Judge calls for 'key' to Iraq arms exports: Scott inquiry requests copy of secret paper used in security classification

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Indy Politics
LORD JUSTICE Scott yesterday called on the Ministry of Defence to produce a secret 'key document' containing a security classification which helped to determine the nature of British military exports to Iraq.

The document, referred to as Table X, was not among those given to the Scott inquiry team by the MoD.

A senior MoD official told the inquiry yesterday that the document was 'key' in helping the military authorities decide whether to approve defence equipment exports to countries like Iraq on security grounds.

Lord Justice Scott, appearing concerned, immediately requested a copy, as the MoD had not voluntarily supplied one.

Christopher Sanders, a former head of the MoD's defence export services section, told the inquiry that the document was an internal government working paper which graded foreign countries into several categories of security classification which determine the type and level of exports companies could send there.

Mr Sanders was giving evidence on the third day of the inquiry's public hearings. The inquiry is investigating the extent of British government collusion in defence exports to Iraq which breached official guidelines or export control legislation.

Companies exporting defence equipment applied to an MoD committee known as the Arms Working Party which used Table X to help determine whether the deal proceeded. The Department of Trade and Industry, the licensing authority, was not sent the applications, he said.

Asked why he ignored the views of Air-Vice Marshall Sir John Sutton, a member of the Defence Staff responsible for the region, when drawing up a response to Foreign Office plans to tighten export guidelines to Iraq, Mr Sanders said Sir John's views came after a meeting of junior ministers which 'pretty well worked out what policy would be'. Sir John objected to any plan to supply defence equipment to Iran or Iraq.

Mr Sanders said his view was that an almost total ban proposed by the Foreign Office would be wrong.

The MoD also objected to plans for a 'high-profile' parliamentary announcement to highlight the policy change. The inquiry has been told the guidelines were kept secret for nearly a year and only announced to avoid embarrassing questions in Parliament.

Mr Sanders denied they wanted to stop public debate.

Defence exporters should have been sent letters by the MoD informing them of the changes, he claimed. He had no evidence that the letters had been sent as many of the records of this correspondence had been destroyed.

Mr Sanders refused to comment on a complaint by the managing director of Marconi about a 'confused and apparent inconsistent' government decision not to grant an export licence for electronic warfare equipment to Iraq. The letter was sent three months after the new guidelines were allegedly sent to exporters.

Mr Sanders will be recalled to give further evidence when the MoD supplies Table X.