MPs lambast Government over Iraq war

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British troops invading Iraq had such poor protective equipment they would have faced serious casualties if Saddam Hussein had possessed chemical or biological weapons, a report will say today.

British troops invading Iraq had such poor protective equipment they would have faced serious casualties if Saddam Hussein had possessed chemical or biological weapons, a report will say today.

The Commons Defence Select Committee study found logistical blunders resulted in servicemen and women lacking "critical items" such as ammunition, body armour and protective clothing.

A shortage of armoured vehicle filters and nuclear, chemical and biological (NBC) suits could have resulted in "severe" consequences for British soldiers if the Iraqis had unleashed weapons of mass destruction.

The report, Lessons of Iraq, lists a string of criticisms from a lack of desert boots to the Government's "misjudgement" in not planning properly for post-war reconstruction.

The MPs say the failure by Britain and the US to guard weapons sites in the months after the conflict "cost Iraqi civilian lives" and gave rebel forces easy access to weaponry.

More money should be found to fund the clearance of unexploded ordnance and more support, such as local experts and interpreters, should be given to peace-keeping troops, they add.

The report also criticises Whitehall for failing to get "plugged in" to US planning until a late stage before the war.

The result of more than 18 months' work, Lessons of Iraq repeatedly praises the armed forces for their combat operations and peace-keeping roles in the country in the past year.

But it makes uncomfortable reading for ministers and the MoD on everything from delays in compensation for reservists to a shortage of non-NHS medical staff. The well-documented equipment blunders, caused mainly by failures to track logistics once they arrived in the Gulf, form a main plank of the report's findings.

Gas masks failed to fit properly and many were past their use-by date of 1998 and troops were given just one suit each instead of the four per person ideally required by the MoD.

The MPs report also described as "alarming" the fact that crucial antidote injection pens, designed to combat chemical and biological agents, had to be moved around the war zone to meet troops' needs.

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