Whitehall on Trial : The Scott Enquiry

Whitehall on Trial : The Scott Enquiry

DVD1996 50 Minutes

Lord Justice Scott's inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair

In 1996 the report of Lord Justice Scott's inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair was published.

"The current legislation is appallingly outdated ... it allows export controls to be used for any purpose whatever the government desires to use them for" said Lord Scott in 2001. Unfortunately this is still the case.

The Scott Report represents possibly the most exhaustive study produced to date of the individual responsibility of ministers to Parliament. Scott comments on the difficulty of extracting from departments the required documents (some 130,000 of them in all) and notes how Customs and Excise could not find out what Ministry of Defence export policy was, and how intelligence reports were not passed on to those who needed to know. The Economist commented that "Sir Richard exposed an excessively secretive government machine, riddled with incompetence, slippery with the truth and willing to mislead Parliament". The report characterised the nature of the government as:
The main objectives of governments are the implementation of their policies and the discomfiture of opposition; they do not submit with enthusiasm to the restraints of accountability … governments are little disposed to volunteer information that may expose them to criticism … The enforcement of accountability depends largely on the ability of Parliament to prise information from governments which are inclined to be defensively secretive where they are most vulnerable to challenge.

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