James Sunderland intervenes in debate on Operation Telic

James Sunderland makes interventions in a debate marking 20 years since the beginning of Operation Telic in Iraq recalling his own experiences, paying tribute to all those who did not come back, and seeking assurances from the Minister that there must be a good reason for the deployment of armed forces in the future.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

I had the privilege of commanding two sub-units out in Iraq on Operation Telic 4, and a few years later on Operation Telic 13. I can recall vividly in Basra, on Telic 4, deploying into a relatively benign environment—floppy hats and shorts, open-top Land Rovers at Basra International airport—but my word, at the end of that tour, we were deployed with body armour, helmets, electronic counter-measures and the full suite of protection. How far we came in that particular tour. I can vividly recall journeys from Basra up to Al-Amarah and other locations. I think Operation Telic was the most kinetic tour for many years.

I want to raise two points. First, will my hon. Friend join me in commending and thanking all those brilliant soldiers who served alongside us in our tours there? Those people made those tours, and thank God, I brought them home. Secondly and more importantly, many were not quite so fortunate, and I commend all of those who were engaged in the most hostile circumstances, the most hostile encounters, in really hostile conditions. I hope my hon. Friend will join me in paying tribute to all those who did not come back, and to all those who sacrificed so much.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)

I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I completely agree with his analysis. It is absolutely right that we take this opportunity to pay tribute to those who served, and of course in particular to those who sacrificed.


James Sunderland 

Our armed forces bear arms voluntarily through choice and because of the duty they have in doing their job. But it is not just about being told what to do; it is also because they believe in that particular cause. May I ask the Minister, on that very serious point, to confirm to the House that, for all future operations and all future decisions taken to deploy armed forces in possible expeditionary warfare, that rigour will be employed with every decision, we will not take that good will for granted, and there will be a very good reason for the use of force?

The Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families (Dr Andrew Murrison)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, of course; as a soldier, he knows full well the horrors of war and what war means. No Government would join battle willingly and, as I said in my early remarks, lessons have been learned from this pair of conflicts that we have had in the 21st century. Only a very imprudent Government would embark upon such an initiative or initiatives now, knowing what we now know about the nature and consequences of this kind of operation and the long shadow that it casts—in the case of Iraq, of course, we are living with it still. Some, I am afraid, live with it more than others.