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Lord Bach: On 24 June last week, in another place, my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary informed the House that six Royal Military Police soldiers had been killed, and eight other United Kingdom service personnel had been wounded in incidents in Iraq earlier that day. Since then, we have been working hard to establish what took place. It may be some time before we have a full picture; indeed, we may never know with absolute certainty precisely what happened.
However, we will do all we can to establish the facts, and to hold to account those responsible. Accordingly, we have launched an investigation, and the Special Investigation Branch has appointed a senior investigating officer. We are also looking at the wider, operational aspects of what took place, to determine whether there are any lessons we need to learn. It may be some time before this work is complete, and we do not therefore intend to respond to every piece of media speculation or conjecture in the interim.
It would, however, be right for us to set out our current understanding of events leading up to, and on the day of the incidents themselves. In doing so we should point out that our understanding may change as new information comes to light.
The RMP were engaged in assisting with the regeneration of the local Iraqi police service by ensuring that they had proper training, equipment and infrastructure to operate as professionally as possible. This task included routine visits to police stations in the area. The police station in Al Majarr Al Kabir is one of a number that the RMP planned to visit last Tuesday.
Al Majarr Al Kabir is a town of approximately 60,000 people, situated to the south of Al Amarah, in Maysan province. The town has always been fiercely independent and was free of Saddam's regime by the time coalition forces reached it. The main focus of military operations in the area in recent weeks had been the implementation of a weapons amnesty, and thereafter, the recovery of illegal weapons.
These weapons searches were unpopular with the local population, although none had been conducted in the town itself. Local religious leaders had called for further searches to be resisted, and on 22 June, a 1 Para patrol in the town were faced with a hostile crowd of some 500 people. The soldiers fired baton rounds in order to enable them to be able to withdraw from the town. At a meeting the next day, officers from 1 Para agreed with the town council that weapons searches would be suspended, and that the council would itself take responsibility for recovering "heavy" weapons.
We judge that they would have reached the town at around 09400955, shortly before a 1 Para patrol also entered the town. We cannot yet be certain, but it may be that the attack on the Para patrol took place before the attack on the RMP. The attack on 1 Para commenced at around 1030, when the patrol was stoned by a large crowd. At some point a crowd also appears to have massed outside the police station. While attempting to move their vehicles inside the police compound, the RMP came under fire, and it seems at least one of them was killed at that point. The crowd evidently then stormed the police station. British forces were informed a short while later by local Iraqis that all six of the RMP personnel had been killed.
In the follow-up to these incidents, Iraqi leaders in the province are continuing to work closely with us. We will not lose sight of our overall aim to support a better Iraq, and an Iraq that is for the Iraqi people. British forces in Iraq continue to do an excellent job in taking this important work forward.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The UK with eight other countries joined the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) in July 2001. The initiative foresaw a need for advanced nuclear energy systems in the future to help meet growing international demands for carbon free energy; and that to meet public concerns, future systems wherever deployed must meet exceptionally high standards of safety, sustainability and proliferation resistance, while operating economically in liberalised markets. The aim is to develop a framework for collaborative R&D on Generation IV reactor systems that could be deployed from around 2030. UK participation in the charter is without commitment to building a Generation IV design in the UK.
Senior representatives from DTI, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and industry participate in GIF policy and expert groups. They ensure that UK nuclear technology and regulatory experience can be shared internationally and that DTI ministers and senior energy officials are kept fully apprised of the work of the forum.
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