Active Service in Iraq

There are now many - too many - Members of Parliament who have lost young constituents in Iraq and Afghanistan" says the MP "and their families and those of us who represent them know that they will never be able to tell their stories to their wives, their mothers, their fathers or their children, never mind to the media.

Following the deaths of two of my own constituents on active service in Iraq, I have personally been battling to hold the Prime Minister to his undertaking to make adequate facilities available so that bereaved families may be professionally and legally represented at the inquests into the deaths of  fallen servicemen and women. To date the Government has declined to honour that promise and yet is apparently willing to allow those who have returned from captivity in Iran to capitalise on their experiences while still serving in the armed forces: I find that offensive to the memory of those who have given everything in the service of their country.

The Second Sea Lord has told the Nation that the Navy felt that it was appropriate to allow men and a woman still in the service to sell their stories to press and television because they felt that it was right that the public should be made aware of the personal details of this ordeal.   If that is so – and I do not doubt that those held captive suffered a great deal emotionally, of not physically – then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why the interviews should not have been made available without payment.  As it is we are now left with the highly undignified prospect of future “I’m a commando, get me out of there” revelations unless the regulations are swiftly and robustly changed.

The overwhelming majority of serving men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and other precarious locations overseas are brave, highly professional, self effacing and determined and the events of recent days does no credit either to them or to those comrades they have lost in battle.

I would like to think that, belatedly, those – newspapers, television and those who have sold their stories - will now think long and hard and donate all of the money to service charities to help to ensure that those who have lost their loved ones in conflict do not have to pay for their own legal representation at inquests.    That would at least go some small way towards righting what is at present a huge wrong.

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