The Defence Secretary has apologised to the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq while travelling in lightly armoured Snatch Land Rovers.

Sir Michael Fallon wrote to a number of families apologising for delays in bringing in alternative protected vehicles “which could have saved lives”.

At least 37 UK soldiers died in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan while travelling in Snatch Land Rovers, with last year’s Chilcot Inquiry heavily critical of delays in replacing them.

Sir Michael Fallon
Sir Michael Fallon expressed his ‘deepest sympathies’ in the letter (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“I am fully aware of the struggle you have had to bring this matter to court over the last decade and I recognise this has had a significant impact on you and your family,” Sir Michael wrote in his letter to the families.

“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 from the decisions taken at the time in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.

Susan Smith, mother of Private Phillip Hewett
Sue Smith, mother of Private Phillip Hewett (Yui Mok/PA)

“I confirm that we have learnt lessons from this.

“The Government must and will ensure that our Armed Forces are always properly equipped and resourced.”

General Sir Mike Jackson, chief of the General Staff between 2003 and 2006, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was a fair assumption that a more heavily armoured vehicle would have offered much better protection for British troops.

General Sir Mike Jackson
Gen Sir Mike Jackson said replacements for the Snatch Land Rover could have been brought in more quickly (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He said he believed replacements for the Snatch Land Rover could have been brought in more quickly, adding: “The Army at that point did not have its own procurement budget.

“It does now, and perhaps that is one of the good lessons learned that’s come out of this whole rather sorry story, we do have our own procurement budget now.

“Yes, better vehicles, better-protected vehicles were eventually procured, but the process was rather Byzantine and inevitably, thereby, lengthy.”