Blair broke vow to dying officer, widow says

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has been accused of reneging on a personal promise to an army major dying of Gulf War-related illnesses.

Tony Blair has been accused of reneging on a personal promise to an army major dying of Gulf War-related illnesses.

The criticism came at an independent hearing yesterday which - in the absence of any public inquiry - is attempting to resolve the long-standing dispute over a range of debilitating illnesses suffered by veterans of the Gulf conflict in 1991.

On the day when Lord Lloyd of Berwick announced that the Ministry of Defence had refused to take part directly in his inquiry, Major Ian Hill's widow insisted that Mr Blair had given him a personal assurance seven years ago that a public investigation would be held if he became Prime Minister.

"We met with Tony Blair, and he said if we get into government ... what we would do is leave no stone unturned. We would get a public inquiry - that is what he promised Ian himself," said Carole Avison. She added: "They make promises before they get in government to get that vote, and that's it."

The Royal Army Medical Corps officer died four years later. An inquest on Major Hill recorded a verdict blaming his service in the Middle East as a contributory factor.

The father of four had been "A1 fit" when he was given multiple vaccinations and sent out in January 1991. But, his widow explained yesterday, he was airlifted back to Britain three weeks later suffering from bronchopneumonia.

His health continued to deteriorate. By 1997, when he met Mr Blair, he was terminally ill with emphysema and campaigning as chairman of the National Gulf Veterans & Families Association.

Mrs Avison, 56, of Huddersfield, west Yorkshire, said her husband's meeting with Mr Blair impressed him so much that he went canvassing for Labour.

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