The conversation came prior to charges against two businessmen involved in the Iraqi supergun case being dropped in November 1990. He is answering questions from Presiley Baxendale QC, counsel to the inquiry.
Sir Hal: 'What I perhaps should explain Miss Baxendale, is that there was a stage when I consulted the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, about the evidence available to me. I first of all asked them as lawyers whether they were contemporary notes and evidence in a strict sense, and the fax from the DTI, and was assured they were.
'I said I then intended to go into court and produce them if Somers were charged. An attempt was made to persuade me not to do that, and I said: 'You must be joking. You charge them, I will go to court', and then there was a sort of: 'We do not charge them. Customs are independent', and I remember saying: 'Come on, Paddy, you are the Attorney General, I cannot believe people really get sent into court without you at least having some say in the matter'. He said: 'No, they are completely independent'. So I said: 'Fine, in which case I will go to court.' '
Miss Baxendale: 'Who made an effort to stop you going into court?'
Sir Hal: 'Did I make an effort? Yes.'
Miss Baxendale: 'You said someone made an effort to stop you going to court.'
Sir Hal: 'He sought to dissuade me from producing the evidence in court.'
Lord Justice Scott: ' 'He' being?'
Sir Hal: 'Paddy Mayhew. He said: 'You would not do that, would you?' to which I replied: 'Just watch me.' '
Miss Baxendale: 'Did he say anything else?'
Sir Hal: 'No. It was a conversation in the lobby.'
Miss Baxendale: 'You say to him: 'I have these documents' and by 'these documents' you mean -
Sir Hal: 'I first of all went through and said: 'I want to consult you about this, because it strikes me as serious. Here are these people thrown into prison, and I know they have been authorised to ship'.'
Lord Justice Scott: 'Did you show them any of the notes?'
Sir Hal: 'Yes'
Miss Baxendale: 'Which ones?'
Sir Hal: 'My handwritten notes.'
Lord Justice Scott: 'The ones which we have?'
Sir Hal: 'Yes sir, because I wanted to know whether they were evidence that would stand up in court.'
Miss Baxendale: 'Are the other documents you are talking about 14 and 15?'
Sir Hal: 'The DTI fax'
Later . . . . .
Miss Baxendale: 'Can I be clear'.
Sir Hal: 'I am clear'.
Miss Baxendale: 'Can I be clear because a few minutes ago you said that you did not show him the fax, you referred to it.'
Sir Hal: 'No, I showed him my notes and the DTI fax in the lobby.'
Miss Baxendale: 'And you said: 'I will go to court with them'.
Sir Hal: 'Yes.'
Miss Baxendale: 'He said: 'You would not, would you?' And you said: 'Just watch me'?'
Sir Hal: 'Yes.'
Miss Baxendale: 'He did not say anything else?'
Sir Hal: 'I was seriously concerned for these people. To my knowledge they had done nothing wrong at all, and they had given every co-operation and every assistance and people were just washing their hands and letting them go to jail. This is Britain.'
Miss Baxendale: 'What did he say after that? You have just said: 'Just watch me' and then what did you say after that?'
Sir Hal: 'Nothing. We voted.'
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