Page last updated at 19:52 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 20:52 UK

Minister denies Army chief 'plot'

Gen Dannatt and Kevan Jones
The claims have been reported in two national newspapers

Defence Minister Kevan Jones has denied allegations that he is involved in a plot to tarnish the reputation of the outgoing head of the Army.

Several newspapers have claimed that "an MoD minister" has encouraged Labour MPs to try to get Gen Sir Richard Dannatt's expenses claims made public.

But Mr Jones said it was "a silly season story" and he looked forward to continuing to work with Gen Dannatt.

Gen Dannatt steps down as head of the Army later this month.

He will be replaced by Gen Sir David Richards, a former commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan.

In an MoD statement issued to the BBC, Mr Jones said: "General Dannatt and I have worked very closely on a number of personnel related issues, because we both care deeply about service men and women.

"I look forward to continuing our working relationship with Gen Dannatt, both now as CGS [Chief of the General Staff] and beyond into his retirement."

In July, Gen Dannatt drew criticism from some government ministers when he told the BBC he would be compiling "a shopping list" of equipment badly needed by Britain's troops in Afghanistan.

Labour peer

Reports in the Sun and Daily Mail newspapers centred on claims that MPs had been encouraged to submit Freedom of Information (FoI) requests designed to expose details of Gen Dannatt's expenses.

General Dannatt is a man of honour and integrity who leads from the front
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox

Government sources have told the BBC that some Freedom of Information requests have been submitted to the MoD, but they have not been identified as coming from Labour MPs.

A source said: "There is no campaign by Labour ministers to tarnish Gen Dannatt's reputation."

But the BBC has established that Labour peer Lord Foulkes has submitted parliamentary questions about Gen Dannatt's expenses which he wants the MoD to answer during the summer recess.

In particular, he wants information on how often the general has used a helicopter for travel within the UK.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said Labour had become the government of "fear and smear".

"Whilst suppressing reports of their own incompetence, they attempt to undermine the reputation of one of our most distinguished generals," he said.

"At a time when our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, ministers spend their time in puerile personality politics.

"General Dannatt is a man of honour and integrity who leads from the front. His Labour detractors are squalid and cowardly, undermining from the shadows."

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