Senior Tory Crispin Blunt: Philip Hammond 'not straightforward' over Libya military plans
A senior Conservative MP has accused Philip Hammond of being “deliberately misleading” in his response to concerns British troops could be imminently deployed to Libya.
After a trip to North Africa last month, the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) wrote to Mr Hammond about the prospect of deploying 1,000 British ground troops in training and security roles for the new Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
The Foreign Secretary responded by insisting the letter was “wrong on a number of counts”.
He denied the UK was “preparing to deploy ground troops to Libya”; and said “at no point did British diplomats” brief members of the committee to that effect.
Instead, Mr Hammond said the UK was still in “in discussions about a Libyan International Assistance Mission (LIAM)” and what role Britain would play in that.
Crispin Blunt, the FAC chairman and a Conservative MP, has hit out at Mr Hammond, accusing him of “not dealing straightforwardly with Parliament”.
Mr Blunt said the differentiation between preparing to deploy ground troops and considering how to assist LIAM was “immensely narrow”.
And he was more forceful on the Foreign Secretary’s comments about diplomats.
“Your statement that ‘at no point did British diplomats’ brief the Committee on the deployment of British troops to Libya is very strictly correct,” wrote Tory MP Mr Blunt.
“However, that point is so narrow as to be wholly and deliberately misleading to the uninformed reader.”
He said the briefing had come from “another official British source” and was witnessed by diplomats.
His letter concluded: “I regret having to write in these terms. The welcome candour of briefings by all whom we met in Cairo and Tunis contrasts sharply with your less-than-candid reply to my request for further detail on a rapidly developing situation that may require further active British engagement...
“The international community undoubtedly faces a tough challenge in supporting those diplomatic efforts in the complex environment of Libya. However, that challenge can only be made more difficult by not dealing straightforwardly with Parliament.”
Mr Blunt is urging ministers to come to Parliament to update MPs before committing any forces to Libya.