Tuesday, May 01, 2007

All's fair?

Mike Hancock, the Lib Dem MP member of the defence select committee is on the ball – as he often is - having asked the defence secretary for the value of the military equipment was seized by Iran in 2004 and 2007.

The same question was also asked by Julian Lewis, Tory defence spokesman and the answer, given by Des Browne was quite illuminating.

In 2004 the equipment seized by the Iranian authorities consisted of: two Combat Support Boats, six rifles and sights, six pistols and ammunition, radios and navigation equipment, global positioning system and maritime charts. The estimated replacement cost was approximately £500,000.

As to the kit seized from the "frightened fifteen", that consisted of two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, seven carbines, four rifles, 10 pistols and ammunition, communications and navigation systems, body armour, helmets, goggles and camera equipment. The replacement cost is estimated at around £270,000.

So, the Iranians are in possession of over three-quarters of a million pounds-worth of UK equipment, and all we got in exchange were a few doggie bags for the fifteen. Perhaps L/S Turney – to say nothing of Mr Bean – can be prevailed upon to cough up some of their ill-gotten gains from their newspaper interviews, to compensate HMG for their losses.

Meanwhile, it seems, the Tory shadow secretary for defence, Liam Fox, has been seeking political gain from the Iranian hostage crisis. In breach of all protocols, he has written to Lt General Rob Fulton, who is chairing the independent inquiry into the affair, asking him to take a special look at the MoD's procurement decisions over the last six months. These, Fox is suggesting, were a significant factor in the events leading to the seizure of the boats and the abduction of the 15 Naval personnel.

One suspects that, had the beleaguered Des Brown sought to interfere with the conduct of an independent inquiry, the same Liam Fox would be screaming blue murder. But, it seems, when it comes to him seeking political advantage from doing the same thing, all is fair in love and war.

However, we gather that the Lt General is not amused.


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