Ex-minister 'deceived over exports to Iraq': Matrix Churchill chief denies peer's claim that he lied over military purpose of machine tools for Baghdad. David Connett reports

Lord Trefgarne yesterday accused Paul Henderson, managing director of Matrix Churchill, of lying about the military purpose of exports to Iraq.

The former trade minister told the Scott inquiry that he approved controversial export licences because Mr Henderson 'looked me in the eye and deceived me'.

Mr Henderson and two other directors of the Coventry company, were cleared of illegally breaching export regulations at their trial at the Old Bailey in 1992. Their acquittal led to the setting up of the Scott inquiry.

The former minister's accusation was denied by Kevin Robinson, Mr Henderson's lawyer, who was present at the inquiry.

'Lord Trefgarne's allegation is completely denied. Paul Henderson has already supplied the inquiry with a truthful account of the events surrounding his meeting with Lord Trefgarne,' he said. 'Mr Henderson is confident the inquiry's report will sustain his position.'

Lord Trefgarne said he met Mr Henderson in September 1989 to discuss several Matrix Churchill machine tool exports to Baghdad.

He admitted he was told of reports that the company had previously helped to equip Iraqi weapons factories, but said the evidence for this was 'not irrefutable'. He was also told Matrix Churchill was owned by a front company deeply involved in an Iraqi defence procurement network.

'I don't think I could have done more than looked him in the eye and asked him what the machines were intended for. He told me. I now believe that he deceived me.

'I attached great importance to Mr Henderson's assurances. I thought he was telling me these machines were intended for innocent purposes, purposes he knew we would be able to authorise,' he said.

The inquiry heard that Mr Henderson told a senior Foreign Office official the same week that he could not guarantee the machines would be used for peaceful purposes.

Lord Trefgarne expected Department of Trade and Industry officials would have checked out the true destination and purpose of the exports notwithstanding the assurances. 'I don't believe I needed to tell them to make checks because I believe as experienced officials they would do this anyway,' he said.

The inquiry has been told that no checks were carried out despite warnings from the intelligence services. The exports were later approved. Shortly before the approval Lord Trefgarne was advised that military use was not a reason to refuse the exports after a relaxation of official guidelines following the 1988 ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq war.

Asked whether this was correct, Lord Trefgarne replied: 'It depends whether or not the munitions they were going to make represented a significant enhancement. If they were going to make one round it was not, if it was going to make 100 rounds a minute it would be.'

He refused to comment on whether he thought his officials had been slow to react to an intelligence report which named Matrix Churchill as the company supplying equipment to an Iraqi ballistic missile project.

Lord Trefgarne said he was 'nervous' about the Customs prosecution of Matrix Churchill. He expressed his fears informally to Lord Caithness, the then Paymaster-General - the minister with nominal responsibility for Customs.

His nervousness stemmed from changes in international rules which proposed removing most machine tools from the export licensing system altogether.

'If Matrix Churchill were about to be prosecuted for something that was about to cease to be an offence then the prosecution would run into difficulties,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes