Chinook probe: MPs join Lords

In an extraordinary move, the House of Commons' most powerful committee is to seek the help of the House of Lords as part of its...

In an extraordinary move, the House of Commons' most powerful committee is to seek the help of the House of Lords as part of its bid to set aside the official verdict on the 1994 Mull of Kintyre crash.

Tony Collins

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials last week rejected every major finding of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which found that a technical malfunction could not be conclusively ruled out as a cause of the crash.

The PAC considered 11 pages of evidence from Computer Weekly which included details of a series of software-related problems on the type of helicopter which crashed on the Mull of Kintyre.

This week chairman David Davis said the PAChad considered reconvening to discuss the issues surrounding the crash but had instead decided to send a formal memorandum to the Lords.

Earlier this month the Lords agreed to set up a select committee to investigate whether the pilots should have been blamed for the crash which killed four crew and 25 senior police and intelligence experts.

Davis told Computer Weekly, "We will do a formal memorandum for the Lords committee and make it clear that we do not think the questions we raised have been answered [by the MoD] and indicate to them areas of investigation we think ought to be pursued. Also we will make it clear that we have not closed down our interest in the issue and will await the conclusions of the Lords."

The outcome of the confrontation between Parliament and officials could determine whether the MoD can be forced to act against its will by setting aside the decision to blame the pilots for the crash.

A senior member of the Lords said the move by the PAC was "extraordinary and significant".

Despite the PAC report, the ministry refused to set aside the verdict against the pilots. "The department does not agree that sustaining a properly reached judgement of a Board of Inquiry constitutes unwarrantable arrogance. Neither in the absence of new evidence does it consider that the board's conclusions should be set aside," it said.

Davis said the ministry's report was "not so much of a rebuttal as an ignoral".

tony.collins@rbi.co.uk

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