Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 108)


Rt Hon Adam Ingram MP, Lieutenant General Nick Houghton CBE and Dr Roger Hutton

  Q100  One would indeed hope so.

  Mr Ingram: We should always look to see if there is a technical solution, but it then has to be tested. What we cannot do is just procure it and throw it into the vehicles and then find that it does not deliver the required result.

  Q101  Linda Gilroy: Perhaps I can return to the question of IEDs and ask you whether you are in a position to comment on what use is being made? I actually met a couple of the young men who were involved in that big raid there which identified, was it, 25 or 50 IEDs, and I just wondered if you had an assessment about what developments there are on the research side which may help to counteract them. ***

  Lt Genreal Houghton: *** The majority of the finds related to this explosively formed projectile, *** and where these things might have been sourced from, and that, in many respects, ***

  Q102  Linda Gilroy: Are there any other possible lines of countermeasure being developed that are not related to that particular find?

  Lt General Houghton: *** We are constantly looking, the research and development community is constantly looking to get the technical edge ***

  Q103  Chairman: I asked if our electronic countermeasures are better or worse than the Americans', to which the answer was, ***

  Lt General Houghton: ***

  Chairman: Then I am relieved to hear it.

  Q104  Mr Holloway: ***

  Lt General Houghton: ***

  Chairman: I am relieved to hear it.

  Q105  Mr Havard: *** What I would really like to talk about are the bases. The comment was made to us about hardening bases, and I realise that, if we are going to change our structure of bases, this becomes a difficult question as to whether you put in hardened accommodation all the time. ***

  Mr Ingram: Well, these things are kept under genuine and constant review. We are all conscious of the fact that the last death was bad and terrible for everyone, but it is the next death we have got to try and avoid. Can we do so? It is not for lack of willingness to deliver programmes to achieve all of that, but it is just whether it is realistic, whether it is going to achieve the end result and whether it is an investment that is worthwhile. We are not the Americans who just throw money at everything and we do not have the money to throw anyway in that sense. Do not misinterpret that because in terms of UORs, we do get full support in all of this. If we prove the case, we get the funding route and off we go and deliver on it, but we do not have an unlimited resource. We cannot do everything all singing and all dancing, it is just not the world in which we live and fight in a sense.

  Q106  Mr Havard: ***

  Mr Ingram: ***

  Lt General Houghton: ***

  Q107  Mr Havard: We saw that some of these things may well be taken over by the Iraqi Army, for example, so there is a relationship in gifting stuff as well in all of this activity. As far as I was concerned, there was a quite clear plan laid out as to what might want to be done, and I think the question for us is the pace at which that transition can take place. For example, your point about the logistics base, we were told that there is something like 7,000 containers which have got to be shifted from there, so the number of transports and how you can use the port and whether you can use the port in competition with the United States of America, who would also want to use Umm Qasr, those sorts of issues are issues that I think we will be concerned to ask public questions about and we will need to know from you—

  Mr Ingram: There are a lot of the logistics which have to be looked at as to how you do it, how you face it, over what timescale, whether there are other competing demands. There is the other issue of course that as Umm Qasr hopefully becomes an even more commercial port, then you are competing against commercial demand and use as well. You did refer to the transfer to the Iraqi Security Force and that again is something that is looked at. We have to go through a gifting process and we have to get Treasury approval in terms of it in terms of any real estate or anything else we are gifting to them and all of that is being examined at the present time, so there is a dynamic in the system at the moment and, if we can give you more detail, we will do that.

  Q108  Chairman: Perhaps I can come back on one answer you gave, Minister, about the comparison with the Americans having a lot of money to put into hardened shelters compared to the British. That of course is a comparison which we have always found very difficult. I think that the comparison that the British troops make is that Foreign Office officials seem to have their facilities in hardened shelters, whereas soldiers tend not to have and that makes them feel just a touch unloved.

  Mr Ingram: I am conscious of the point and it is a serious point that has been made. All of these things are against a balance of investment decisions and availability of resource as well. There may be some desire to do something, but there is a limit to what we can deliver and given all the other things that we do in UORs and whatever else. Just on civilians living in hardened facilities, I had a previous member of staff who went out to work in Baghdad and she was sharing hardened accommodation with three blokes. At that time there was a lot of mortaring going on and she went out of the hardened facility and into a tented facility because of the snoring and whatever else of the three guys, so she was prepared to take risks. She would have to, she works for me!

  Chairman: On that note, Minister and gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for your evidence. It was most helpful indeed.

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