Support urged for new defence chief

As General Sir David Richards takes over as Chief of the Defence Staff the SNP called on the UK Government to get behind the new forces commander – and put an end to the Labour smear campaign which had been directed at his predecessor.

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said Ministers must give their full support to Gen Richards as he focuses on the military effort in Afghanistan.

Labour has been under fire over attempts to smear his predecessor, General Sir Richard Dannatt, after a peer, Lord Foulkes, tabled parliamentary questions seeking to embarrass the head of the Armed Forces. Lord Foulkes previously accused Gen Dannatt of giving 'succour to the enemy' for demanding more helicopters in Afghanistan, and recent media reports suggest Labour are co-ordinating an effort to smear the outgoing commander.

Mr Robertson said:

“General Richards takes on his role at a critical time, and he must be able to count on the support of ministers and be able to speak frankly about operational issues without fear of vilification.

“Sir David’s predecessor spoke out about defence needs and was met with slurs and smears from Labour.

“Instead of asking serious questions about equipment and military strategy, Lord Foulkes was more interested in trying to embarrass the chief of the defence staff over his travel arrangements. As our forces face very difficult challenges in Afghanistan, we must have no repeat of these petty attacks.

“The UK Government must give our forces, at every level, the support they need as they serve the country.”


1. Lord Foulkes questions, tabled in the House of Lords, are detailed below:

(a) Lord Foulkes of Cumnock to ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the cost of providing (a) accommodation, and (b) chauffeur-driven cars, for the Chief of the General Staff in the last 12-month period for which figures are available. [MoD] HL5182 (b) Lord Foulkes of Cumnock to ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations the Ministry of Defence received for additional helicopters in Afghanistan from the Chief of the General Staff prior to June; and what were the responses. [MoD] HL5183 (c) Lord Foulkes of Cumnock to ask Her Majesty’s Government on how many occasions and for what purposes the Chief of the General Staff travelled by helicopter in the United Kingdom in the last 12 month period for which figures are available. [MoD] HL5184 

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 2. In July, Lord Foulkes sparked outrage by accusing Britain's military chiefs of giving “succour” to the Taliban. Speaking in the Lords [21 July 2009] he called for defence minister Baroness Taylor to remind General Dannatt and Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup of the “importance of loyalty”. Lord Foulkes said: “In this media dominated age it is even more important than ever to maintain a united front in dealing with ruthless and cunning enemies like the Taliban and al-Qaeda...the public comments of Sir Richard Dannatt and Sir Jock Stirrup threaten to undermine our effort in Afghanistan and give succour to the enemy.”

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