Letter: Placing the blame for Matrix Churchill

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'Uncovering the arms deception' (1 April) is a triumph of malice and prejudice over commonsense and the evidence. You say Matrix Churchill 'is a story of cocksure officials and ministers who made law on the hoof and kept their arms policy secret'. You go on to announce: 'These people will do anything in their power to frustrate and contain investigations by Lord Justice Scott.'

It is precisely to discover what exactly did go on over Matrix Churchill that the Scott inquiry has been set up. Anyone reading your leading article would think that the inquiry had already taken place, or was entirely unnecessary because civil servants and ministers have already been found guilty in the court of public opinion - or in the court of the Independent editorial.

As far as the civil service is concerned, it is part of the code of practice that civil servants do not defend their own position, either to the press or to Parliament, if in so doing they would compromise their confidentiality and loyalty to Government ministers. The fact is that no civil servant has had the opportunity to defend any action over Matrix Churchill although, of course, ministers have had considerable opportunity through the media to do so.

It remains to be seen if the Scott inquiry will avoid the clear pitfalls of the Clark inquiry into the Crichel Down affair and the Denning inquiry into the Profumo affair, which were soundly criticised as unsatisfactory in a number of respects by the Salmon Commission.

Yours sincerely,

ELIZABETH SYMONS

General Secretary

Association of First

Division Civil Servants

London, SW1

1 April

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