Mayhew agrees to give evidence

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An embattled Sir Patrick Mayhew said yesterday that he would give evidence tomorrow to the Scott inquiry into arms sales to Iraq to answer claims that he tried to stop crucial evidence coming to court in prosecutions over exports of supergun parts, writes Alan Murdoch.

The former Attorney General refused to say when he first knew that a British company had been asked to provide barrel parts for the supergun.

His decision comes after the appearance by Sir Hal Miller, the former Tory party vice-chairman and MP for Bromsgrove, before the Scott inquiry on Monday at which he made the claims about Sir Mayhew.

After meeting Dick Spring, the Irish foreign affairs minister in Dublin, Sir Patrick said that he would reserve further comment until he had given evidence to the inquiry.

He repeated that his involvement in the case only began after Customs came to him in November 1990 for advice on whether to continue the prosecution of the two businessmen, who were charged in April 1990. 'My advice was asked as to whether the case should continue, as Customs' leading counsel had advised that on the evidence there was not a realistic chance of a conviction. I advised them that, if that opinion was correct, to continue with the prosecution would breach the code of the Crown prosecutors . . . The prosecution was then withdrawn.'

At this point, Mr Mayhew got up abruptly and left, ignoring reporters questions about when he had first become aware of the Iraqi sales.

On Monday, Sir Hal Miller said that he alerted the intelligence services, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Defence about the supergun in June 1988.