8 NOVEMBER 2008, Page 29

The MoD’s failure of duty

Sir: Charles Moore berates Oxford deputy coroner Andrew Walker for upbraiding officialdom in the matter of the death of Para Corporal Mark Wright, deeming such criticism of the military establishment to be ‘outrageous’ (The Spectator’s Notes, 25 October).

The fact is that Tony Blair launched our armed forces into five wars in six years. Of the two ongoing conflicts, Iraq has lasted longer than the second world war and Afghanistan is more ferocious than Korea. When any government does this it takes on a very serious duty of care.

That duty involves an absolute obligation that the men sent out to fight will have equipment sufficient in both quality and quantity to enable them to do the job and stay alive if possible. Investigating this government’s discharge of that duty of care, my colleagues on the Cameron Commission into the breaking of the Military Covenant were shocked to discover it had been treated at the highest level with an indifference bordering on contempt.

The duty of care stretches from the soldier on the ground up through the higher ranks but it inevitably comes back to the Ministry tasked with equipping him, and the Treasury — because every piece of kit has to be bought and paid for. Cpl Wright spent five hours in agony waiting in vain for a British casevac helicopter that never came, while his colleagues could not communicate with radios that are, frankly, complete rubbish.

There is nothing occult about helicopters and radios that work. They are available on purchase. Our coalition allies all have them. Our lads die for lack of them. It is axiomatic that you cannot launch five wars on a peacetime budget. It is also no secret that appeal after appeal to the Treasury under Gordon Brown for the release of emergency funds to meet an emergency situation were met with terse refusal while billions were frittered elsewhere.

You want ‘outrageous’ Charles? It is there, staring you in the face.

Frederick Forsyth