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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Geoffrey Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The appalling incident at Al Majarr Al Kabir on 24 June 2003 resulted in one of the most serious losses suffered by British forces since the beginning of operations in Iraq. It was felt deeply within the British Army, in particular the Royal Military Police, and struck a grievous blow to the families of the six soldiers. From the moment news of the incident came through we have been doing all that we can, in conjunction with the Iraqi authorities, to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. We have also been working hard to find out as much as we can about the circumstances leading up to deaths of the six soldiers, to ensure that if there were lessons for the service then these would be learnt for the benefit of future operations.
The service board of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the six soldiers has now completed its work. This inquiry is fundamentally about learning lessons to prevent a recurrence. It is not about attributing blame or calling individuals to account. These are governed by separate procedures. It is also entirely internal in nature. However, we recognise that the families of the six soldiers have a close and fundamental interest in the board's work and its findings. We have therefore sought to keep the families as closely informed as we can on both these processes. To this end, representatives of the bereaved families are today receiving a briefing from the board president, following which I will meet them to hear their views and discuss any outstanding concerns they may have.
We recognise, too, that there is a wider parliamentary and public interest at stake, which is why we have taken the unusual step of providing a summary of the board of inquiry's findings for Parliament and the press. I am therefore making arrangements for a copy of the board's opinion, findings and recommendations, together with the overlaid opinions of the chain of command, to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
So as not to prejudice the criminal investigation, the board was instructed to look at the events leading up to the incident in which the six soldiers died and not to examine the particular circumstances of their deaths. The board of inquiry was an exhaustive internal review conducted for service reasons and its report is an open and frank account of the events of 24 June 2003. The board made 10 recommendations (a further two were subsequently added by the chain of command) concerning military policies and procedures. Most of these have been accepted and will be implemented as a matter of priority.
I am aware that some of the families have been critical of the Army's response to the deaths of the six soldiers. I hope they recognise the board's work for the thorough and detailed review that it is. I hope, too, that they now have a much better understanding of the events leading up to the death of their loved ones and the wider context in which the events occurred, and can take some comfort from this.
The families will shortly receive full copies of the board's documentation. A separate meeting will be arranged with the board president once the families have had a chance to digest this detail. This will be a further opportunity for the families to ask questions and to increase their understanding of the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident.
The Defence Intelligence and Security Centre (DISC) is the centre for defence intelligence training in the UK. CE DISC is responsible for training authorised personnel in intelligence, security and information support disciplines and maintaining an operational capability. The key targets for the agency for the 12 months from April 2004 are:
Key target 1b: 95 per cent of the number of issues of non-explosive materiel to consumers, as forecast and agreed in BAs, to meet that element of the supply chain pipeline time (SCPT) for which DSDA has a responsibility.
Key Target 3b: The value of non-explosive materiel written off as a result of DSDA's action to be less than levels agreed within each specific customer supplier agreement.
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