Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)



  100. Can you provide the Committee then with the global figures on an annual basis spent on research and compare that with the global figures—you can provide a breakdown if you want—combat ID specific equipment compared with what you spend overall so we can get a feel for those aggregates?
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I cannot do that.

  101. Why not?
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Let me please explain why I cannot do it quite like that. There is a basic point here which I am clearly not getting through to the Committee on. Combat ID consists of three issues: combat effectiveness is about three issues. One of them is the target identification systems, the sorts of things we have been talking about—

  102. And the other is situational awareness and tactics, techniques and procedures. Yes, I understand that.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit)—and the other is the situational awareness and the other is tactics, techniques and procedures. All of those three elements come together and the spending that is relevant will have to cut across all of those things. An awful lot is involved and I cannot separate those out for the Committee because we do not see it like that, we see it in terms of operational effectiveness.

  103. The idea is whether you can give us a greater illumination on how much time you spend on the research phase of putting the systems in place as opposed to running ahead and spending enormous amounts of money on them and then perhaps there could be a question of whether, if we spent more in the first instance, we might save more lives.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do not want to be difficult but when we are talking about saving more lives we have to talk about the overall military capability we are developing. I could give you a general note about how we use our research budget to increase the Ministry of Defence's overall operational effectiveness.

  104. No, no. We are talking specifically about combat identification and not killing our own men.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I say again that it is avoiding casualties, it is minimising casualties that is important. I do not want to sound callous but if we are going to have 100 men killed, that is what worries me. In spite of the fact that I might have three from friendly fire and 97 from the enemy, I am still going to worry about those 100 people who are killed, so all of these issues are relevant.

  105. In some scenarios you intend to go out and kill a certain number of people who might be driving tanks for instance. You do not send them a little note saying please get out or we blow up your tank, do you? So we have objectives to kill people.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I am afraid when we go to war we try to kill the enemy, yes.

  106. That is what we should do. I realise that we might not want to kill unnecessary numbers of people, in particular innocent bystanders or our own men, but that is part of the equation. In terms of your investment strategies, in terms of research and then kit, etcetera, is there a value on human life that you have in mind in terms of the value of killing one of our own men? Is something in the accounting system?
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, it is not done that way. It is to do with trying to achieve military objectives with minimum casualties, minimum casualties mainly of our own people. We cannot calculate the difference between one and the other; it is not a calculation that is susceptible to being achieved.

  107. So there is no value.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I did not say there was no value. I said you cannot make that calculation.

  108. Major General Fulton, you mentioned some of these new things which are going forward, radar and all the rest of it. In operational terms, if you have something moving around on a battlefield, it could be a tractor, it could be a tank, and you are 80 per cent sure it is a tank, would you blow it up?
  (Major General Fulton) It is not possible to give you an answer based on that amount of information. What you seek to do is to have the best possible picture of what is happening on the battlefield in front of you.

  109. Judgements have to be made, do they not? I was wondering how you get a feel for this. Say you have that information, do you give any guidelines? If I am the man who has to blow up the tank, how do you give me the guidance on how much information I need?
  (Major General Fulton) Nobody can give the decision maker any guidance. The commander who is responsible for making that decision has to take into account everything he knows about the circumstances, everything he knows that has led up to it, he has to analyse all the information that is coming to him and then ultimately he has to make a decision.

  110. So there may be a wide variation between particular military operators on whether to push the button, given a certain amount of data. That is true, is it?
  (Major General Fulton) Yes. What he will be receiving is a certain amount of data.

  111. I might push the button on 90 per cent and you might on 85 per cent or something like this?
  (Major General Fulton) We might well, because that information comes to you, that has to be turned by virtue of your experience into knowledge and on the basis of that you have to decide.

  112. Table 3 on page 8 seems to imply that in terms of attack nearly 20 per cent of the people who are injured or killed are in fact our own people. That is correct, is it not?
  (Major General Fulton) I think what that is saying is that of the proportion of friendly fire incidents attack is inherently more dangerous than the other forms of warfare.

  113. It seems to be saying, unless I am misinterpreting this, that over 20 per cent of deaths in an attack are our own men. Is that incorrect?
  (Major General Fulton) No, I think what that is saying is that of the proportion of friendly fire incidents, over 20 per cent would take place while the force was attacking.

  114. In factoring in all these friendly fire incidents do you include things like the casualties from depleted uranium? Presumably you do not, do you?
  (Sir John Bourn) No.

  115. Given the concern of our own people who are dying many years after wars from the use of various sorts of weaponry, is there any movement to factor that in, or not, or indeed where we drop it? It might be the case that we are dropping things in various places.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) The basis for your question still has not been demonstrated. We have not demonstrated that there is a depleted uranium cause of death to our forces. A lot of studies have been undertaken but we still have not established that position you are alleging.

  116. Can I infer from your answer that there will be no safeguards against possible risks of depleted uranium and cancer and all the rest in our forces and indeed in neutral citizens who die, that is not being factored in at the moment in terms of our activities wherever we are operating now?
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I am just saying it has nothing to do with combat ID, that is certainly the case.

  117. No, but combat ID is about injuring and killing our own people.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, it is not. I am sorry, that is part of it, but you are still not taking my point. Combat ID is about military effectiveness, operational effectiveness, in order to hit the target.

  118. I am all for military effectiveness, I know one wants to win a war. The focus of this is to win the war and to minimise the casualties on our own side. What I am saying is that there is a growing amount of evidence to suggest that the use of depleted uranium has long-term impacts in terms of cancer and that has not been decided once and for all. Given there is evidence, are you taking any notice of it? What you seem to be saying is that you do not care about it until you have complete evidence to show that that has been the case.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I am not saying that. I am saying that we are putting a great deal of effort into the concerns from Gulf veterans and the Gulf War syndrome, so-called, as to why it is that people are ill or feel ill. There has been an allegation that this may have something to do with depleted uranium but so far there has been no evidence to suggest that it is, although we are putting all the effort we can into helping and to sponsoring research.

  119. That is the retrospective side on the victims of depleted uranium.
  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) You are saying there are victims and I am saying we have not demonstrated that, that is all.

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