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Iraq Conflict

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department were first informed that a video tape existed of the United States aerial attack which killed Lance-Corporal Hull. (122369)

[holding answer 26 February 2007]: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given on 20 February 2007, Official Report, column 370W. The handling of the audio/video recording in question is being investigated. I will write to the hon. Gentleman when the investigation is complete and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Substantive answer from Bob Ainsworth to Julian Lewis:

You will recall that I wrote to you on 11 September 2007 about the investigation into the handling of the US cockpit recording of an attack on a UK light tank in Iraq on 28 March 2003. We have now received the Joint Army/RAF investigation report on the unauthorised disclosure of the cockpit recording and I am therefore able to give you a substantive response to the specific questions you asked in your parliamentary question (Reference 122369, Official Report, 5 March 2007 columns 1642/3W).

I can now confirm that officials were informed of the existence of the CD recording when preparing for the Board of Inquiry into the incident. The recording, among other material, was requested by the Board of Inquiry from the US authorities and received on 23 April 2004 via the MOD's Permanent Joint Headquarters. Ministers received written advice about the existence of the CD recording and its unauthorised disclosure on 2 February 2007 in relation to the issue being raised at the Coroner's inquest.

As a result of the failings identified, remedial action is being taken. A new security education programme is being introduced as part of a wider security awareness campaign to ensure that those involved in the handling of classified and sensitive material are aware of the rules and procedures to be followed. An instruction on the release of US (and other third country) material during legal proceedings has also been issued to all MOD personnel to remind them of their responsibilities in respect of the secure handling of protectively marked US material, and we are in the process of establishing new arrangements for the management of Boards of Inquiry and Inquests to ensure a more consistent approach across the Department. The US authorities have been informed of the investigation's findings and of the remedial action taken.

I can assure you that I take the protection of classified material, especially that entrusted to us by a close ally, very seriously, and the Permanent Secretary has asked the chain of command to consider whether administrative or disciplinary action against any individual is appropriate in light of the finding of the report.