Official guilt and the Scott inquiry

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The Independent Online
From Mr Harvey Morris

Sir: The leak you have received of the Scott inquiry draft report (front page, 7 June ) points to apparent inconsistencies in statements by Baroness Thatcher in 1989 about Government policy towards the proposed sale of Hawk trainer aircraft to Iraq.

An interesting footnote is that the sale was eventually blocked in cabinet, despite being supported by the Ministry of Defence and DTI. The Foreign Office, where Mr Waldegrave served at the time as a junior minister, opposed the deal.

The leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, Massoud Barzani, visited London during 1989 to lobby against the sale, on the grounds that the trainers could be converted for use as warplanes against the Iraqi Kurds. His arguments were supported by a press campaign, principally in the Independent and the Financial Times. Even Defence Ministry officials conceded privately at the time that it was difficult to regard the Hawk trainers as non-lethal equipment, since any aircraft can theoretically be converted to military use.

However, by the time the issue of granting an export licence went to cabinet, the key ministries were still lined up two-to-one in favour of the deal. One reason why the Foreign Office won the day was that the Prime Minister was not prepared to see her new appointee as Foreign Secretary lose a key argument at his first cabinet meeting in that post. The new Foreign Secretary was, of course, John Major.

Yours faithfully,

HARVEY MORRIS

London, SE1

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