Quadripartite Select Committee Written Evidence

Letter to the Chair from the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  Thank you for your letter of 27 April to the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

  You asked why correspondence from the Foreign Office to the Quadripartite Committee was marked "In confidence" and whether in hindsight the FCO would be willing to allow the removal of the markings, to allow the Committee to publish the documents.

  With regards to the Israel letter of April 19, the "In confidence" markings were applied in error. The FCO, together with the MoD and DTI removed all language that might have been subject to classification, and therefore I am happy for the markings to be removed and the letter published.

  Regarding the 27 October 2005 letter from Chris Stanton to the Clerk of the Quadripartite Committee on exports to Iraq, we need to consult wider OGDs on what can and what cannot be released. Until that time, we would recommend that the letter be reclassified from "in Confidence" to Restricted-Commercial.

  With reference to the letter of February 8, the in-confidence classification refers to commercially sensitive information. Therefore, this information should not be put in the public domain.

  After discussion on this issue, it has been decided that any information that is not for public disclosure will now be marked as either "Restricted—Commercial" or "Restricted" which are formal Government security markings. We will aim to provide as much information as possible to the Committee as unclassified. You will however understand that it is impossible to make all information released to the Committee unclassified.

  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office us determined be to as open and transparent as possible with the Quadripartite Committee. However, we are also aware of our responsibilities in ensuring responsible UK trade and maintaining commercial confidence with industry.

May 2006

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