Intelligence chief accuses ministers over Scott report

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Westminster Correspondent

Ministers and former ministers have been accused by a former intelligence chief of not being truthful over the availability of intelligence reports in their evidence to the Scott arms-to-Iraq inquiry.

Sir Derek Boorman, former Chief of Defence Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, has criticised as unbelievable ministers who told the Scott inquiry they were not shown all the relevant intelligence about exports to Iraq.

Sir Derek's intervention, to be broadcast on BBC2's Government on Trial: The Scott Report tomorrow evening has added to the pressure on the Government as it studies Sir Richard Scott's report, ahead of publication on Thursday.

"I cannot remember in three and a half years a situation where a Secretary of State or a minister have made any complaint that they have not received early and timely warning of developing intelligence situations," says Sir Derek in the programme. He adds: "I am somewhat surprised that ministers might make these statements. It's a very good defensive tactic, isn't it, to say, well actually, I wasn't told . . . I think in general it doesn't have the ring of truth."

Sir Derek's remarks are directed at a whole host of ministers and former ministers who gave evidence to the inquiry. In particular, William Waldegrave, who is expected to be heavily criticised in the Scott Report, told the inquiry that a decision taken at a ministerial meeting by himself, Alan Clark and Lord Trefgarne, to relax export guidelines to Iraq, had been made without adequate intelligence reports.

In an exchange with Presiley Baxendale, counsel to the inquiry, Mr Waldegrave said: "The point I am making . . . is that those who took these decisions did not actually have . . . the right information."

Mr Waldegrave claimed that intelligence reports showingBritain was supplying an Iraqi missile project had not been seen by him, but "had gone into the state machinery" and "did not come out in the right place, of course".

Mr Clark also claimed not to have seen intelligence reports, blaming "the obsessional possessiveness" of the intelligence agencies.

And in a strong attack on the inquiry, Sir Charles Powell, former foreign affairs adviser to Mrs Thatcher, says on the programme that there was a breakdown of intelligence in Whitehall. "Relevant intelligence was not always seen by some of the officials and, indeed, by some of the ministers who had to take decisions."

Sir Richard disclosed yesterday that he would not stay silent once the report has been published. He plans to hold a series of lectures around the country, responding to invitations from university law faculties and other organisations to discuss aspects of his inquiry.