Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has ruled out ordering a new inquiry into the controversial Chinook crash, which left all 29 people on board dead, including senior police and intelligence officers.
Ainsworth has told a key campaigner for the families of the two pilots of Chinook ZD576 that Ministers alone are unable to overturn a finding of gross negligence against them.
In a letter to peer Martin O'Neill, Ainsworth suggests it is not within the power of ministers to issue a fiat - decree - which overturns the finding of gross negligence against the two pilots Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Rick Cook.
The letter follows an 83-page legal case written by Michael Powers QC which argues for the names of the pilots of ZD576 to be cleared. Powers and O'Neill have met defence ministers to argue the case for a new inquiry.
Ainsworth says that the "Powers" report raises "no new issues that cast doubt on the findings of the [RAF] Board of Inquiry."
He adds: "Whilst I acknowledge that you have gained the agreement of a number of your key stakeholders, I cannot agree that the suggested review [by a retired Appeal Court judge] would be an appropriate way forward
" the findings of a properly constituted Board of Inquiry convened under statute cannot be overturned by Ministerial fiat."
But Powers told Computer Weekly that the Defence Council, which is chaired by the Defence Secretary, could overturn the finding of negligence against Cook and Tapper.
O'Neill said the ministers were not telling the whole story when they claimed they could not overturn the finding.
"What they do not say (in the reply) is that they do have the power to refer the finding to another inquiry. We are completely in their hands. The new evidence is of such a volume and importance that it justifies opening a new inquiry," he said.
The Tories have taken the opposite position and have made it official party policy that they will, if elected, review the finding of negligence against Cook and Tapper.
Tory supporters of a review include John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
Box: Background to the crash.
The Chinook crashed on the Mull of Kintyre on 2 June 1994, killing all 29 on board: four crew and 25 senior police and intelligence officers.
Nearly a year later, two air marshals found the pilots of ZD576, Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Rick Cook, grossly negligent.
No clear cause of the accident emerged. But an RAF Board of Inquiry said that problems with the Chinook's software-controlled "Fadec" fuel control system might have left no trace in the wreckage and could have contributed to the accident.
At the time of the accident, the MoD's own IT experts at Boscombe Down had considered the Fadec system unsafe.