Heseltine backs debate on Scott report

  • @johnrentoul

Political Correspondent

The Government has "every right" to reject the Scott report's expected criticisms of ministers' conduct in the arms-for-Iraq affair, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine said yesterday.

"It must be a matter of judgement in the light of the conclusions and of the evidence," he said on BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost. "You can't say whatever comes out of it we will sign up to it in advance. But what you can say is that here is somebody who has seen all the evidence, will publish all the evidence and will publish his conclusions, then there will be a proper debate. It is right that should be the position."

Asked if the Government might disagree or reject the findings, he said: "We certainly have every right to do that if we should be so minded."

Sir Richard Scott's inquiry was set up after the collapse of the Matrix Churchill trial in which three men charged with illegally exporting military hardware to Saddam Hussein argued successfully that they acted with the knowledge and tacit approval of ministers.

Mr Heseltine, who goes into hospital for the removal of kidney stones after a speech to the CBI today, was among a number of ministers who signed certificates withholding information from the court, but he amended the wording of his certificate to avoid the risk of sending innocent men to jail.