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Sir Timothy Sainsbury (Hove): May I remind my right hon. Friend that when I was Minister for Trade I was one of those who had occasion to refer to, and give answers in connection with, the guidelines? When I asked to see them, the text that I was shown and the text to which I stuck used exactly the same words as the text given in the House by Lord Howe in 1985.

Does my right hon. Friend further agree that the guidelines are just as they are described--guidelines--which have to be applied with judgment to any specific application for a licence to export non-lethal equipment? The interpretation of the guidelines, as my righthon. Friend has already said, would surely be expected to reflect whether there was peace or war in the Gulf.

Mr. Lang: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The consideration given in early 1989 and late 1988 to revising the guidelines was given precisely to reflect the fact that No.3 guideline referred to the prolongation and exacerbation of the conflict. Once the conflict had changed, it was sensible that Ministers should consider updating the guideline. The wording that they considered using differed in almost no respect other than to reflect that fact. The amended wording, however, was not adopted or put to Secretaries of State. The fatwa intervened in February 1989, which led to a different approach to the application of the existing guidelines.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): May I refer the President to the answer that he gave to my righthon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton(Mr. Kaufman), which implied that all or some Ministers signed certificates in good faith, not understanding what had happened? But D4.16 quotes a briefing as follows:

Surely that shows a marked change of policy. The quotation continues:

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that that public presentation included presentation to Parliament, whether by all Ministers or by some? Which Ministers made those changes, which clearly represented a difference from earlier guidelines?

Mr. Lang: It is the clear view of the Government that the policy remained the same and that the guideline was applied more flexibly to reflect changing circumstances. One of the circumstances was the ceasefire in 1988. Another was the Iranian fatwa in February 1989, when Britain broke off diplomatic relations and withdrew her charge d'affaires. Another was the execution of Farzad Bazoft in March 1990, when the British ambassador was withdrawn from Iraq. There were general situations of an extremely unpleasant kind such as the retention of the hostages, the treatment of the Kurds and threats to British shipping in the Gulf. All those matters caused the existing guidelines to be applied flexibly. The amount of

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equipment exported to Iraq as a result of the changing circumstances did not alter by any discernible amount, either in number or in the type of licences granted.

Sir John Cope (Northavon): My right hon. Friend has confirmed that Customs and Excise, in bringing the prosecution, was acting as an independent taxation and prosecuting authority and did not, therefore, consult the appropriate Minister--which was me at the time--about the matter. Will he also confirm--I think that he said it in his statement--that in bringing the prosecution Customs and Excise acted properly and withdrew it properly when the evidence given in court changed?

Mr. Lang: I am happy to agree with my righthon. Friend.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): Will the Minister respond to allegations made in The Independent in November 1992 by John Gordon, the former head of the Foreign Office nuclear energy department, that by permitting the sale of nuclear-related technology to Iraq the Government breached not only their own guidelines but article 1 of the non-proliferation treaty which forbids the assisting of any other country in the making of nuclear weapons? Did Scott agree that the Government had breached the non-proliferation treaty?

Mr. Lang: I am disinclined to believe anything that the newspapers have said about these matters in recent days. I urge the hon. Gentleman to read the report.

Sir Michael Neubert (Romford): When it comes to doing business with dictators, does my right hon. Friend remember that to clinch an aircraft deal the last Labour Government invited the megalomaniac Communist tyrant Ceausescu on a state visit and had him put up at Buckingham palace? When it comes to changing tack within Government guidelines, does my right hon. Friend recall that the Labour Prime Minister embarked on the£1 billion Chevaline nuclear missile enhancement programme without--it is said--even consulting his Cabinet? In the light of Labour's record, does not Opposition Members' orchestrated outrage amount to humbug of the highest order?

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Yet again, the Labour party has said one thing and done another.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Was not the Tory Government's real fear about the Scott report that as many as four witnesses would reveal that the Tory party received arms commissions--money--from some of the firms which were exporting to Iraq and Iran? Did the Tory party receive money from any of those firms and, if so, how much?

Mr. Lang: If the hon. Gentleman had had any evidence to that effect, I have no doubt that he would have passed it to Sir Richard Scott--in which case, I have no doubt that Sir Richard Scott would have commented on it.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle): Surely the key question that the House must ask with regard to Ministers' futures is whether they acted with

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integrity and in good faith. As I could not read the whole report in the few minutes that I had, can my righthon. Friend help me by pointing to anywhere in the report where Sir Richard Scott questions the good faith or integrity of any Minister? I have found one quotation where he says that the Chief Secretary

    "did not intend his letters to be misleading and did not so regard them."

Why should any objective person therefore ask the Ministers in question to resign? Will my right hon. Friend reassure me on that point, since they felt that there were acting in the national interest with integrity and good faith?

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only did Sir Richard Scott not find any evidence of any Minister's lack of integrity--he specifically went out of his way on several occasions to pay tribute to their good faith and the way in which they behaved.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down): Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in advancing the defence of the relevant Ministers by describing them as models of integrity and good faith he is using the defence of incompetence and negligence? If they are to be lauded for their integrity and good faith, are they to be punished for their negligence and incompetence?

Mr. Lang: Sir Richard Scott identified some areas in which mistakes were made. They were largely of an administrative nature--for example, in intelligence handling and in the handling of some export licences. Those issues are already being looked at and action has already been taken to improve the administration of those matters. Sir Richard Scott did not impugn the integrity of any Minister; where there are disagreements, they are of principle and of attitude to proper practice and procedure in the House. The procedures that the Government have followed in relation to answers on defence-related exports are procedures which have been followed by successive Governments of both parties for very many years. I look forward to the debate on the issues so that Parliament can decide whether changes should be made.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there will always be differences of opinion as to how much information it is in the national interest to make available to Parliament about such sensitive matters as arms sales? Academics, editors and judges will put forward their various views on how much information ought to be made available to a sovereign Parliament, but in the end the decision on how much information should be given must be for the sovereign Parliament alone.

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend makes a very sound constitutional point. To illustrate how policy has remained broadly the same over successive Administrations, I quote an answer given on 10 June 1974, which says:

That answer was given by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) when he was a Minister.

Mr. Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central): The President of the Board of Trade told the House in his

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statement that the Government knew about the super-gun project in 1989. Can he therefore explain why, in the subsequent three years, a quite different story was told by Ministers and civil servants on numerous occasions? Does he regard that as being the responsibility of Ministers or of civil servants?

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