Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nimrod families may get 'close to £1m' compensation

Families of servicemen killed when a Nimrod spy plane suffered a fuel leak and exploded in Afghanistan two years ago have been offered close to £1m in compensation, it has been disclosed.

That the nation which invented the railway and was once the workshop of the world cannot now stop fuel leaks in its aeroplanes is a sad commentary on the destruction wrought by socialism. There is nothing wrong with the old De Havilland Comet airframe. It is the modern-day bungling that is at fault

The Ministry of Defence and the legal teams representing families of the 14 men are still in discussion about the eventual lump sum payments, but an MoD source confirmed it has proposed nearly £1m in some cases.

The figure takes into account the loss of the men's earnings and pensions, the careers they might have had and whether they had wives and children.

"A couple of individuals may be eligible for close to the £1million mark, but it doesn't apply across the board," the source said.

However, the payout comes with a condition preventing the families from seeking any further legal redress.

Barrister John Cooper, who represents Graham Knight, the father of Sergeant Ben Knight, 25, who died in the crash, said his instructions were to pursue a claim - most likely for negligence - in the High Court.

"The main aim of those I represent is for those responsible for what happened to be held to account in court," he said.

The MoD declined to comment on the figure, but said it was willing to pay compensation and expected to do so by the end of the financial year.

The news comes as defence minister Bob Ainsworth said that the RAF's 37-year-old Nimrod spy planes have experienced more than 300 fuel leaks since the fatal crash near Kandahar in September 2006.

Mr Ainsworth said that while half of the recorded leaks were in the wings and posed "no hazard to the aircraft", 111 were within the fuselage of the plane as was the fatal Nimrod leak, which saw fuel come into contact with a hot-air pipe after mid-air refuelling.

Following an inquest into the deaths last year, coroner Andrew Walker called for the remaining 15 Nimrods to be grounded because they were not airworthy.

Mr Ainsworth responded that they were, and was later forced to apologise to the families for his "insensitivity" at making the statement immediately afterwards.

Confirming the leak figures in a written reply to a request from his Conservative opposite number Liam Fox last week, Mr Ainsworth said the abolition of mid-air refuelling and the shutting down of the aircraft's hot air system during flight meant the risks were now "extremely low".

"Despite this, no leakage, however small, from pipes, couplings or fuselage tanks is accepted and the aircraft will not fly until such leaks have been rectified," he added.

But Mr Knight reacted angrily to the latest figures.

"We've said all along not enough has been done to ensure the safety of these aircraft. That there have been 111 leaks proves the point. Even one leak is too many if it's in the wrong place," he said.

Gerald Howarth, the Tory defence spokesman, added: "The leaks are a matter of great concern. It's well known that there have been problems with the fuel system, which is why it is important the Government expedites the programme to replace the fleet."


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