Aitken tackles question of resignation

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The Independent Online

Jonathan Aitken, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said last night that he would consider resigning if it was established BMARC, the arms company of which he was once a non-executive director, had shipped weapons to Iran.

Speaking during BBC TV's Question Time, Mr Aitken repeated his denials that he had any knowledge of any illegal shipments after becoming a director in 1989. He insisted the "key thing" was not whether BMARC had exported the weapons but whether he, as a non- executive director, should be held responsible when he said he had no knowledge of it.

"A non-executive director is really only as good as the information he is give," he said, adding he was not told naval guns sent to Singapore were possibly destined, as Michael Heseltine suggested in his Commons statement earlier this week, to Iran.

Asked by a member of the audience whether he felt a minister should stand aside as a matter of honour while a company with which he was associated is investigated he said no. "

Mr Aitken asserted that the Trade and Industry select committee, which is considering whether to open an inquiry, would have access to "all information" concerning the contract - indicating this would include access to confidential intelligence reports on BMARC.

On Monday, Mr Aitken faces a full Opposition Day debate in the Commons.

Inside Parliament, page 8