Labour savages 'vindictiveness' over Scott

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The Independent Online
ROBIN COOK, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, yesterday accused the Government of being "petty and vindictive" in allowing him a mere three-and-a-half hours to read the Scott Report in advance of its publication later this week.

And he will not be allowed to take researchers and assistants to help him analyse the 1,800-page report, which he will see in a secure room at the Department of Trade and Industry just before it is published on Thursday. Ministers, some of whom are criticised in the report on arms- to-Iraq, have had it in their hands since last Wednesday.

Last week, the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, said in the House of Commons that the Government should allow Opposition spokesmen adequate advance access to the report - which is twice as long as Tolstoy's War and Peace - so that they, like ministers, could prepare comments.

It was assumed that the report would be available from early morning but it emerged yesterday that Mr Cook and Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs, will not see it until noon, three-and-a- half hours before publication.

Mr Cook said yesterday: "This is reaching the level of farce. The increasing constraints that the Government is putting on us indicate that there is a lot in this report they do not want us to find by the publication deadline."

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday last week, Sir Richard Scott, the appeal court judge who chaired the inquiry, said that he was "appalled" by some politicians. He disclosed that the report has 50 pages of recommendations to the Government, though none relate to individuals.

If the Government fails to carry them out, "I shall feel disappointed," he said. "I shall disagree with the decision, but that is the prerogative of the executive, who are accountable to an elected parliament."

Regarding the possibility of some ministers being forced to resign, Sir Richard added, "Resignations are none of my business. Have I discussed it with my wife? The answer is yes, of course. But those are private views, not available for public consumption or discussion." Inside story, page 17