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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 14:44 GMT
Blair intervenes in Deepcut meeting
The four Deepcut victims
Clockwise from top left: Sean Benton, James Collinson, Geoff Gray and Cheryl James
The prime minister has intervened in plans for a meeting about the deaths of four young Army recruits at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey.

Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, had been due to hold a meeting with the families of people who died, about demands for a public inquiry.

Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik had asked the prime minister why Mr Ingram would not see one of the families with their solicitors.

Tony Blair replied that there were legal issues arising from what might be said at any meeting, but he added: "I do understand the point that he is making.

"If he leaves it with me, I will speak to the minister of state about it."

'Political gesture'

Earlier, Mr Ingram's offer of a meeting had been denounced as a "meaningless, political gesture" by the parents of Private Cheryl James, who was found dead at the barracks in 1995.

A statement by the family said: "We cannot forgive Mr Ingram the well-publicised, televised invitations he has made on numerous occasions this year to meet the families of those children who died at Deepcut, only to introduce conditions for such meetings once the cameras were turned off.

"His reason is that he wishes to have 'an open and honest discussion'.

"We have asked him what he could possibly have to say to us which he would not be prepared to say in front of our solicitor, but he has failed to answer this question."

The soldiers who died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002 were Private Geoff Gray, 17, from Seaham, County Durham; Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex; Private James Collinson, 17, from Perth, Scotland and Private Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, north Wales.

The Ministry of Defence said they had committed suicide, but the families have not accepted this.

They have been campaigning for a public inquiry into the deaths.

Deepcut inquiry to be reviewed
21 Oct 03  |  England
Father condemns Deepcut inquiry
19 Sep 03  |  Scotland

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