel so far from home at this time of year, I'm sure he'd be embarrassed at your reference to his charidee work. Marvellous to see someone who cares enough to donate their hard earned money to a large public building named after himself.

bobthedog said...

I dont want to push this into a pissing contest, but if he is good enough to put money into a very good national museum for the benefit of the country as a whole, I can only support his efforts, he doesn't have to.
Incidentally he also donated all proceeds from his latest book to Help for Heroes, which is doing something positive for those who have fallen victim to injuries sustained whilst serving our country.

Far more than Hoon, Hutton, Browne or Cyclops or any other ministerial goons have done for our armed forces.

strapworld said...

jimmy said. you should do your homework son!

Lord Ashcroft does much for the forces and (I doubt if you would know this) he started and helps, greatly, Crimestoppers - which he and he alone started after the slaughter of the policeman in Tottenham at the Broadwater estate. But that would not concern you with that bloody chip on your shoulder.

People like you sicken me. You object to success, you object to anyone having money (unless, I guess, if its you!!)

Lord Ashcroft has done more for the people of this country and the people that matter, than you and your kind will ever, ever deliver.

Cato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Houdini said...

Yes, snatch landys are no good for this job, but, and here's the rub, neither are most armoured vehicles designed to transport infantry either. That being said it would be relatively cheap to make the troops much safer, but there is a cost and this Labour government refuse to make that cost commitment at a time when so many other important areas need funds, like Straws white elephant.

That lot aside, this is a war that cannot be won by vehicle mounted troops, any kind of vehicle, and only men on the ground can win, professional men, not part-time TA who should be at home defending the UK. Problem is this Government after years of under-manning and deliberate under funding has not the men available, anywhere, to make an effective force against the Taliban or other factions in Afghanistan.

The idiots of Labour got us into this and do not know how to get us out, but they do know that they want to keep it sweet and a good vote winner, and also they don't want to spend our hard earned money it.

Jimmy said...

Touched a nerve there.

Bob, I'll pass on the pissing match too out of respect for our host as well as the laws of libel. I was simply poking fun at the fact hat this is (off the top of my head) at least the third public building His Lordship has had named after himself. How many does he need? As scripture tells us, he has had his reward.

Lola said...

Houdini - quite. It always comes down to infantry doesn't it? Ultimately it is the quantity and quality of infantry that can be effectively deployed that wins most battles. Especially when fighting gangsters like the Taleban. And it is not the quality of the Army's infantry that is in any doubt. It's the quantity and how it resourced and deployed.

bobthedog said...

Jimmy

Its his money, he can do what he likes with it...... If he has named 3 buildings after himself what does it matter to us. As you said they are public ones.

I just hate seeing servicemen getting a raw deal from the government who are choosing not to spend our money looking after and equipping our troops to do the job that they have given them.

Jimmy said...

Bob,

Assuming it is indeed his money then of course he can. I wouldn't dream of suggesting otherwise. I wouldn't disagree with the balance of your post but as in any area of expenditure no doubt there is always more that could be done.

Bill Quango MP said...

That it Jimmy. Avoid the issue, make remarks abut the opponents piece to deflect from the weakness of your own position.

ive used a small i and no apostrophe to let you have a dig about grammar and be able to ignore the fact that the great Helmsman has to spend the first minutes of EVERY PMQs reading out the names of the most recently dead.

Its a disgrace. And Brown as Chancellor is the most to blame.
Even as PM he has done little.
Next time he flies out to Afganistan maybe he could go for a drive with some of the lads.

He is only holding the troops in Basra so he can give a pre election announcement that he has brought them home.
Just watch. He will do it.

Jimmy said...

I very much doubt that any PM could be expected to guarantee that his troops would remain free from harm. Perhaps Mr. Cameron promises to be the first.

bobthedog said...

Jimmy, Its the job of the government to supply the tools and weapons needed to minimise the risk to servicemen. Of course there are no guarantees that people wont get hurt and killed, however this Government has a long way to go before satisfying the covenant of care for servicemen and their families who are injured or killed in service to this country.
There are indications that the family of Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura who was killed in action in November, may be being asked to leave the country. Of course no ministerial spokesman will admit this, but it is typical of the treatment that is meted out to those that serve our nation and make the ultimate sacrifice.

In reply to your last, I have no reason to doubt that Lord Ashcroft has used his own money to fund the buildings, and unless you have evidence otherwise, I suggest may wish to withdraw that accusation.

Savonarola said...

Jimmy you are a useful idiot, well meaning but thick as two planks.

Suspend your ideological position for a moment. Soldiers fight, soldiers die. But never have they been subjected to this level of incompetence and political prejudice(from Brown as Chancellor).

Jimmy said...

Bob,

I'm not familiar with the case you mention and did a quick search. I've seen no mention of "indications" that the family may be asked to leave, but on the contrary an apparent assumption that their application, not due for another four years, would be accepted. I certainly wouldn't approve of it if it were true.

I made no accusation. I chose my words carefully.

tankus said...

a nasty thought ...but

now that compo for severely injured soldiers has been doubled ....
perhaps , maybe, a nulab bean counter drone may have a light bulb moment and realize that is now more cost effective to supply mine protected vehicle (£0.5m)rather than pay for missing limbs and body parts .

Or maybe no armour whatsoever to ensure death ( cheaper than long term disabled ) funerals are one offs , and thus more cost effective .

No empathy for the suffering or respect for the sacrifice or commitment ...

Yep .. reminds me of someone

dmc said...

yes jimmy
"i chose my words carefully"
to belittle by implication,does it make you feel superior.Do you have a kind word for anyone apart from your labour masters.