CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – CHINOOK CRASH – 22 July 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: If the pilots had lived, albeit having done something negligent, would they not have been able to speak in their own defence? Was it not therefore deeply unsatisfactory that under the rules before this incident, deceased pilots could be blamed when they could not speak in their own defence? Is it not a fact that the reason for the belated recognition that that is unsatisfactory is this very case, and is it not a fact that a verdict of this kind could never be reached again as a result of dissatisfaction about what has happened in this very case?

Why does the Secretary of State not reconsider his answer to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), and say that it would be possible to revisit the circumstances and decide that the application of the rules to this case at that time constituted a basic injustice? Surely the revoking of the rules represents a belated acknowledgement that they were unjust when applied to the deceased pilots?

[Geoff Hoon: I certainly agree that the two pilots would have been the best witnesses. Part of the tragedy is the fact that they are not available to give us their evidence. Nevertheless, neither the hon. Gentleman nor any other Member should try to avoid the fact that the best evidence is not available on numerous occasions. On such occasions, we must still try to make judgments on the basis of what evidence is available. That, sadly, applies to this case.

The change in the system does not undermine the fact that the reviewing officers and the board of inquiry considered the case in the light of the test and the rules that applied at the time. If the hon. Gentleman applies his perfectly logical reasoning to the situation, he will realise that if that were not the case any single decision made at any tribunal or court in our history could be challenged simply because subsequent generations took a different view of what test should have applied at the time. That would simply not be satisfactory.]