'Resign' demand on Scott

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The Independent Online
LABOUR is to demand the resignation of any minister criticised in Sir Richard Scott's potentially explosive report over arms to Iraq.

Robin Cook, shadow foreign secretary, will issue a public statement this week setting out how the Opposition will judge the report and the Government's response to it.

The long-awaited inquiry report will be delivered to Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, this week and published on 15 February. Amid rumours that the Government is determined to brazen out the row over Scott, Mr Cook called for its findings to be acted upon.

The shadow foreign secretary said: "Any minister who is criticised in the Scott report must leave office. If the Scott report finds that the Government did change the guidelines and deceive Parliament, or that it knew that Matrix Churchill machines went to arms factories, and still put businessmen on trial, there will be a need for someone to carry the can.

"It will be quite unacceptable if the report finds the Government guilty, and the Government decided that no minister was responsible."

Labour is concerned about partial leaking of the report which, it believes, was used last summer to try to blunt its impact. Mr Cook said it was imperative that the Government "abides by the conclusions" of the inquiry which it set up.

Mr Cook's intervention marks the beginning of the final chapter in the three-year saga of Sir Richard's report. At least two Cabinet ministers, Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney-General, and William Waldegrave, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, are likely to be criticised by the Scott report.

The report could also raise questions over the careers of senior civil servants still employed by the Government.

To protect the inquiry team from possible legal action by anyone criticised, the publication is being covered by the Parliamentary Papers Act of 1840, a statute usually reserved for highly sensitive reports. Ministers will receive copies a week in advance of what promises to be one of the most delicate documents to have crossed their desks in years.

It will be at that point, after three years of speculation, that they finally learn the outcome of the inquiry.

The Parliamentary Papers Act, which confers greater legal protection on authors of reports, was used for inquiries into the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International and the Guildford bombing.