Fury as minister brands army kit shortage complaints 'absolute bollocks' in obscene Commons outburst

12th January 2008
Daily Mail

Backlash: Armed Forces' Minister Bob Ainsworth

Gordon Brown's Armed Forces Minister has been accused of treating troops with contempt after he dismissed complaints about life-threatening kit shortages as "absolute bollocks".

Bob Ainsworth made the obscene remark during a Commons debate about the problems facing soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last Thursday's edition of Hansard, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings, records in column 608 how he aggressively interrupted a Tory speaker.

Mr Ainsworth is the first MP to have used the word in the main chamber, according to Hansard's verbatim records, which go back more than 200 years.

The extraordinary incident took place during a speech on Thursday by Tory MP John Baron, who warned that Army top brass were concerned that soldiers were spending too much time on active service.

The MP for Billericay then added: "Troops returning from theatre tell of life-threatening shortages of kit, including body armour, satellite phones, oil to prevent guns jamming and electronic equipment to detect roadside bombs."

At this point, Hansard records that Mr Ainsworth, a former sheet metal worker, made his obscene interjection.

A shocked Tory MP, Tony Baldry, picked up on the comment, asking: "Is that a parliamentary phrase?"

Amazingly, Tory Deputy Speaker Sir Michael Lord, who was chairing the debate, failed to rebuke Mr Ainsworth.

The word is among an unofficial list of "unparliamentary" words that MPs are not supposed to use, including "liar", "coward" and "traitor" as well as more quaint terms such as "guttersnipe" and "blackguard".

Mr Baron told The Mail on Sunday Mr Ainsworth was treating legitimate concerns with "contempt".

He said: "This language reinforces the impression that this Government is not taking seriously the troops' concerns."

However Mr Ainsworth, 55, claimed the Hansard account was inaccurate. "I didn't use this word," he said. "It is not the language I use. I am telling you it is not true."

However Mr Baldry, who was sitting opposite Mr Ainsworth, said: "My recollection was that he said 'absolute bollocks'"'.

"I don't think he intended it to be heard, but I picked him up on it."