Iran (Detention of Naval Personnel)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 19th June 2007.

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Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, The Secretary of State for Defence 4:16 pm, 19th June 2007

The hon. Gentleman asks about intelligence; I have already addressed that issue. There were shortcomings in respect of intelligence, which have been dealt with, but I shall not go into the detail of them in public for obvious reasons.

I realise that my reply is lengthy, but a series of questions were asked to which I should respond. At the heart of the Hall report is the judgment that the MOD, as opposed to the single service, should have taken responsibility for the media and for the media handling of the captives when they were returned. I accept that recommendation and that analysis. However, although that judgment is correct, it does have the benefit of hindsight. It was the view of those planning to receive the released captives that they should be received back into a military environment. The same analysis informs a lot of calls for us to receive injured servicemen back into a military environment, in order to enable them to recover from the trauma that they have been through. The view was taken, which I agreed with at the time, that it was right to bring these people back into a service environment. However, as the Hall report makes clear, there was at the time a media storm, and the level of media demand outstripped the ability of that environment to cope. I accept that, and I also accept that we need to make sure that that never happens again.

An offer from the PCC came on the day of the captives' release. The Hall report recommends that there should be engagement with the PCC in developing the ability of our media shielders to support people through the early stages of such a process. I also accept that recommendation. It is entirely different from what was offered to the MOD, and which it did not respond to. The Hall report does not conclude that single-service press officers should be reinstated, but it does say that there should be more engagement of a higher level of military personnel in the MOD press centre and the communications operation. We will act on that recommendation.