Fears grew today that slap-happy British controllers of pilotless drones are causing mayhem in Afghanistan.
However Defence Minister Andrew Robathan refused to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding drone operation, despite disturbing evidence that some controllers are poorly trained.
A leaked military investigation raised concerns about training and selection of the operators sitting thousands of miles away from the scene of operations.
The investigation came after a British Hermes spy drone cut out in mid air and crashed into an unused US Marines hangar at Camp Bastion last year.
Investigators found that human and organisational failings had contributed to the mishap, which was the eleventh such crash in the past five years.
During a Westminster Hall debate today on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Mr Robathan refused to introduce a code of practice to cover drone operations.
He also refused demands to release details of the rules of engagement and failed to confirm what legal advice had been sought when firing drones.
The minister admitted 360 firings from British-controlled Reaper drones in Afghanistan, involving 308 Hellfire "precision guided" missiles and 52 laser-guided bombs.
Each firing was guided by "a whole team of highly skilled people," and Reaper operators were "just as connected to the reality on the ground" as pilots of conventional aircraft, he claimed.
Left MP John McDonnell protested that over 3,000 civilians had been killed in Afghanistan as a result of drone attacks.
Labour shadow defence minister Kevan Jones urged a new code of practice with clear command and control structures. He also questioned the veil of secrecy surrounding the use of drones.
But Mr Jones emphasised that Labour's position was to support the use of UAVs as an "important technology" in terms of military capability and also with regard to developing British technology.
He admitted that US deployment of drones had "caused controversy."
Birmingham Labour MP Gisela Stuart launched today's debate. She urged Parliament to consider the rules surrounding the use of drones, on which the government intended to spend "extraordinary amounts of money."
Ms Stuart argued that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles was a technology
"which if used within the right constraints and within the right controls is one that is with us."
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