Arms inquiry QC paid 800 pounds a day

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The Independent Online
PRESILEY BAXENDALE QC, the chief inquisitor at the Scott inquiry, will finish the affair with both her reputation and her purse enriched, it was disclosed yesterday.

MPs were told Ms Baxendale is paid pounds 800 a day, plus VAT, to grill ministers and civil servants about their role in the arms to Iraq scandal. She has been paid pounds 169,600 for 212 days work to date, Terry Dicks, Tory MP for Hayes and Harlington, was told yesterday in an answer to a parliamentary question.

The QC, who quickly came into the limelight with her polite but persistent questioning of witnesses, including John Major and Baroness Thatcher, was paid for 93 days of public hearings and a further 119 days work behind the scenes.

Richard Needham, the Trade and Industry minister, said her work was not confined to the oral sessions of the inquiry. He said two more barristers and a solicitor, all civil servants, were also employed by the inquiry on civil service salaries. Lord Justice Scott is paid a salary of pounds 104,922 a year.

Legal sources indicated that Ms Baxendale's fee was below that which an experienced commercial silk could command at the Bar.

The inquiry has not yet completed its oral hearings and further witnesses, including Sir Brian Unwin, the former chairman of Customs, are expected to give evidence next month. Lord Justice Scott said he hoped to have the first draft of his report finished by July and the finished document 'towards the end of the year'.

Ms Baxendale was called to the Bar in 1974 and took silk in 1992. She was quickly appointed to Lord Justice Scott's inquiry. Her mastery of more than 130,000 inquiry documents has been impressive. Observers noted she tended to giggle disarmingly before skewering witnesses with precision questioning.