Tamworth mother calls for inquiry into use of Snatch Land Rovers in Afghanistan
The mother of a soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq has slammed the Government for its failure to call an inquiry into the use of vulnerable Snatch Land Rovers.
Susan Smith’s 21-year-old son, Private Phillip Hewett, of the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment, was killed alongside two other soldiers on July 16, 2005.
Private Hewett was driving the Snatch Land Rover when it struck a roadside bomb near al-Amarah in southern Iraq.
Mrs Smith, aged 44, from Tamworth, has campaigned for three years for a public inquiry into the use of the controversial lightly armoured vehicle in which 36 servicemen and one woman have died while serving on the front line.
She is urging the Iraq Inquiry to challenge Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he appears on Friday to answer questions on the funding of the armed forces. Mr Brown was Chancellor at the time of the war. She said: “I would just like to know why they have gone into two wars without the equipment.”
A letter from the Treasury to Mrs Smith’s lawyers shows that defence secretary Bob Ainsworth, has decided that a separate inquiry into the Snatch ‘would be an inappropriate use of public resources.’
Mrs Smith, whose case is supported by the families of other soldiers killed in similar incidents, added: “I was absolutely gutted. How can that be fair? It makes me so angry. They want a public inquiry into everything apart from what is important.”
The devastating blow came just months after she won the legal right to challenge an earlier decision by the Government not to hold an inquiry into Land Rovers.
Bill Rammell, the Armed Force Minister, said he did not believe an inquiry into the Snatch fleet would produce ‘significant new information’
“The threats our Forces face have continued to change and we have evolved our protected vehicles to match the threat.”
He said that the fortified Land Rover is no longer used in areas of heightened risk of roadside bombs. The Snatch was originally designed for peacekeeping operations in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s but it has been heavily criticised for failing to protect against roadside bombs.