Commons committee attacks MoD for poor war planning

A chilling warning about lack of preparation by the British military for desert warfare was made by a parliamentary committee yesterday.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee warned that British troops faced going into battle with insecure radio communications and faulty kit – including tanks and rifles that get clogged with sand, and boots that melt in the heat.

The MPs called for urgent improvements to army planning to ensure that serious mistakes made during an exercise in Saif Sareea in Oman in 2001 were not repeated in battle. The report said: "The [Ministry of Defence's] planning of the exercise was deficient."

The Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, said yesterday that all British troops would be equipped with "the right personal kit, including boots".

He said: "Saif Sareea took place a year and a half ago. In the intervening time, we have implemented the important lessons we learned from the exercise. Our clear focus rests on ensuring that all steps are taken to prepare our personnel for operations. Challenger 2 [tanks] and AS-90 [self- propelled guns] are highly capable equipment, and will be modified for the desert conditions they encounter."

Edward Leigh, the committee chairman, said he expected urgent improvements to be made to MoD planning before British troops were mobilised. "This exercise demonstrated the need for forces operating in desert conditions to be properly equipped, for example with appropriate boots, and I was grateful for the department's assurance that it did not lack stocks of desert boots," he said.

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