Letter: Up in arms about Tory double dealing

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The Independent Online
Sir: The latest revelations of British companies involved in providing explosives and other lethal military equipment to unsavoury dictatorships - probably with the knowledge and connivance of governmental departments if not ministers (report, 29 December) - adds to an emerging sequence of squalid, but hitherto secret, double dealing by the Tory government.

I have tried to pursue the matter of military sales in Parliament by submitting probing questions based on information provided to me by well-informed, but thankfully disaffected, former operatives in covert arms dealing. In the past year I have tabled more than 1,500 questions to ministers, but have also had more than 200 rejected as out of order for a variety of reasons, including that they are 'imputations', 'fishing for information', or blocked by previous ministerial refusals to answer. While I am encouraged that Dr David Clark, Labour's Defence spokesman, is to try to table a series of pointed questions when Parliament resumes, let me give warning that in 1993 I had no fewer than 62 questions on arms exports, military sales and the knowledge of ministers in such nefarious activities 'blocked' at source by the Table Office, denying Parliament the opportunity to see in Hansard persistent refusal of ministers to disclose details of what is undoubtedly a scandal the size of the US-Iran-Contra affair.

Yours sincerely,

LLEW SMITH

MP for Blaenau Gwent (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

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