TAMWORTH Mum, Sue Smith, whose son Private Phillip Hewett, was killed in 2005 has received an apology from the Ministry of Defence.
21-year-old Private Hewett was tragically killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a lightly armoured ‘snatch’ Land Rover in Al Amarah, Maysaan province, Iraq on 16 July 2005.
Second Lieutenant Richard Shearer (aged 26, form Nuneaton) and Private Leon Spicer (aged 26, also a Tamworth), all of C Company, 1st Battalion The Staffordshire Regiment, also tragically died in the same incident.
He was the ninth of 37 service personnel to be killed in the ‘snatch’ vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to be known as ‘mobile coffins’ due to the high fatality rate.
Speaking to the BBC, Sue said: “He [Phillip] wrote to his uncle saying that he was concerned that so many of his friends had lost their driving licences so they didn’t have to drive in Iraq.
“One of his friends said, ‘It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by six,’ because that’s how dangerous the vehicles were. But he wouldn’t have refused. He would have done as he was told.”
Sue went on to say that when Phillip, a fitness fanatic, came home on leave, he was a shadow of his former self.
“He spoke to his sisters and discussed his funeral and said what he wanted. He wasn’t the same. His character was different.
“He wouldn’t tell me. I think he was trying to protect me so I didn’t worry. But I was worrying anyway. Had I known, I think I would have run over his foot or something to stop him having to go back.”
‘Something inside me’
Speaking on the day she learned of her sons death she said: “I got up to go to work and there was a breaking news story about three soldiers from the Staffordshire battle group that had been killed in Al Amarah by a roadside bomb.
“I can’t explain it but I just knew before I went out the door. And we were sorting out his birthday presents to send to him. It’s like something inside me. I can’t really explain it better than that.”
Sue recalled that waiting for the body to be repatriated was the worst time, because no-one would tell her what had happened.
Following a 12-year legal battle that reached the Supreme Court, Sue has finally got her apology from the MoD by way of an official apology penned by defence secretary Michael Fallon.
In the apology from Michael Fallon, he says: “I am fully aware of the struggle you have had to bring this matter to court over the last decade and I recognise that this has had a significant impact on you and your family.
“The government entirely accepts the findings of Sir John Chilcot in the Iraq Inquiry in relation to Snatch Land Rover.
“I would like to express directly to you my deepest sympathies and apologise for the delay, resulting in decisions taken at the time in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.”
He goes on to say that lessons have been learnt, and ends: “The government must and will ensure that our armed forces are always properly equipped and resourced.”
Speaking to the BBC, Sue said that the apology was “bitter sweet”. She went on to say: “I’d like it to be that his death made a difference. He’s not just a casualty of Iraq.
“Iraq is almost forgotten now. It’s almost Britain’s Vietnam. People don’t want to remember. But at least at the end of it, it’s worth it. Not his death, but for people to remember what I’ve done in his name.”
Tamworth Informed would like to pass on their thoughts to all the family and friends of not only the three men mentioned in this article but to all service men and women who serve the country.
TAMWORTH MP Christopher Pincher has welcomed the news that in a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a US think tank, the NHS has come out as number one in the world compared to 11 other countries.
The NHS was praised for its safety, affordability and efficiency, but fared less well on outcomes such as preventing early death and cancer survival.
It is the second time in a row that the NHS has come top.
The news comes despite critics claiming that the NHS is in its tightest financial situation since its creation.
Mr Pincher said: “Today our healthcare system has been ranked the best healthcare system of 11 wealthy countries. The NHS cam top in 5 of the 11 areas assess, including access and safety of care.
“Not only does the NHS rank the highest in measures related to the equity of health systems with respect to access and care process, but it also ranks first based on the performance across prevention, safe care, coordination, and patient engagement. This is a clear reflection of the dedication of the NHS staff who, despite increasing pressures, are delivering safer, more compassionate care than ever.
“Ranked the best healthcare system of 11 wealthy counties, the NHS has again shown why it is the single thing that makes us most proud to be British.”
COUNTER Terrorism police – in association with the Foreign Office and ABTA – The Travel Association – have launched a new four minute film outlining what to do if caught up in an attack.
Whilst the chances of being involved in a terror attack remain low, holidaymakers travelling abroad this summer are being urged to watch a new video designed to help keep them safe in the event of an incident.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, FCO Minister for National Security and Counter Terrorism says, “We want people to be safe so they can enjoy their holidays. As well as reading and taking note of our travel advice and taking out appropriate insurance, I encourage people to watch this film before they go away.
“While there is no specific information that British holidaymakers will be targeted this summer, it sets out some simple steps we can all take to minimise the impact of an attack if one does take place.”
Detective chief superintendent Scott Wilson, National Coordinator for Protect and Prepare, says: “The chances of being caught up in a terrorist incident are still low but sadly we have seen atrocities take place in the UK and abroad. So it is important everyone stays alert and knows what to do if the worst was to happen.
“We want people to think of this in the same way they do the safety film airlines show before take-off. They don’t expect anything bad to happen but it is a sensible safety precaution to show people what to do.
“And find out in advance the local emergency number. For EU counties it is 112.”
Nikki White, Director of Destinations and Sustainability from ABTA adds: “We recognise the importance of raising awareness and providing clear guidance for our Members and their employees. We know that customers would look to those staff working in their hotels and resorts to take the lead and respond quickly to an emerging situation.”
Police are urging motorists to avoid deadly distractions at the wheel.
A national targeted mobile phone enforcement and education campaign is running this week (10th – 16th July) to crack down on people who continue to flout the law.
The campaign is taking place across the UK and serves to remind motorists that the penalties increased earlier this year for those caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Both the fine and penalty doubled; from £100 to £200 and from 3 to 6 points.
Using a mobile phone while driving is a potentially fatal distraction and has been an illegal offence since December 2003. However, there are still motorists out there who believe it is acceptable to continue to use a phone behind the wheel.
Studies show that drivers using a mobile are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards. Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or a text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a collision.
The increase in the fine and penalty could mean that a newly qualified driver could lose their licence if caught using a hand held mobile phone within two years of passing their test.
A recent 2016 annual report on motoring, by the RAC, suggests the number of motorists who illegally use mobile phones while at the wheel is rising.
1,714 motorists were surveyed and 31% of motorists said they used a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with 8% in 2014. The number of drivers who said they had sent a message or posted on social media rose from 7% to 19%, while 14% said they had taken a photograph or video while driving.
Chief Superintendent Stephen Cullen for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police said: “Improving the safety of our roads is a year-round commitment for our officers. Although mobile phone enforcement is already part of our daily operational activity, we will be stepping up our efforts over this week to crack down on motorists who are blatantly ignoring both the law and the dangers involved in order to raise awareness of the change in legislation”.
“Many motorists are already aware that using a mobile phone while driving is illegal. This includes using your phone to follow a map, read a text or check social media, and applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. With smartphones becoming more and more embedded into our daily routines, we are all aware of how useful they can be. However, it is unacceptable to allow yourself to be distracted by them while driving, and officers will ensure any motorists doing so face the penalties involved.”
“We are urging people to think about the consequences of their actions and ask themselves how they would feel if they caused a collision and injured, or killed, somebody else simply for the sake of making a call, reading a text message or checking social media.”
AS we head into the weekend across Staffordshire, Police want to remind residents to stay alert and vigilant, a week on from the terror attacks in London.
While there is no specific intelligence of any threat in Staffordshire, it is imperative our communities stay alert and report any suspicious activity to Police.
There are, and will continue to be more officers on the streets, in town centres, crowded places and those areas of significance.
Police say that you do not need to be alarmed by this, these measures are in place across the country to provide reassurance to communities in light of the recent attacks.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Adderley said: “The last few weeks have been a very testing time for policing and worrying for many of our communities. However I am immensely proud of the work our officers have done in neighbourhoods to keep people safe and reassured.
“In Staffordshire we will continue to work with our partners and stakeholders to promote community engagement and an inclusive society on all levels. Developing positive role models is essential. We have a huge part to play in this and are a key enabler in making much of this happen.
“You will continue to see more police officers and Police Community Support Officers on our streets, they are there to keep you safe. If you see them please engage with them and raise any concerns that you may have.
“We have been overwhelmed with support from the general public, hearing your stories and seeing your pictures. Please keep them coming in and remember, if you see or hear anything that you think could be terrorist-related, trust your instinct no matter how small, then ACT and call 999.”
AFTER yesterday’s General Election, Britain has a hung parliament as it is now impossible for any party to reach the 326 MPs required to achieve an absolute majority in the House of Commons.
To win a majority of the vote, a party needs to secure more than half the seats available. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons representing the 650 constituencies in the UK: 533 are in England, 59 in Scotland, 40 in Wales, and 18 in Northern Ireland.
As this has not been achieved by any party, the Country now has a ‘Hung Parliament’.
But what exactly is a hung parliament and what happens now that no party has won the General Election? Who will be the prime minister? When will we get the next government?
What is a hung parliament?
A hung parliament means no party has won enough seats in a general election to have a majority in the House of Commons.
If no one gets a majority at the election, who will be PM?
Theresa May. In a hung parliament, the incumbent PM stays in office – and lives in Downing Street – until it is decided who will attempt to form a new government.
How is that decided?
According to the Cabinet Manual, the closet thing Britain has to a rule-book here, the incumbent PM is entitled to attempt to form a government then stay in office until Parliament meets, when they can ask MPs to approve his Queen’s Speech. Parliament is expected to meet for the first time after the election on Tuesday, June 13.
So Mrs May would be PM until Parliament meets again?
Not quite. The Cabinet Manual also says that an incumbent government “is expected to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to be able to command that confidence and there is a clear alternative.”
That could allow Labour to argue that Mrs May should quit before a certain date if there is clearly an “anti-Tory” majority in the Commons that would inevitably reject her Queen’s Speech and support Mr Corbyn as PM.
What would happen if Mrs May resigned?
Mr Corbyn would then be first in line to have the chance to form a government which would put its Queen’s Speech to the Commons to see if he could win the support of a majority of MPs.
Does a hung parliament mean another coalition government?
Not necessarily. A majority coalition is a formal agreement between two or more parties who between them have more than 323 MPs.
All the parties then get to provide ministers in the government. The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition of 2010 – 2015 is an example.
But there are other options. A new PM could decide not to seek a coalition with any other party and instead rely on a ‘confidence-and-supply’deal with smaller allies.
That means the smaller parties would support the government on financial matters like the Budget, and in confidence votes which would otherwise bring the government down. The smaller parties wouldn’t get ministerial jobs, but they would expect concessions on their chosen policies.
There’s also the option of aminority coalition, where the governing party makes a formal agreement with a smaller party but together they still don’t have a majority, meaning they have to seek support in the Commons for every vote.
Some Labour figures think their party might seek such a deal with the Lib Dems this time but Jeremy Corbyn has been very insistent that there will be no deals with other parties. And Nicola Sturgeon suggested during the campaign that the SNP might be willing to prop up a Labour minority government.
Finally, a party that lacks a majority could simply try to go it alone and govern as a minority government, vulnerable to being voted down at any time and trying to win the support of other parties on an ad hoc basis for every vote. Minority governments rarely last long.
How long would it take to sort it all out?
In 2010, the Conservatives and Lib Dems agreed their coalition in five days, largely because they were worried that financial markets would panic if Britain did not form a new government quickly.
But everyone involved now agrees that it was done too quickly, meaning some important decisions were botched. Any such talks this year could take much longer.
Could Mr Corbyn be PM even if Labour isn’t the biggest party?
Technically, yes. A PM simply has to command the confidence of the Commons: the size of his own party is constitutionally (if not politically) irrelevant.
The first Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, took office in 1924 even though Labour had fewer seats than the Conservatives and relying on the tacit support of the Liberals.
Would that be sustainable?
Quite possibly not. Prime Minister Corbyn would be vulnerable to being brought down by a combination of Conservative and SNP votes. MacDonald’s government lasted only ten months before collapsing. Baldwin’s Conservatives won the October 1924 election handsomely.
Could we have a second election soon then?
It’s much less likely than it was in Baldwin’s day. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act, passed in 2011, means that if a government loses a confidence vote, alternative prime ministers get a 14-day period in which to form their own government.
Only if a second confidence vote is lost is an early election held. Otherwise, the next election will come in May 2020.
CASUALTIES have been reported after two terrorist incidents in central London.
Just after 10pm police responded to reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on London Bridge and said there were “multiple casualties” at the scene.
Shortly after that, officers said there had been reports of stabbings at Borough Market.
“Armed officers responded and shots have been fired,” Met Police said.
A witness told Reuters that she saw people who may have had their throats cut.
At around 1.30am, a Reuters reporter also said three loud bangs had been heard near Borough Market but the reason is not yet clear.
Prime Minister Theresa May is returning to Downing Street to be briefed by security officials and is understood to be preparing to chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency response committee – Cobra – later today.
THE UK’s terror threat level is going to be reduced from “critical” to “severe“, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
At an emergency COBRA meeting, the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre advised that the UK should return to the second-highest levels, which indicates an attack is highly likely rather than imminent.
The change indicates an attack is highly likely, rather than imminently expected.
Operation Temperer, which has seen armed soldiers support police on the streets, will be gradually stood down once the bank holiday weekend ends.
It is likely that police officers will also return to normal shift patterns and as a result, you will once again see less police officers on the streets.
Police are continuing their investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing, which killed 22 people.
THE death toll following an explosion in Manchester has risen to 22, and at least 59 people have been injured.
A number of people have been killed following a suspected terrorist incident in Manchester at around 1030pm last night, Monday 22 May.
The attack happened on the fourth anniversary of the murder of British solider Lee Rigby in Woolwich, southeast London.
Latest news suggests that children are amongst those dead and injured.
Witnesses to the incident have said that they heard a loud bang, after a pop concert by singer Ariana Grande and an explosion is said to have occurred in a ‘public area’ outside the arena.
Greater Manchester Police have said that 22 people have died and at least 59 people have been injured.
Prime Minister Teresa May will be chairing a meeting of the Governments COBRA committee this morning.
People concerned about loved ones can call the casualty bureau on 0161 856 9400 / 0161 856 9900.
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see.
“Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with those 22 victims that we now know have died, the 59 people who have been injured and their loved ones. We continue to do all we can to support them. They are being treated at eight hospitals across Greater Manchester.
“This is a fast-moving investigation and we have significant resources deployed to both the investigation and the visible patrols that people will see across Greater Manchester as they wake up to news of the events last night. This will include armed officers as people would expect. More than 400 officers have been involved in this operation during the night.
“To remind you, we were called at 10.33pm to reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert. More than 240 calls came in and emergency services were very quickly on scene. Emergency numbers have been established for anyone who is concerned for loved ones who may not have returned home 0161 856 9400 or 0161 856 9900.
“We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe, at this stage, the attack last night was conducted by one man. The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.
“The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated causing this atrocity.
“We would ask people not to speculate on his details or to share names. There is a complex and wide ranging investigation underway.
“Our priority is to work with the National Counter Terrorist Policing Network and UK intelligence services to establish more details about the individual who carried out this attack.
“We have received tremendous support from across the police services and partner agencies throughout the night.
“We regularly carry out exercises to test our ability to respond to such incidents and this has ensured a very swift response from local and national agencies. I want to thank all those members of the emergency services and other agencies who have worked tirelessly through the night in very difficult circumstances. Their response has been outstanding.
“There remains a large cordon in place around Manchester Arena and Victoria Train Station which will be in place for some time. The station will remain closed while a detailed forensic search is underway. People should plan their route to work and follow Transport for Greater Manchester for updates on social media.
“Terrorists attempt to disrupt our lives and create distrust and fear in communities. We have a long history in Greater Manchester of communities standing together during difficult times. In the coming days we will be working closely with community leaders to address any issues.
“It is important that we all continue to remain vigilant, but also to go about our daily lives. We would ask people to be alert and report any suspicious activity to police on the Anti-Terrorist Hotline 0800 789321 or dialling 999.
“As people are waking up to this tragic news on what is a sad day for Greater Manchester, the officers and staff from Greater Manchester Police and the other emergency services will continue to do all they can to help get us through the difficult days ahead.”