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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Scott Report

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Scott Report, made on the 16th February 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

I think Sir Richard has done a very thorough, very competent job and I am very grateful to him. It has taken three years of work and I think people can now see the outcome. I thought it was very important that Sir Richard examined these matters because the charges that were laid, that the Government were seeking to arm Saddam Hussein and that Government Ministers had conspired to send innocent men to jail, were very serious indeed. I thought the only way that they could be comprehensively examined and people would realise that they were untrue was to have the sort of examination Sir Richard has carried out so I am immensely grateful to him for it.

I think you need to look at the whole context of the report. What was the report about? The report was about whether innocent men were going to be sent to jail by conspiracy and whether Saddam Hussein was being armed by the British Government. Those were the charges, those frankly were the smears with which Robin Cook and others have run with consistently over the last three years. They are comprehensively dismissed and I don’t think you can overlook the fact that that was what the report was about. They have gone. There is no doubt that didn’t happen. I am delighted at the outcome. I believed that that would be the outcome because I know William Waldegrave very well. It never occurred to me for a second that these charges would be true and it was important to me that the British nation realised that and now they do.

I think there are lessons to learn from Sir Richard’s report. It is very comprehensive. It has shown up some shortcomings and mistakes and I shall take these very seriously.

When I invited Sir Richard to set his own terms of reference I did so knowingly. I did so knowing he would look at it very carefully and he might throw up things that needed to be amended and needed to be changed, and he has in some respects and we will examine these very carefully. Some we have already put into operation and others we are examining. All of them will be examined with very great care. The dissemination of intelligence material for example. Clearly it would have been better if that had been better disseminated. That is an illustration of it. Indeed the fact that there are something like 100,000 pieces of intelligence to be looked at in a short period is a mitigating circumstance but there is more to be done. So there are things to be learned from the report.