Select Committee on Defence Fourth Report


In June 2007, the Secretary of State for Defence announced the broad conclusions of the Fulton report into the apprehension of Royal Navy personnel from HMS Cornwall by Iranians on 23 March 2007. He stated that it would not be possible to publish the report but that it would be given to our Committee to ensure parliamentary scrutiny.

We found the initial response of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to our inquiry inadequate, but the MoD has now provided us with full responses to our questions and briefing at the highest level.

The security classification of the Fulton report, and the evidence provided to us in support of it, makes it difficult for us to demonstrate openly the grounds on which we have reached our conclusions. But we assure the House of Commons, and the public, that we are satisfied that action is being taken to address the weaknesses exposed by the hostage-taking. We are assured that this should significantly reduce the likelihood of a recurrence. We have written to the Secretary of State for Defence with a number of classified conclusions and recommendations.

The decision not to publish the Fulton report has led some people to conclude that the whole thing was a whitewash. We can assure the House that this is not the case. The Fulton report was robust in identifying serious weaknesses: in intelligence, in communications, in doctrine and in training. And, while the MoD concluded there were insufficient grounds for courts martial, formal administrative action has been taken against a number of Service personnel.

The Fulton report recommended a range of remedial actions; and the Government has made good progress towards implementing its recommendations. We have been assured that the resources are in place to enable implementation of the action plan.

We accept that a lack of resources was not the direct cause of the events of 23 March.

We also considered the findings of the Hall report into media access to Service personnel. It is clear that the decision to allow the Service personnel to sell their stories was a serious mistake and deeply damaging to the reputation of the Royal Navy. The Secretary of State for Defence has accepted responsibility and apologised. This should not absolve others from blame.

We publish a progress report from the MoD on the action taken to implement the Hall recommendations, and note the progress made.

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Prepared 14 December 2007