Monday 4 January 2010


Sometimes I wonder if the Ministry of Defence is on our side and working for us, or indeed what planet they come from.

According to a report in The Times the MOD has rejected calls to reopen the inquiry into the deaths of 25 British intelligence officials killed when an RAF Chinook crashed into the Mull of Kintyre in 1994. New documents uncovered by Radio 4’s Today programme revealed that the MoD’s own aircraft testing specialists had warned that the computer software in the doomed Chinook Mark 2 was “positively dangerous”. (So, why were Chinooks not immediately grounded?)

After a board of inquiry found no evidence of mechanical failure, two senior RAF commanders decided that there was no explanation other than gross negligence by the two pilots. Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Rick Cook were officially blamed for the crash for flying too low, and despite numerous calls for the judgment to be lifted, the charge against the two dead pilots has remained. (Could this be a case of it being easy to blame people no longer able to answer for themselves?)

A spokesman for the MoD said that the documents referred to by the Today programme had been seen by the members of the RAF board of inquiry and that there was no reason to reopen the case based on the documents referred to by the BBC.

Malcolm Rifkind, who was the Defence Secretary at the time of the crash, said he had not been made aware of any warnings. The latest revelations meant that finding that the pilots were guilty of gross negligence was “unsustainable”, Rifkind told Today. He added: “The original problem for the RAF was that it was a matter of huge embarrassment that a Chinook should have crashed with the loss of 29 lives, including senior intelligence personnel." (Personally, I don’t see that the rank of the personnel would have made any difference Malcolm. A life is a life no matter how junior the person is.)

David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary who chaired a Commons inquiry into the disaster, said: “Under the circumstances of this crash, the finding of gross negligence amounts to a conviction for manslaughter on the basis of very little evidence at all, and in defiance of their own documentary evidence. I would ask the Ministry of Defence to quash this finding which smears the reputation and honour of two brave, young, and very capable pilots who served in the RAF Special Forces Squadron.”

Given that two senior Tories have criticised the finding of “gross negligence” and ask for it to be overturned, will David Cameron or Liam Fox undertake to do just that if and when they take over?

Furthermore, will the Tories undertake to have inquiries which tell the truth about equipment rather than cover up for cheap substandard and shoddy kit that put the lives of our servicemen, and others at risk?


  1. I don't think that the Tories will have time for that sort of thing, what with the need to look again at fox hunting in England and other things vital to the well being of the United Kingdom as a whole.

    They have all the things that Labour got wrong to unpick as well, so can't see them looking at something that was got wrong on their watch last time. Such a shame when you think about some of the monumental cock ups that the Tories made in the early 1990s. But I guess that letting a tiny number of privileged people ride about the shires of old England with a pack of dogs, tearing foxes to bits is more important to this “Great” country than reversing the Tories catastrophic blunder of making the trains worse and more expensive than under British Rail. Never mind any constitutional changes to those people up north who have all England’s oil and never vote Tory anyway.

  2. Muguin: Spot on. Priorities old chap, priorities.

    Still, I wish they would clear these men's names. As David Davies said, it's manslaughter that they have been convicted of "in absentia". At the same time as an MoD report called the softwae "positively dangerous".

    I sometimes regret my vow not to swear on here.

  3. Tris, you never know maybe they will be able to squeeze it into their busy schedule. After all will the Houses of Parliament be having such long holidays and recesses when there is so much work to do in the first 5 years, while Dave and team GB put UK plc back together.

    It's a disgrace, but I wonder if the Tories really did not know about the software problem back in 1994 and just allowed these two men to shoulder the blame. Any sort of inquiry might reveal that and that would never do.

  4. Munguin: It’s come to a pretty pass when no one believes a single word any of these people say, no matter which party they come from. The default position is that they are lying through their teeth to cover their asses and progress their careers.

    It is interesting to speculate about what the Tories will REALLY do when they get in. I remember Mr Cameron saying, as he kicked the Calman report firmly into touch, that there would be no time for anything like this in the first 5 years of the Tory government. As you say, the reason given was the dire mess that the country had been left in by 13 years of Labour rule. A few weeks later he announced that there would be a vote on English fox hunting. (Obviously that is far more important than Scottish devolution problems, and quite worth putting the economy on the back burner for.)

    It will be interesting to find out if, with all the work that these people have to do, they will manage not to have half the year off. (Yes, I know they have constituency work and it’s not all holiday, but don’t anyone tell me they work from dawn to dusk because they don’t.)

  5. Of course without Scotland England would not have an economy at all, so it is no surprise that fox hunting or indeed the colour of Oliver Letwin's tie is more important than further devolution.

    I learned to think that the Tories were lying a long time ago, it's a bit more recent that Labour have caught up.

  6. I’m pretty sure they’ve been lying for as long as their parties have been in existence.

    (What colour is his tie?)

  7. And who would trust Malcolm Rifkind (Sir)? Clearly not the people of Edinburgh Pentlands who chucked him out in 1997 and confirmed that they did not want him back in 2001. So off he went to the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea where you could probably get a cabbage elected as long as it had a blue rosette on it (well it used to be Alan Clark’s seat), were he is currently safely ensconced. Talk about bed blockers! Incidentally the Tories didn’t much want him either as he failed in his bid to become Tory leader in 2005. And neither did David Cameron who preferred William Hague as shadow Foreign Secretary (Malcolm didn’t want to do anything else). One wonders if he is still able to be president of the Scottish Conservatives from his safe billet in London. But let’s face it although he got a knighthood from John Major he is unlikely to get a red bench seat from David Cameron so Ken & Chelsea is really the next best thing and the party association there is not really likely to want to tow the Notting Hill agenda is it?

  8. The MOD's whole raison d'etre is to kill people and then lie about the circumstances in which they did it. When they point their silly toys at their own peeps by mistake, of course they're gonna lie about it.

    Let's hope an independent Scotland sees sense and disbands the armed forces and "intelligence" agents stationed within its borders. A fit wee civil guard to build bridges, protect fisheries and help old ladies' cats out of trees is about all we really need.

    Nukes, chinooks and paranoid spooks we mos def do not need.

  9. Nothing to argue with there Naldo. :-)

  10. So, Munguin, you're not over keen on Mr Rifkind. Yes, I believe that he got Sir-hood (not sure what for), but when we in Scotland, got rid of him, he found the safest possible seat among the billionaires. I remember very little about him except that I once saw him on telly and noticed that his dark jacket was covered in dandruff.... so little hair, so many pellicules....

  11. I would hope that my lot would take all this stuff about proper tools for our soldiers much more seriously. I think the fact that we have such a strong personality in Fox as shadow Defence sec, and for so long is proof of that.

    But as for holding enquiries, well independent ones perhaps..but there will be so much work to do.

  12. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 05, 2010 1:24 pm

    What a tragic set of circumstances. But thinking about governmental inquiries the Tories might undertake if they assume power next Spring makes me reflect sadly on what many Americans expected Obama and the Democrats to do when they took power in the US last year. We expected investigations and prosecutions after years of lies, mismanagement, and clear criminal misconduct by Bush and the Republicans. We expected criminal charges against Justice Department and CIA personnel who approved and carried out the torture of prisoners. (And that was surely just the tip of the iceberg.)

    But Obama and the Democrats have done nothing....and clearly PLAN to do nothing. Obama puts on his happy face and proclaims that we must look to the future, not the past. So presidents are presidents and governments are governments. Obama has been very Bush-like in his conduct of our continuing wars, his acceptance and encouragement of the continuing hysteria about "homeland security," and, by his silence, a continuing cover-up of presidential war crimes.

    So, I hope that the Tories will do something to investigate and correct past outrages and injustices. But if they do, it will be very different from the recent American political experience.

  13. Something very fishy here for certain. These documents were well known years ago so why are they suddenly 'discovered' by the BBC ? I've followed the whole inquiry from the 90's ( worked on Chinooks for a short while ) and the engine management computer software problems were in the public domain back then. Must be someone stirring things up. Probably another deflection to bamboozle the public like our underpants bomber.
    Don't forget that 29 of the top anti IRA intelligence experts were aboard. A catastrophe for our organisation in Northern Ireland and one from which we never recovered.

  14. Dean: I really hope that they do. It is more than important. What Labour has done has brough shame on us.

    As for Liam Fox, I have no real idea about his abilities, but I accept they could hardly be less, or fewer, than those of Mr Ainsworth. As a personality he doesn't come across strongly and I find some of his views hard to swallow.

  15. Anon... When the government is involved it's fair to say that there will always be something fishy going on. It's a great pity that we have, most of us, got to the stage where we wouldn't believe then if they told us we breathe air.

  16. Danny:

    I guess that the expectations of any government, particularly after the demise of a long and terribly unpopular one, will always be dashed.

    Cameron will not a be able to do much of what he promises. There won't be the money. Brown has squandered it all on his pet projects and his friends the bankers. I imagine a big fat job awaits him in the City when he retires from politics.

    Obama has been a disappointment, even from across here. He hasen't lived up to what he appeared to be... but then who could? He was made out to be the saviour of the world (must ahve annoyed Brown a good deal).

    Still for all his faults Obama is an awful lot better than Bush. Would Mrs Clinton have been better? Would Mr McCain and Mrs Palin?

  17. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 06, 2010 2:54 am

    Tris: You're right that Obama could not possibly have lived up to the unrealistic expectations regardless of what he did. And Americans had no better choice. The Republican ticket was a joke. And, as far as war policy, Hillary Clinton positioned herself in the primaries as even more hawkish than Obama.

    As for what little I know of Cameron and the Tories, at least Cameron will not be Brown....or Thatcher hopefully.

  18. Danny:

    I don't think it is just Obama...

    I think that every incoming government faces this. First they have made overly rash promises to get elected, or to keep some of their own side on board sometimes.

    Secondly, the relaity of the economy, hidden to them in opposition, and all the secrets about foreign affairs/military that they didn't know when electioneering become apparent.

    The mystery is why any intelligent man would want it. Bush, of course, is excused, for obvious reasons!!

  19. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 06, 2010 4:17 pm

    Tris: LOL......What insight you have!! Now I realize why Bush actually wanted the job and seemed so cheerful throughout the whole eight year catastrophe.

  20. Danny: Not really insightful I mean we're talking DubYa here!!!.

    But you're right. He did seem blissfully unaware for most of the time....