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The cross-party Mull of Kintyre Group of MPs has called on the prime minister to clear the pilots of blame for the 1994 Chinook crash.
The group, which includes two privy councillors, has asked to meet Tony Blair in the wake of the Ministry of Defence’s refusal to accept the conclusions of a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report that the verdict is unsustainable.
Defence minister Geoff Hoon dismissed the report as “superficial”, claimed the report contained “no new evidence” and turned down calls to reopen the inquiry into the crash. The group expects to meet Blair “within days”.
Member of the House of Lords, Lord Chalfont said: “The PAC Report is the strongest endorsement we could have expected. For the MoD to dismiss it…is a prime example of the ‘unwarrantable arrogance’ of which the MoD stands accused.”
Chalfont described Hoon’s remarks as “astonishing” and “almost beyond belief”, adding: “We have now had enough of arguments with the MoD. It is now a matter of public interest – it is time to escalate it.”
James Arbuthnot MP said Hoon’s response to the PAC report was “more than disappointing. I am beginning to get extremely angry.”
Robert Key MP said: “It’s a red herring to say there is no new evidence. We have evidence now that was not available to ministers at the time.” Key added that there was “clear evidence” of RAF commanders pressuring the testing establishment at Boscome Down, which is in his constituency.
Christian Blunt MP, who sat on the 1998 Defence select committee whose findings Hoon contrasted to those of the PAC, said: “For the MoD to rely on the 1988 Defence Committee report is extremely shabby. The committee never set out to challenge or endorse the findings of previous inquiries into the crash.
“Nor did our remit include a investigation of the introduction of the Chinook Mk2 into service. For the MoD to try to set up one Parliamentary Committee against another is disgraceful. It merely underlines the fundamental weakness of their position.”