'MP QUERIES UNIVERSITY PEACE ROLE'

Bradford Telegraph & Argus – 28 April 2004

A senior Tory politician today questioned whether the Government was right to award Bradford University £800 000 of taxpayers' cash to train soldiers to keep the peace in war zones. The Department of Peace Studies - which in the 1980s had links to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - scooped a lucrative Ministry of Defence contract to run courses on conflict resolution.

It aims to teach Army officers how to win the hearts and minds of people living in countries – such as Iraq – occupied by British troops. But Conservative defence spokesman Dr Julian Lewis raised doubts about handing military money to a department once considered the "intellectual wing" of CND. The MP said:

"I don't know how many members of the department have experience of peace-keeping operations rather than simply being wheeled out by the media to explain why it is wrong to take part in military expeditions."

He said the British Army had "vast experience of winning the hearts and minds of people in trouble-spots" – from Malaya in the 1950s to Northern Ireland in the 1990s. He added:

"I find it rather strange we should be spending quite a large chunk of scarce defence resources taking lessons on these matters from a department with a track record of continually looking at war and peace in a one-sided way."

Dr Lewis acknowledged he had not had a "great deal" of contact with the Department of Peace Studies since CND's golden years in the 1980s. But he has asked a series of Parliamentary questions to establish if the courses had "a good syllabus and benefits for the Armed Forces".

Dr Lewis said the department was once "very strong" on the unilateralist view of nuclear weapons – believing Britain should disarm. He added:

"I want to satisfy myself it offers a more balanced view than 20 years ago."

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said:

"The university's Department of Peace Studies successfully tendered for four courses from the programme. All bids for courses were subjected to detailed technical evaluation against key criteria including the academic experience of the institution. Contracts were awarded on the basis of fair and open competition."

Last year Bradford University beat off international competition to win a contract to train civil servants to keep the peace in war-torn Ethiopia.

A spokesman for the department was unavailable for comment.