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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 16:53 GMT
Hoon called to Iraq death inquest
Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon will attend the inquest which is being held in Oxford
Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon has been called to give evidence at the inquest of a British tank commander.

Sgt Steve Roberts was killed in Iraq after he was ordered to give up body armour because of shortages.

James Rowley QC told the inquest that questions about why Mr Hoon took eight weeks to authorise the ordering of extra body armour were not answered.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) lawyer told coroner Andrew Walker the delay fell outside the scope of the inquest.

Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Mr Walker replied: "I do not know if it is or is not relevant until I explore the reasons for that delay.

"My difficulty is that it is a gap in a sequence of events that led perhaps to a delay in processing an order of goods that had relevance in this case."

'Relevant details'

Mr Rowley, acting for Sgt Roberts' widow Samantha, said Mr Hoon was "an obvious person to ask" why there was a delay.

Sgt Steve Roberts
Sgt Roberts was the first British soldier killed in action in Iraq

"One would hope as former Secretary of State and knowing he was coming to see us, Mr Hoon would be able to find out the relevant details," he said.

Mr Rowley said Mr Hoon was asked to authorise more body armour in September 2002 but that authorisation was not received until 13 November, which put the whole process back eight weeks.

Earlier, Major Darren Corrie, responsible for investigating the supply of body armour for the Army Board of Inquiry into Sgt Roberts' death, told the inquest he had not been able to find out why there had been a delay.

Mr Walker said there was the possibility of a summons to ensure Mr Hoon attends the inquest, which is being held in Oxford.

Sgt Roberts, 33, of Shipley, West Yorkshire, and originally from Cornwall, died from "friendly fire" in 2003.

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