Royal Ordnance exported more than 5,000 shells in September 1990, one month after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. A government committee set up to vet exports to Iraq was unaware the shells had been sent.
Lt-Col Richard Glazebrook, a senior Army officer and former committee member, said that the deal should have been scrutinised. 'We were looking very, very carefully at anything that might go to Iraq.'
He said that Britain had not committed land forces to Kuwait at that time but looked increasingly like doing so. In the circumstances it would have been sensible to check the order.
It did not go before the committee because Royal Ordnance had been given export clearance when it originally made the shells, he told the inquiry. The batch proved faulty and was returned for repair. Their re-export did not require a fresh licence.
The British government had already been told by a senior Jordanian military officer that Iraq wanted Jordan to 'front' for it in order to obtain key defence supplies which it was banned from receiving directly. In 1988, Field Marshal Bin Shaker had told a senior Ministry of Defence official that King Hussain, Jordan's leader, was approached on a visit to Baghdad. Iraq was anxious to obtain spares for British-built Chieftain battle tanks it had captured from Iran during the war.
The Iraqi approach to Jordan was reported to Lord Trefgarne, the former Defence Procurement Minister. Field Marshal Shaker told the MoD official that Jordan would help to relay Baghdad's requirements but would not go behind the British government's back.
Lt-Col Glazebrook said that he was not told of the 'fronting' approach to Jordan despite being responsible for vetting defence exports to Iraq. Jordan should have been included within the terms of guidelines limiting exports to Iraq and Iran.
'I and Defence Intelligence Services proposed on several occasions that we should look at exports to Jordan under the terms of the guidelines. This was turned down on the basis the guidelines were specifically applied to Iran and Iraq and it wasn't our business to interfere with legitimate trade with Jordan.'