Armed forces morale hit by Chinook say MPs



MPs said yesterday that the Government's refusal to move on the Public Accounts Committee report on the 1994 Chinook crash was hitting armed forces morale....



MPs said yesterday that the Government's refusal to move on the Public Accounts Committee report on the 1994 Chinook crash was hitting armed forces morale. Labour MP Frank Field said: "The morale of the armed forces is being seriously damaged by the MoD's stance".

Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, whose North East Hampshire constituency includes RAF Odiham, the UK's main base for Chinook helicopters, said he regularly visited the base but had recently been given permission to visit only on condition that he did not mention the Mull of Kintyre crash, a condition he had complied with.

Lord Chalfont, who chairs the committee of MPs campaigning to clear the names of the dead Chinook pilots, said contacts with his former regiment had convinced him that morale was suffering.

Former Tory defence minister Robert Key MP said it was significant that the biggest retention problem in the UK armed forces was in the Royal Air Force.

Since the PAC report, and defence secretary Geoff Hoon's strong refusal to act on it, the Professional Pilots' Rumour Network [www.pprune.org] has been buzzing with anonymous postings from service personnel who say they are ready to take part in a letter writing campaign to urge the Prime Minister to overturn the gross negligence verdict.

Many are incensed by the former air marshal Sir William Wratten's description - in a Newsnight interview - of the original Board of Inquiry as being staffed by "young and not sufficiently experienced" officers.

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