Cook rejects charge minister misled Lords

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The Independent Online
ROBIN COOK yesterday denied one of his ministers had misled the House of Lords over the possible breach of a UN arms embargo on Sierra Leone.

The Foreign Secretary was replying to a claim by Michael Howard, the shadow foreign secretary, that Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons had misled the Lords, and that a personal apology was required.

Mr Cook told BBC television's Breakfast with Frost that it was being suggested that because Lady Symons had been briefed on a possible customs investigation into arms dealing, she should have announced it to the Lords at the time. "I can't imagine anything more absurd in the very early stages of a customs inquiry," Mr Cook said.

"I mean, as if you should get up in the House and announce it. We're not going to get many successful investigations if we proceed in that way. She behaved impeccably."

Sir John Kerr, Head of the Diplomatic Service, last week admitted in evidence to a Commons committee that Lady Symons had been briefed last March on the customs investigation into alleged sanctions-busting. Last month Lady Symons appeared to tell the Lords she had not seen any papers about the inquiry.