News24

Inquiry urged to question Brown

2010-03-04 19:27

London - A lawyer for relatives of British troops killed in Iraq in lightly armoured trucks on Thursday urged an inquiry into the war to challenge Gordon Brown on his funding of forces, a newspaper reported.

The appeal on the use of the vehicles, which critics say were vulnerable to roadside bombs used by Iraqi insurgents, came a day ahead of Brown's appearance before the probe into the 2003 US led invasion.

Brown, now prime minister, was finance minister at the time of the conflict.

Jocelyn Cockburn, a lawyer acting for relatives of those killed in the vehicles, told The Times that answers must be provided about why complaints from frontline troops were not acted upon.

“We ask that you question Brown about decisions he took as Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding funding of the Iraq war in light of evidence heard by your inquiry,” she wrote in a letter to the inquiry chairman, John Chilcot.

“Specifically, was he aware of concerns around the lack of armoured vehicles and did he receive any requests for funding (particularly in the period 1997 - 2006) to purchase armoured vehicles?”

Unsuitable equipment

She told the paper that “to this day the ministry of defence seeks to justify the use of (the model of truck), saying it is ‘essential’ to operations.”

Several witnesses at the probe, including former defence secretary Geoff Hoon, have accused finance officials of military budget cuts which forced soldiers to use unsuitable equipment.

One of the people Cockburn is acting for is Susan Smith, whose son Phillip Hewett, was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in 2005, said The Times.

The lightly armoured trucks were first used by British forces in Northern Ireland but critics say they have proved ineffective against roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brown, finance minister from 1997 before taking over as prime minister from Tony Blair in 2007, gives evidence on Friday at the Iraq inquiry in an appearance that could prove politically damaging in the run-up to a general election.

Chilcot initially said he would not call Brown or any other serving ministers until after the election, expected on May 6, but after pressure from opposition parties the premier said he would be happy to appear any time.

The inquiry is being conducted to identify lessons that can be learned from the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent war. It is examining the period from mid-2001 to the end of July 2009, when British troops formally pulled out of southern Iraq.