UK Forces (Iraq)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:16 pm on 21st October 2004.

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence 1:16 pm, 21st October 2004

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has finally and rather belatedly made the Conservative party's position on the deployment clear. It was not obvious from his comments on Monday, and no one could have detected from the Conservative leader's observations yesterday whether the Conservative leader actually supports the deployment, so we have made some progress.

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman prepared his questions before he heard my statement. I have already repeated the point about rules of engagement, which he has come very close to suggesting should be published—he denied such requests when he was Minister for the Armed Forces—and I am delighted to repeat again that our armed forces will have robust rules of engagement. The rules of engagement have been sufficient to protect them in their operations in MND(SE), and that will continue to be the case as far as this deployment is concerned. Every hon. Member knows that British forces, wherever they serve in the world, are subject to the law of this country. That remains the case, it will always be the case and British forces want nothing else.

The hon. Gentleman's other questions largely concerned other matters not related to this particular deployment, and I shall certainly deal with them, perhaps in the debate that follows or on a future occasion. On apologies, he might like to reflect on the fact that his observations about the Black Watch were poorly received by the commanding officers of that distinguished regiment—very poorly received.

They have gone out of their way to keep their people and families thoroughly informed about this deployment. I give the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to make that apology instead of making cheap political points at the expense of hard-working serving soldiers and their families.