Prime minister must act as MoD defies the Lords on Chinook

The Government is facing mounting pressure to overturn the Ministry of Defence's verdict of gross negligence against the pilots...

The Government is facing mounting pressure to overturn the Ministry of Defence's verdict of gross negligence against the pilots of Chinook ZD576, following this week's historic House of Lords report which exonerated the men.

Both MPs and the parents of RAF flight lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook welcomed the Select Committee report's findings and urged the Government to quash the original MoD verdict.

"The families of those who died have waited a very long time for this report," said Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman. "Now the Select Committee has found that the verdict of the Board of Inquiry is flawed, the Government's duty is clear - it should accept the report, and the finding of negligence should be quashed."

Conservative party chairman David Davis was equally insistent. "The prime minister really has to sort this out, do the honourable thing, reinstate the reputation of these pilots and make their families and everybody else involved feel that justice has been done," he said.

John Cook, father of one of the pilots, said, "We have known right from the start that there was no evidence to support the accusation of gross negligence and we hope the Government will now catch up quickly."

However, a MoD spokeswoman refused to accept the report's conclusions.

"'No doubt whatsoever' is a very high standard of proof. The senior officers who reviewed the case, the air marshals and the MoD are satisfied that that standard was met," she said. "We stand by the conclusions of the inquiry and the review officers, which were based on the evidence available to them.''

Former Tory defence minister Lord Chalfont was horrified at the MoD's reaction. "I am delighted at this verdict but I am horrified to hear that the MoD has suggested that it will ignore the committee's findings,'' he said.

Les Hatton, a safety-critical software expert said, "The worrying thing is the lack of accountability of the MoD, which has behaved appallingly throughout the episode."

Mike Tapper, father of pilot Jonathan, echoed Chalfont's views. "In my more charitable mood I am thinking that the MoD is trying to buy time because it knows its position is unsustainable," he said.

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