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Mr. Hawkins: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend, who speaks from his extensive experience as a former Northern Ireland Minister. I know that my constituent will be delighted to hear his words. I am sure that the Minister and the Opposition spokesman, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson), will take his comments very seriously.

The gentleman went on to say:


The gentleman states that terrorists


    "soon recognised--and exploited--this weakness and changed their tactics in two ways:


    1. Hand-delivered bombs were fitted with time fuses which were set to expire around the time of arrival of the EOD operator on the scene.


    2. The use of car bombs increased dramatically as"

terrorists


    "realised that the Pigstick was virtually useless against such bombs.


    The danger from the hand-delivered bomb was largely overcome by regulation insisting on long soak times. This reduced the risk to operators but it meant that virtually all hand-delivered bombs exploded and hoax calls caused huge disruption.


    The major problem, however, was that of car bombs. These normally contain very large charges of explosive and are capable of causing death, injuries and damage over considerable areas. Moreover, as the car bombs of that period could not be disrupted by Pigstick",

terrorists


    "continued to fit the cars with anti-handling devices.


    Although there was no clear idea of how to tackle a car bomb it was realised that the ability to safely move a suspect vehicle would be a great advantage. Blast overpressure resulting from a detonation of a charge of explosive falls off very rapidly as the distance from the seat of the explosion increases and moving a car bomb just 10 metres could make the difference between major structural damage and nothing more than broken windows. Various agencies were approached for help and although the problem was addressed with enthusiasm the early results were disappointing . . . although the machines came in a great variety of shapes and sizes, they all had one common failing--they were totally impractical for use outside a workshop and were often of hindrance rather than help to EOD officers.


    Col. Miller put his mind to the matter and the first Wheelbarrow was conceived and delivered in a remarkably short time. This machine was eminently practical, very reliable and cheap and it

21 Oct 1998 : Column 1248

    dramatically reduced the odds against the EOD man. It may well be viewed now that the early machines were simple but . . . in 1972, on the streets of Northern Ireland, the invention was definitely considered to be of exceptional brilliance and utility.


    With a reliable, easy-to-use robot vehicle available, it became possible for EOD operators to attach tow ropes to suspect cars in relative safety. Once a tow rope had been attached it was a simple matter to pull the suspect vehicle to a position where, should the car bomb explode, it would be less likely to cause injuries or major damage to property. Towing the suspect vehicle away from the target was undoubtedly a great help but it still left the EOD operator with the problem of making the vehicle safe. Having been told of the problem, Col Miller designed and developed a range of attachments which enabled Wheelbarrow to carry and position various disruptive EOD weapons. In use, the Wheelbarrow carried the selected weapon to the vehicle, placed the weapon in the optimum attack position before withdrawing to a safe area.


    Judged by today's standards, the methods of delivery and the weapons might be thought crude but they were surprisingly successful and, for the first time, it became possible to render safe a car bomb without endangering the life of an EOD operator.


    Having done much to help reduce the dangers presented by car bombs, Col Miller then devised a method of attaching Pigstick to Wheelbarrow. This too was a success and it became possible to safely attack a hand-delivered bomb within minutes of the EOD operator arriving on the scene of an incident. There is no doubt the ability to render-safe time bombs using the Wheelbarrow/Pigstick combination was a huge step forward compared to the previous practice of 'soak times' which allowed the majority of the devices to detonate.


    As will be seen from above, the introduction of Wheelbarrow had profound effects on both terrorist tactics and the safety of bomb disposal operators. It is impossible to give hard and fast statistics regarding just how many lives Col Miller's machines have saved but, in the period 1972-1978, and taking into account machines which had been exported, over 400 Wheelbarrows were destroyed while dealing with terrorist devices. In many of these cases, it can be assumed that the loss of a machine represented the saving of an EOD man's life."

Having heard that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will understand why I feel very strongly that my constituent deserves the recognition that he has been denied.

Very belatedly--in 1996--officials finally acknowledged in writing to my predecessor that there was no question but that Lieutenant Colonel Miller's invention was of enormous use. Unfortunately, despite that acknowledgement, it was still not regarded as being outside the scope of his normal duties. Before I ask the Minister to respond to this serious issue, I shall provide other supporting testimony which shows that the invention was outside his normal duties.

The following testimony comes from a gentleman who held the rank of brigadier--again, I shall not mention his name for obvious reasons--and who was a deputy director and head of the Trials Division. He states:


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I now cite another gentleman who was greatly involved. He was a chartered engineer and a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He states:


    "During our discussion, I mentioned the fact that had we"--

those in his division--


    "been told in March of 1972 that Weapons Trials"--

the department for which Lieutenant-Colonel Miller worked--


    "was about to develop a wheeled or tracked vehicle to meet a specific IS requirement under the terms of the GSOR, we would certainly have objected, through the proper channels, to that action. It would certainly not have been within the scope of Weapons Trials objectives to embark on such a course of action. The divisions of responsibility between the various Branches as they were then called, were quite clearly defined; and no doubt they still are to-day albeit since becoming a Defence Research Agency".

Writing to Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, this senior gentleman said:


    "As I have said before, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind as to the true origin of 'Wheelbarrow'; that was clearly and unequivocally to your credit and yours alone."

All the correspondence that I have seen says the same.

Another retired officer states:


Referring to officials' suggestion that Lieutenant- Colonel Miller was paid to invent the Wheelbarrow, another senior person stated:


    "There was no scope for invention by a Trials Design Officer ('TDO') within the TS"--

or trials specification. He continued:


    "neither is there reference in the job description for a TDO 'to invent'. Hence the comment that Col Miller was 'paid to invent' is, in my opinion, erroneous."

I could say far more. Given that we are talking about a vital piece of bomb disposal equipment that has saved hundreds of lives, not only in the Province but around the world, proper recognition for the gentleman who invented it is long overdue. After the long saga of the issue having been raised by my predecessor and now by me, it is time, for the sake of other officers who may come up with life-saving or otherwise helpful equipment, for the Committee on Awards to Inventors to recognise my constituent's claim.


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