ARMS INQUIRY: Anderson apologises after Sierra Leone 'disclosures'

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DONALD ANDERSON, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, was facing Tory demands to resign last night after he admitted disclosing "certain aspects" of the Arms to Sierra Leone inquiry.

In a brief statement, Mr Anderson, the Labour MP for Swansea East, apologised to MPs for his "discourtesy" and the inaccuracy of previous comments in which he had denied briefing a Foreign Office official on the report. Mr Anderson's disclosure followed the suspension of Ernie Ross, the Labour MP for Dundee West, for 10 working days for passing a draft copy of the committee's highly critical report on the affair to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary.

In the report, MPs attacked the Foreign Office officials' failure to inform ministers sufficiently that a British company was supplying weapons to Sierra Leone despite a United Nations arms embargo.

Mr Anderson denied claims by the Standards and Privileges Committee that he had given a "full briefing" on the report to Andy Henderson, the head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office parliamentary relations department.

However, a released Foreign Office minute of the meeting showed that Mr Anderson told Mr Henderson "the report would not be highly critical of ministers" and the "bulk of the criticism would be aimed at senior officials".

In his personal statement, Mr Anderson told the House: "I have no reason to doubt that Mr Henderson's minute is an accurate report." But he added: "When I spoke yesterday, I spoke in good faith."