Soames orders questioning on Gulf pesticides cover-up

Nicholas Soames, the Armed Forces minister, has ordered a crack team of military police investigators to question soldiers and senior civil servants over the cover-up of the use of dangerous pesticides in the Gulf War.

Members of the Royal Air Force Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) will today begin their inquiry to establish how information regarding the use of organophosphate pesticides (OPs) in the conflict was withheld from ministers. The cover-up led to Mr Soames having to make an apology in the House of Commons last December for wrongly informing the House that the pesticides were not used.

The investigation has been set up at the RAF SIB's base at Rudloe Manor, Wiltshire, from where the plainclothes unit also investigates breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

It is believed that the RAF police were assigned to the investigation because most of those who will be questioned will be Army personnel. The investigators, who have been told to report back promptly, will seek to establish the chain of command through which information on OPs was passed.

Among those likely to be asked to help with the inquiry are Lieutenant- Colonel John Graham, who was in charge of medical operations in the Gulf, along with Major SF Drysdale.

Both men were given detailed post-operational reports of the OP use by environmental health technicians who were involved in spraying the pesticides.

The reports included numerous complaints about the pesticides used, and the lack of protective clothing for those applying it.

Lt-Col Graham, who was a Major during the war, was later promoted to the Defence Medical Services Directorate, in London. On 26 August last year, when Parliament was still unaware of the use of OPs in the Gulf, Lt-Col Graham circulated a document which said they were "extensively used". It read: "Pesticides, including a wide range of organophosphate compounds, were extensively used by British personnel during Operation Granby."

The briefing stated: "As [pesticides] were widely applied, all personnel in theatre will have been in contact to a lesser degree."

Veterans ignored, page 5

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