Opposition parties to see Scott report sooner

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The Independent Online
DONALD MACINTYRE AND CHRIS BLACKHURST

The Cabinet yesterday bowed to pressure from the Speaker of the Commons, Betty Boothroyd, and agreed to supply to the opposition parties advance copies of Sir Richard Scott's Arms to Iraq report next Thursday ahead of publication that afternoon.

The move came after Sir Richard himself intervened to back the Speaker's call to ensure that Opposition spokesmen had sufficient time to draw up a detailed response to the report.

Sir Richard, who on Wednesday said he had been put under pressure by the government to issue ministers with advance copies, authorised Christopher Muttukumaru, the inquiry secretary, to write to the Department of Trade and Industry proposing that he release the report in advance to Robin cook, the Shadow Foreign Secretary.

That was agreed yesterday during the first Cabinet discussion of the report since copies were sent to Ministers and officials on Wednesday. The time at which the advance will be issued to the Opposition has still not been agreed though it is likely to be around midday.

Downing Street said ministers were also still considering when and whether to supply advance copies to current and former ministers and officials named in the report who may want to marshal a defence against criticisms. The terms of the letter sent by Mr Muttukumaru to the DTI underline the strictness of Sir Richard's formal stipulation to ministers against disclosing any of the report's contents before publication.

At parliamentary question time, Tony Blair, the Labour leader accused Tory ex-ministers of mounting a "concerted attempt to rubbish" the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair before it is published next week.

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