Hoon compared to Soviet-style general

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A Labour select committee chairman angrily accused Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, of acting like an old-style Soviet general by refusing to answer questions about the controversial decision to merge the Black Watch and axe other regiments.

A Labour select committee chairman angrily accused Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, of acting like an old-style Soviet general by refusing to answer questions about the controversial decision to merge the Black Watch and axe other regiments.

Bruce George, the Labour chairman of the Commons select committee on defence, reacted furiously when Mr Hoon refused to answer questions about policy advice from defence chiefs.

"This is the kind of answer the chief of Soviet General Staff would have given," Mr George told him.

"All we are trying to find out are the factors that led to some regiments being merged."

However Mr Hoon said it was the committee's role to consider Government policy as announced by ministers, not suggestions it may have rejected.

"It is one of the areas in which we do not make further material available. There are very clear and sound reasons for not doing so because it is ministers who, ultimately, take the decisions," he said.

"Otherwise... we would then have a long investigation into each and every dot and comma produced by civil servants.

"The only consequence of that would be to frustrate the ability of Parliament to properly investigate and the Government to reach proper decisions."

Mr Hoon insisted he had accepted all the recommendations made by the Army Board.

The committee is expected to deliver a highly critical report on Mr Hoon's conduct over the defence changes.

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