HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc9-10WS
Lord Bach

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Geoffrey Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

The conclusion of the recent court martial in Osnabruck. and the lifting of reporting restrictions on an earlier court martial about the same incident enables me to say more about the outcome of both trials, although I must take into account that both cases are still subject to the statutory process of review and potential appeal.

I was profoundly disturbed when I first saw the photographs. I do, however, share the Chief of the General Staff's view that the incidents depicted do not reflect typical behaviour and standards of the British Army. We also agree that it is right to apologise on behalf of the Army to the victims and the people of Iraq.

On Friday the Chief of the General Staff issued a statement on this and future cases. He explained that this was the first in a possible five cases which might come to court where the allegation against members of the British Army is that they committed acts of deliberate abuse against Iraqis. These cases involve up to 22 soldiers.

The CGS announced on behalf of the British Army that he has asked a senior officer to assess what lessons we need to learn in light of this and the other cases that might come to court, and to make recommendations for action. We will publish the findings from this work when the Army is no longer constrained by the legal processes. I fully support this statement.

The Army sets high standards and demands that they are met. The recent courts martial have demonstrated that those who fail to meet those standards are called to account. The vast majority of servicemen and women do, however, perform to the very highest standards. Their service in Iraq has been outstanding and we are right to be proud of this.