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  • Marines charged with murder over Afghanistan death

    Five Royal Marines charged with murder over the death of an insurgent in Afghanistan in 2011

    British soldiers in Helmand: the incident took place last year but it is thought investigators only began inquiries in recent weeks. Photograph: Corporal Barry Lloyd Rlc/AFP

    Five Royal Marines have been charged with murder over the death of an insurgent in Afghanistan in 2011.

    Seven marines were arrested on Thursday by the Royal Military police. Two more were later arrested, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Four have been released without charge pending further inquiries, according to the Ministry of Defence.

    The incident took place in Helmand province last year, but it is thought investigators only began an inquiry in recent weeks.

    An MoD spokesman said: “The Royal Military police has referred the cases of the remaining five Royal Marines to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority.

    “Following direction from the SPA these marines have now been charged with murder and they remain in custody pending court proceedings.”

    The soldiers, believed to be members of 3 Commando Brigade, were arrested in connection with an incident described as “an engagement with an insurgent” in which no civilians were involved.

    During a six-month tour of duty in 2010, which lasted from April to October, seven servicemen from the brigade were killed in action, all from 42 Commando. The tour, Operation Herrick 14, was the unit’s fourth and saw the force score notable successes in capturing explosives from the Taliban.

    Jonathan Haynes and agencies
    The Guardian, Sunday 14 October 2012 08.34 BST

    Find this story at 14 October 2012

    © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    MoD lobbying claims: the key figures

    Top brass are said to have boasted of access to ministers, sparking a crackdown on lobbying at the Ministry of Defence

    General Lord Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army

    The Sunday Times claimed Dannatt had offered to help two executives from a South Korean defence company who wanted to sell the UK military a hi-tech drone. Dannatt offered to speak to Bernard Gray, the civilian chief of defence materiel. He was quoted as saying he had engineered a seat at a formal dinner with the Ministry of Defence’s new permanent secretary, Jon Thompson, to help another company, Capital Symonds, which is bidding for a £400m contract to manage the MoD’s estates. The two men were school friends, he said.

    In a lengthy rebuttal, Dannatt said he had made it clear to the undercover reporters that “I would need to meet the manufacturer and verify for myself whether the product was viable. I also told them that I was not particularly up-to-date with defence procurement matters and in particular had no idea whether the MoD had already contracted to acquire such a mini UAV.” He admitted that an “indirect approach” to senior people such as General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, Gray and Thompson might be helpful. With regard to Capital Symonds, Dannatt said he had “no contract with them, have received no payment or benefit from them, hold no shares in the company and am not a director”.

    He said he had “never been asked to lobby and have no intention of lobbying” for them and said the Sunday Times had got confused about the conversation. The general said he had not lobbied in a way that contravened rules and would regard any such claim as “seriously defamatory”.

    Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, president of the Royal British Legion

    The Sunday Times claimed Kiszley boasted he knew the 10 currently serving generals that he regarded as worth talking to with regard to procurement. The paper said Kiszely described having a close relationship with the new armed forces minister, Andrew Robathan, who was going to stay with him over Christmas. Kiszely also said his ceremonial roles for the legion gave him access to Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, and Richards. One such occasion was the annual Festival of Remembrance, when he stands next to the prime minister. Confronted by the Sunday Times, Kiszley insisted he “always kept my role as national president of the Royal British Legion completely separate from my business interests”. The MoD said Robathan had not received an invitation to Kiszely’s at Christmas. “They have only met infrequently and he never raised the work of private clients,” the MoD said. The Royal British Legion said it intended to hold its own investigation into whether Kiszely had broken any rules.

    Admiral Sir Trevor Soar

    The commander in chief of the Royal Navy fleet until March this year, Soar told the undercover reporters he knew “all the ministers” at the MoD. As he has only recently retired, Soar is one of two former officers who could have flouted the guidelines set out by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). This stipulates that you cannot lobby for two years after retiring. Soar is quoted as saying “theoretically we are banned from lobbying ministers … we call it something different”. Soar said he preferred the term consultant. He has since said all his private jobs had been given official approval and that he is only motivated by wanting to bring “battle-winning equipment to the navy”. He denied breaking rules.

    Lieutenant General Sir Richard Applegate

    The Sunday Times claimed the former head of army procurement boasted about having spent the past 18 months working on behalf of an Israeli arms firm and had successfully lobbied the MoD to release £500m for a helicopter safety programme. If true, he could be in breach of the ACOBA rules – because the activity would have taken place within two years of him leaving service. But, approached by the paper, he denied breaking any rules and said: “At no stage did I lobby or agree to a covert political lobbying campaign.”

    Lord Stirrup, the air chief marshal and former chief of the defence staff

    Stirrup made clear he had never lobbied the government for private clients, but told the undercover reporters the defence minister in the Lords was “a friend” and that he also knew the minister for the armed forces and other serving senior members of the military.

    Speaking on Sky news, Stirrup said: “I was asked about my contacts. If you’re pressed about them then of course you say what they are. I was asked about whether I know ministers – and I do. What I also said, which was not reported, was that approaching ministers is not the way to do it … you need to understand the military’s requirements, and they’re not set by ministers.”

    General Sir Mike Jackson

    guardian.co.uk, Sunday 14 October 2012 19.13 BST

    Find this story at 14 October 2012
    © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Arms firms call up ‘generals for hire’

    TOP-RANKING retired military officers have been secretly filmed boasting about lobbying to win multi-million-pound defence deals for arms firms in breach of official rules.

    The “generals for hire” can be exposed after a Sunday Times investigation recorded them offering their contacts with ministers and former colleagues for six-figure sums.

    During a three-month investigation into the revolving door between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and private arms companies:

    ■ Lieutenant-General Sir John Kiszely, a Falklands war hero and former head of the Defence Academy, confided that he could use his role as president of the Royal British Legion to push his clients’ agenda with the prime minister and other senior figures at Remembrance Day events. He also bragged about lobbying on a multimillion-pound contract that was in official “purdah”.

    ■ Lieutenant-General Richard Applegate, a former MoD procurement chief, described a secret and successful lobbying campaign in parliament for a £500m military programme on

    Insight Published: 14 October 2012

    Find this story at 14 October 2012

    © Times Newspapers Ltd 2012

    MoD staff and thousands of military officers join arms firms

    Guardian research in the aftermath of the ‘jobs for generals’ scandal shows extent of links between MoD and private sector

    Lt General Sir John Kiszely, who has resigned as president of the Royal British Legion, was one of several former senior members of the military caught in a lobbying sting. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/Press Association

    Senior military officers and Ministry of Defence officials have taken up more than 3,500 jobs in arms companies over the past 16 years, according to figures that reveal the extent of the “revolving door” between the public and private sector.

    The data, compiled by the Guardian from freedom of information requests, shows how the industry swoops on former officials and military personnel once they have left service, with hundreds of senior officers being given jobs every year.

    The figures for 2011-12 show 231 jobs went to former officials and military personnel – a rise from the previous year’s total of 101. Another 93 have been approved since January. In total 3,572 jobs have been approved since 1996.

    The disclosure comes in the aftermath of a “jobs for generals” scandal that led to the resignation of the president of the Royal British Legion, Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, who was embarrassed in a newspaper lobbying sting.

    Kiszely was one of several former senior members of the military caught on film by Sunday Times reporters who were pretending to seek lobbyists for a South Korean defence company.

    Boasting about his connections, Kiszely described the annual Festival of Remembrance as a “tremendous networking opportunity” and said he was spending Christmas with the armed forces minister, Andrew Robothan.

    In his resignation letter, Kiszely admitted he had made “exaggerated and foolish claims”, but denied any impropriety.

    Admiral Trevor Soar, second in command of the Royal Navy until the spring, has also quit his role as an advisor at the large UK defence and engineering company Babcock. The firm said Kiszely had been sacked from his role at the company, too.

    The MoD began its own inquiry on Monday into the access that former members of the military have to serving officials. This may lead to a tightening of current restrictions and blanket bans on certain individuals approaching senior staff in the ministry.

    Figures obtained by the Guardian relate to the number of jobs approved under business appointment rules for armed forces personnel and MoD civilians. They show that there has been a regular flow into the private sector every year since records began in 1996. There has never been fewer than 101 and the highest is 360.

    Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP who chairs a Commons committee that oversees the rules governing the appointment of former military personnel and ministers, told the Guardian it was time the government legislated in this area to bring proper transparency and accountability.

    Jenkin said the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba), which scrutinises when the top brass can accept new jobs, was toothless because it could be ignored.

    “The Acoba is merely advisory and it will not do,” he said. “There is no way that the present arrangements provide the reassurance to the public or protection to anyone that might be crossing from the public sector to the private sector.”

    The furore began at the weekend with the Sunday Times investigation in which six former members of the military were approached for help by journalists purporting to be working for a defence firm.

    Those fooled by the sting included Lord Dannatt, a former head of the army; Lieutenant General Richard Applegate, a former head of procurement at the MoD; and Lord Stirrup, a former chief of the defence staff.

    All of those involved intimated they knew people at the top of the MoD who could help the firm. Some bragged about their connections to ministers and the MoD’s most senior civil servants.

    Though they all denied wrongdoing, at least two of them appear to have been in breach of Acoba guidelines. These state that senior officers have to wait up to two years before they can lobby on behalf of defence companies. Soar, who retired this March, suggested he could ignore those guidelines if he was described as a consultant. Applegate, who has only just past the two years’ “purdah”, claimed he had spent the past 18 months working on behalf of an Israeli arms firm and had successfully lobbied the MoD to release £500m for a helicopter safety programme.

    But even if the men have defied the Acoba rules, there is no way of sanctioning them or the firms with whom they might have been working.

    Jenkin said the public administration select committee (Pasc) had flagged this problem to the government in July and had recommended adopting a much tougher regime.

    “We recommended that there should be a statutory appointment of a conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, with statutory rules so that it is very clear what people can and cannot do. Acoba does not have any powers. This episode shows that and I hope the government will now look favourably on our proposals. They have yet to respond to them.”

    A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “This is an important issue as events over the weekend have shown. We are currently considering issues in relation to business appointment rules as part of our response to the Pasc report published in July.”

    Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, said the system needed to be changed. “It is ludicrous that rules can be broken without sanction and so we must see systematic change to restore confidence and standards.

    “Military expertise should not be lost after retirement, but contact on defence contracts must be transparent and within established guidelines. We must get to the bottom of what happened. We must also establish the facts of ministerial involvement and awareness in these cases.”

    Labour has tabled a series of questions on the issue, including a demand for details of meetings between former members of the military and serving civil servants, senior officers and ministers.

    Babcock announced that Kiszely and Soar had quit the company. They had both been recruited as advisers – the former to offer insight into the potential future needs of the military, the latter on exports. “The statements made by Sir John Kiszely, in the course of his attempt to win a job elsewhere, do not reflect his role for us,” the company said.

    “The facts are that he was not recruited to perform any lobbying role; he has never been asked to perform such a role and indeed, irrespective of his comments, he has never performed any such role for this company. We have a very clear code of conduct for all of our employees, and these inaccurate comments clearly fall foul of our code. For this reason, Sir John will not continue to work with Babcock. Sir Trevor Soar has expressed regret over the embarrassment caused by his interview, and his resignation has been accepted by the company.”

    Nick Hopkins, Rob Evans and Richard Norton-Taylor
    The Guardian, Monday 15 October 2012 21.56 BST

    Find this story at 15 October 2012

    © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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