New helpers urged for Iraq inquiry

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THE PRIME Minister was last night urged to scrap the team of civil servants appointed to support the inquiry into the 'arms to Iraq' affair to avoid a 'whitewash' report, writes Colin Brown.

Lord Justice Scott, appointed by John Major in November to carry out the inquiry, was given a team of civil servants with an office in the Cabinet Office, to help with the investigation.

But Tam Dalyell, a veteran Labour backbench campaigner, said the Prime Minister should replace the team with senior clerks from the House of Commons.

'It was civil servants who staffed the Franks inquiry. They did a lot of whitewashing of the report because they had to return to their government departments. Lord Justice Scott has got to have helpers but they should be seconded from the House of Commons rather than civil servants.'

The inquiry followed the collapse of the trial of three former executives with Matrix-Churchill, a Midlands-based firm, which had been accused of breaching sanctions on arms for Iraq.

Civil servants were also implicated in efforts to circumvent the embargo on the sale of arms equipment.

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