Defence Committee

Session 2007-08, 14 December 2007

Publication of Report: conclusions


The capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel by the Iranians last March was a national embarrassment, but it provided the spur to remedy major weaknesses, says the House of Commons Defence Committee in  a report published today (Fourth Report of Session 2007-08, The Iran hostages incident: the lessons learned, HC 181). 

Last June, the Government announced the findings of a report by Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fulton RM (retd) into the operational circumstances and factors leading up to the hostage-taking. This could not be published, because it addressed operational and tactical issues, but was given to the Committee for scrutiny. The Committee says “The decision not to publish the Fulton Report has led some people to conclude that the whole thing was a whitewash. We can assure the House of Commons that this is not the case. The Fulton report was robust in identifying serious weaknesses: in intelligence, in communications, in doctrine and in training.”

The MPs say that -

• The initial response of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to the Committee’s inquiry  was inadequate, but the MoD has now provided full responses to the Committee’s questions and briefing at the highest level.

• The Committee is satisfied that action is being taken to address the weaknesses exposed by the hostage-taking, and has been assured that it should significantly reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.

• The decision to allow the Service personnel to sell their stories was a serious mistake and deeply damaging to the Royal Navy.  While the Secretary of State for Defence has apologised, this should not absolve others from blame.

This inquiry had to be held in secret, because of the operational sensitivity of the issues covered, and - unusually -  the Committee is unable to publish the evidence on which it has reached its conclusions. The Committee has written to the Secretary of State for Defence with a number of classified conclusions and recommendations.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:

“The capture of Royal Navy personnel last March was an embarrassment to the whole country, and the way it was handled afterwards compounded the embarrassment. People around the country, including many retired Service people, have been asking how it could have come about.

We hope that it will be clear from our report that we have conducted a thorough inquiry.  We cannot make public the evidence we have received, because of its security classification, but we can assure people that the Ministry of Defence has given us a detailed account of what happened, and has made good progress in putting right the weaknesses which allowed it to happen.”


The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. The Defence Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Ministry of Defence and its associated public bodies.


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