100 damning criticisms by Scott that MPs must consider today

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The 100 criticisms of ministers and their officials on this page are taken directly from Sir Richard Scott's report on his inquiry into arms to Iraq. In most cases, they are exact quotations of his words. In some cases, only where brevity and clarity demand it, they have been paraphrased while accurately reflecting his meaning. (The references after each criticism give the section, chapter and paragraph of the report.)

Most of the criticisms centre on the Matrix Churchill prosecution, which collapsed in 1992, and the use by ministers of Public Interest Immunity Certificates to withhold evidence from the defence. Only Michael Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade, now Deputy Prime Minister, emerges from the Matrix Churchill section of the report with any credit. For the rest, there is a long litany of pointed and implied criticism. On some occasions, Sir Richard's thrust is sharp, although his language often is not: "I do not accept that Sir Nicholas Lyell was not personally at fault."

On others, he knows something was wrong but refuses to apportion blame. His sense of frustration with what was clearly a chapter of incompetence and haphazard administration is palpable: "I find it astonishing"; "There was no good reason"; "There was a failure at all levels . . ."

The Government maintains - and Sir Richard Scott agreed under pressure at his press conference - that there was no "conspiracy" to send innocent men to jail. However, read in its totality and drawing the criticisms out one by one the Matrix Churchill section of his report, raises serious questions about the conduct of ministers, especially the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell. Five principal criticisms are levelled at him personally:

- Sir Nicholas did not inform the trial judge of Mr Heseltine's reservations about his PIIC;

- He did not recognise the legal and constitutional importance of Mr Heseltine's stand;

- He did not read a crucial letter from Mr Heseltine, a fellow senior minister, for three to seven weeks;

- He did not ensure the prosecution was adequately instructed;

- He did not read other vital papers.

The other area to take the brunt of Sir Richard Scott's criticism is the Government's changing of the guidelines on exports to Iraq. This section is littered with the phrases "untrue", "misleading", and "inaccurate" to describe the ministers' response to attempts by Parliament and the public to discover if the export policy towards Iraq has indeed changed.

William Waldegrave, then a Foreign Office minister, now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is singled out for direct or inferred criticism six times in the section by name.

Mr Waldegrave is not named, but is included in several other instances where Sir Richard criticises ministers as a group for failing to keep Parliament informed.

What Scott said about the Government's knowledge of the Iraqi supergun. The statement to the House of Commons by Nicholas Ridley, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, was made on 18 April 1990.

1. Mr Ridley's statement that the Government had "recently" become aware of an Iraqi project to develop a long- range gun was a far more elastic use of the word "recently" than was warranted by the known facts. F4.28

2. The Ridley statement did not mention that the Tory MP Sir Hal Miller had been involved in discussions with the Government in June 1988. F4.30

3. The Ridley statement was inadequate or inaccurate. F4.31

4. Unfortunately, the inquiry has had difficulty in tracing all the relevant papers F4.31

5. Between the fourth draft and the final draft of the Ridley statement certain relevant matters had also been deleted from the text. F4.40

6. The eighth draft circulated to Charles Powell, Mrs Thatcher's assistant, contained the word "recently" in regard to the state of the Government's knowledge. It is clear that the word "recently" was deliberately chosen and that its use was apt to be misleading. F4.43

7. The Government's refusal to facilitate the giving of evidence to the Trade and Industry Select Committee by the former MoD officials Mr Harding and Mr Primrose may be regarded as a failure to comply fully with the obligations of accountability owed to Parliament. F4.66

8. Mr Waldegrave said in Parliament that in the light of the charges laid against individuals in the Supergun affair and of the continuing investigations by Customs and Excise it would be "wrong for him to comment" This answer is puzzling. F4.68

9. Mr Lilley's answer to Parliament on 12 December 1990 about Supergun- related matters was not an answer to the Labour MP Mr Caborn's question. F4.69

10. An accurate answer to the question would have required him to acknowledge that the DTI knew in June 1988 that the Walter Somers export order had "possible military implications". F4.69

11. Muddle undoubtedly had a part to play. But it went further than mere muddle. F4.80

12. The evidence indicates suspicion that an Iraqi long-range artillery project was in contemplation. Parliament could, and should, have been told this. F4.80

13. The Trade and Industry Select Committee could, and should, have been told this. F4.80

Export Guidelines

What Scott said about changes to the rules covering arms sales to Iran and Iraq, the Government's attitude to Iraq and the extent to which Parliament and the public were told about the changes.

14. The proposition that the Government's position over "arms sales to Iran and Iraq" was "even-handed" had been untrue ever since the decision to "return to a more strict approach to Iran". D4.7

15. Lord Howe's parliamentary answers preclude him from maintaining his resistance to the proposition that there had been a change in policy. D4.8

16. Letters signed by Lord Howe need not have said "the Government have not changed their policy on defence sales to Iraq or Iran". The untrue sentence could have been omitted. D4.9

17. Mr Waldegrave contended that a letter sent by him to Tom Sackville MP on 10 August 1989 was an accurate statement of government policy. It was not. D4.11

18. William Waldegrave's statements to MPs were untrue. D4.5

19. To conclude his statements were true is not remotely arguable. D4.7

20. Statements that the Government was pursuing a policy of impartiality between Iraq and Iran in letters from Lynda Chalker, Mrs Thatcher and John Major as Foreign Secretary were not accurate. D4.14

21. I do not doubt Mr Major's statement that he signed the letters believing them to be accurate, but I do not accept that they were accurate D4.16

22. The description of Government policy sent to MPs in a letter on Lord Trefgarne's behalf was not accurate. D4.20

23. The same criticisms apply to letters sent by Alan Clark to two MPs. D4.21

24. Letters sent by Mr Waldegrave denying the sale of British lethal weapons to Iraq following the execution by Iraq of the British journalist Farzad Bazoft were untrue. D4.24

25. David Alton MP and Ann Clwyd MP were not given adequate or accurate answers to questions about arms sales to Iran and Iraq in February and March 1989. D4.28

26. The second part of an answer from Alan Clark to a Parliamentary question on 20 April 1989 was inaccurate and misleading. D4.29

27. On 21 April an answer to the House of Commons from Mrs Thatcher, drafted in the DTI, was inaccurate and misleading. D4.30

28. Answers given by the Government defence spokesman Lord Glenarthur were inaccurate in their references to the sale of non-lethal equipment to Iran and Iraq. D4.32

29. The failure to inform Parliament of the current state of Government policy on non-lethal arms sale to Iraq was deliberate and was an inevitable result of the agreement between three junior Ministers. D4.42

30. The problem with the "half the picture" approach adopted by Lord Howe and others is that those to whom the incomplete statement is addressed do not know . . . that an undisclosed half is being withheld from them. D4.55

31. Lord Howe's unapologetic acceptance of and support for the divergence between statements of policy and actual policy was more realistic than Sir Robin Butler's and the former Saudi ambassador David Gore-Booth's attempts at explanation. D4.55

32. The withholding of information by an accountable Minister should never be based on reasons of convenience or for avoidance of political embarrassment. D4.58

33. Mr Waldegrave gave inadequate and misleading replies to Parliament. D4.62

34. The Government statement made in 1989 and 1990 consistently failed to comply with the standards set by paragraph 27 of Questions of Procedure for Ministers. D4.63

35. The Government statement failed to discharge the obligations imposed by the constitutional principle of ministerial accountability. D4.63

36. Every decision by a minister to withhold information from Parliament and from the public constitutes an avoidance, and sometimes an evasion, pro tanto, of ministerial accountability. D4.56

37. Answers to Parliamentary Questions failed to inform Parliament of the current state of Government policy. D4.42

38. This failure was deliberate. D4.42

39. This failure was the inevitable result of the agreement between three junior ministers that no publicity would be given to the decision to adopt the more liberal policy D4.42

40. Policy on defence sales to Iraq did not remain unchanged. D4.6

41. They were, in any ordinary use of language, agreeing on a change of policy. D3.125

42. In evidence to the Inquiry, Mr Waldegrave strenuously and consistently asserted his belief, in the face of a volume of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that policy on defence sales to Iraq had remained unchanged. D4.6

43. Mr Waldegrave contended that the passage I have cited was an accurate statement of Government policy at the time. It was not. D4.111

44. It is impossible to quarrel with the expression "a more liberal policy" as being a fair and accurate description of what the players, including Mr Waldegrave, had in mind at the time. D3.47

45. The words "a more liberal policy" describe in ordinary and simple language the reality of what he and his colleagues were discussing. D3.47

46. The concealing of the policy of providing government-backed export insurance for defence sales to Iraq, approved by John Major, was reprehensible. D2.120

47. "The most that can be said against you, John Major, is that . . . as Chancellor of the Exchequer you knew that the Government had decided to change the guidelines" - given in evidence by Mr Major's private secretary. D4.51

Matrix Churchill

What Scott said about the arms trial where the Government withheld documents helpful to the defendants.

48. The remarks made by Mr Clark at a meeting with machine tool manufacturers on 20 January 1988 were highly material to the issue of whether or not there should be a prosecution. G5.44

49. Customs concentrated on obtaining evidence of what Mr Clark had said. They did not try to put themselves in the shoes of the listeners. G5.44

50. If officials of the eminence of Sir Robin Butler and Sir Peter Gregson were of the view that Trade Secretary Alan Clark's remarks, as recorded, were ambiguous . . . it would be difficult to be critical of machine tool manufacturers who claimed to have so understood them. G5.44

51. Mr Clark's witness statement about his advice to Matrix Churchill executives about their exports to Iraq gives a misleading impression to the ordinary reader. G6.22

52. Mr Clark must take responsibility for this. G6.22

53. Mr Clark did not give the wording of his statement the serious and careful attention that was required. G6.22

54. There was a failure at all levels to ensure that requests for documents made to departments and agencies were suitable to encompass not simply the prosecution case but also the lines of expected defence. G9.13

55. Kenneth Baker's Public Interest Immunity Certificates would, unless the judge ruled otherwise, have barred the Matrix Churchill director Paul Henderson from giving evidence describing the assistance he had given to the intelligence agencies. G11.13

56. Mr Baker's certificate would have barred the prosecution from providing evidence dealing with Mr Henderson's communications with the intelligence agencies. G11.13

57. I do not agree with the former Foreign Office Minister Tristan Garel- Jones. G13.32

58. His suggestion that the references in his PII Certificate would be understood to cover damage that was "unquantifiably small" is risible. G13.32

59. It is surprising that Mr Garel-Jones did not appear to have made any attempt to ascertain the basis of Michael Heseltine's view that non- disclosure of documents would be "unjust". G13.35

60. I find it astonishing that a letter to Sir Nicholas Lyell from Michael Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade, dealing with a subject of difficulty [his signing of the PIICs] should have been left unread for a period of between three and seven weeks. G13.70

61. I do not accept that Sir Nicholas Lyell was not personally at fault. G13.125

62. I would have expected Sir Nicholas Lyell to recognise that important constitutional and legal issues were raised by Mr Heseltine's stand. G13.125

63. I would have expected him to ensure that the prosecution was adequately instructed. G13.125

64. There was no good reason why the preparation of the PII Certificates should have been left uncompleted for so long. G18.38

65. There was no reason why the defence should not have been given details and numbers of the documents covered by the certificates. G18.38

66. There was no good reason why the schedule of documents should have been omitted from the PII Certificate of Peter Lilley, the former Trade Secretary G18.38

67. There was no good reason why the defence should not have been informed of the position regarding the 16 documents extracted from the Cabinet Office files. G18.38

68. Sir Nicholas Lyell, who advised Mr Heseltine it was his duty to make the PII class claims, did not read the documents. G18.49

69. Apart from Mr Heseltine, the Ministers who signed the PII Certificates in the Matrix Churchill case did not take into account that the documents were relevant to a pending criminal case. G18.65

70. Claims that ministers were under a duty to sign PIICs were based on a fundamental misconception of law. G18.66

71. The Government's view of the law on which the making of the PII class claims in the Matrix Churchill case was made was unsound. G18.94

72. The claims that ministers were under a duty to sign had no sound legal foundation. G18.104

73. Ministers' PIIs ought to have had no place in a criminal trial. G18.104

74. Ministers approved the export of lathes to Iraq knowing they would be used to make shells. H1.21

75. Ministers and officials were prepared to tolerate continuing breaches of the export controls system by the use of Jordan. E2.29

76. To describe the revised formulation as no more than an interpretation of the old is so plainly inapposite as to be incapable of being sustained by serious argument. D3.123

77. The reference in each of these letters to the criterion that governed the supply of non-lethal defence equipment to Iraq was not accurate. D4.4

78. The DTI official Eric Beston signed his witness statement on 4 February 1991. It contained passages which did not accord with and served to conceal the true position. G6.479.

79. Mr Beston's witness statement mis-stated guideline 3, in the light of which the Matrix Churchill exports had been considered. Mr Beston knew this. G6.4

80. The effect of the deletions in DTI official Anthony Steadman's statement was to turn a fair statement of the position . . . into a misleading one. G6.25

81. The interference by experienced lawyers with Mr Steadman's witness statement was unsatisfactory. G6.29

82. Mr Steadman, as the signatory of the witness statement, cannot escape responsibility for the misleading character of part of its contents. G6.34

83. The practice under which witness statements of fact are drafted or amended by Government officials . . . is to be deprecated. G6.3884.

84. The witness statements signed by Steadman and Beston made no mention of the known fact that the intelligence reports of 30 November 1987 had provided firm evidence that the machine tools comprised in 1987/88 licences were intended for munitions production. G6.56

85. The two witness statements made no mention of the information in the letter sent by the Matrix Churchill employee to the Foreign Office. G6.56

86. They made no mention of the evidence that machine tools exported by Matrix Churchill . . . were subsequently intended to be used for the Iraqi missile programme project 1728. G6.56

87. They ignored the information contained in the Intelligence Report of 13 October 1989. G6.56


What Scott said about the case of three businessmen convicted of supplying arms to Iraq via Jordan, after being denied documents helpful to their defence.

88. The MoD official Lt-Col Glazebrook's minutes would have materially assisted the defence. They should have been disclosed. J6.36

89. The Customs witness DS Wilkinson gave no indication of the number of meetings which he had with Paul Grecian, the principal defendant in the case. J6.39

90. The brevity of his statement would not have mattered if notes of the meetings had been disclosed to the defence. But those notes were not disclosed. J6.40

91. Customs prosecuting counsel Andrew Collins should either have examined the meeting notes himself or he should have had one of the other lawyers on the prosecution team do so. J6.42

92. Well before the time of the proposed trial there was ample information available to Customs for them to have anticipated that at least some of the defendants intended to run a defence that could have been assisted by the documents they had asked for. J6.48

93. The deficiencies in the steps taken to identify relevant documents is especially surprising in view of the involvement of a number of the key members of the Ordtech prosecuting team in the Matrix Churchill prosecution. J6.53

94. I find it difficult to accept that prosecuting counsel's duties did not extend to identifying relevant documents. J6.55

95. No attempt was made by the prosecution to peruse Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence files. J6.99

96. It was the failure of the prosecution to identify and to disclose to the defendants the relevant documents that led the Court of Appeal to conclude that the defendants had been deprived of the opportunity to have a fair trial. J6.100

Reginald Dunk

What Scott said about the case of Reginald Dunk, a businessman convicted of supplying Sterling sub-machine guns to Iraq. Diplomats who could have assisted his case were prevented from giving evidence.

97. Expressions such as a "bad show" or "a curious procedure" fall a long way short of adequately describing the degree of impropriety constituted by the steps taken in 1985 by FCO officials at the behest of Customs to dissuade the Iraqi and Jordanian embassies from waiving diplomatic immunity. The purpose of these steps was to prevent the defendants from calling embassy witnesses to give evidence at the trial. J5.20

98. For the FCO officials to have lent themselves to this interference with the course of a criminal trial was thoroughly reprehensible J5.20

99. I regard the conduct of Customs in the affair as deserving of greater censure than that of the FCO officials. J5.21

100. It would have been improper for any officials to advise the embassies in such a way. But that is what the FCO proceeded to do. J5.17