Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 82)



Mr O'Neill

  80. I understand your concern to have rigorous cost benefit analysis done, and yet you tell us today you were surprised to discover that Rwanda and Burundi were also going to be involved in what one would imagine would be over—flying charges and the like. Yet they did not seem to have been within the scope of the exercise. I am merely asking this because it does seem an apparent contradiction.
  (Mr Straw) I do not have a photographic memory for every page but it was mentioned they get income from other countries but, in one sense it is not directly relevant—

  Mr O'Neill: It merely serves the question, the quality of the information upon which a decision might be made.
  (Mr Straw) I do not think it does with great respect. I will wade through the file and find out. I was simply being frank about my own state of recollection. The more important matter—if I may say so, Mr O'Neill, since I had better stick to that for these purposes—is their assessment of income from whatever source in respect of this system, was that reasonably robust? For those who have been more sceptical rather than cynical about this particular export licence, the fact that they would get income from other countries, or flights from other countries may be reassuring.

  Mr George: This Committee is as indivisible as this Government. I merely make the point that the view that has been taken and expressed by our colleague, Tony Baldry, is not necessarily one shared by every group of Members of the four Committees which comprise it. I was responsible indirectly for this document from the Tanzanian Ministry of Communications and Transport because I was so irritated by the debate being conducted in the media—and I know whence that stirring came—that I sought to get an alternative view. I would have thought anyone of independent mind would see a democratically elected government, knowing the arguments, knowing how poor they were, made an application and frankly all I wish to get over to you is that it is not a unanimous view that the Government in granting the licence—

  Chairman: I think it was a comment not a question. Andrew.

Mr Lansley

  81. Just a matter of fact. You have to consider in this particular instance the application that is in front of you, and clearly you did that. As a matter of fact, were you able to consider also what alternative systems might have delivered in terms of a different ratio of cost to benefits in order to be able to assess the sustainability of a different system as compared with the one that was in front of you?
  (Mr Straw) Mr Lansley, this is where if you are not careful you cease to be the British Government making decisions based on these criteria and you start, very bluntly, acting in a neo-colonialist imperialist way, standing in the shoes of an independent government.

  82. So is the answer no?
  (Mr Straw) You have to be rather careful here. ***

  Donald Anderson: Buy the French system!
  (Mr Straw) ***

  Chairman: Foreign Secretary, thank you very much indeed. Thank you to your colleagues. We will meet again.

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