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Year 2001 No. 49, March 15, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

The Significance of Robin Cook’s "Misleading" MPs over Arms to Sierra Leone Report

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The Significance of Robin Cook’s "Misleading" MPs over Arms to Sierra Leone Report

Robin Cook Again Criticised on Arms Contracts

News In Brief
Chubb Workers Take Firm to Court

Demand to Drop Possible May 3 Election

Demonstration: Campaign For Palestinian Rights

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The Significance of Robin Cook’s "Misleading" MPs over Arms to Sierra Leone Report

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook has again been accused of misleading Parliament over his use of a leaked House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report. The report, which strongly criticised the government and the Foreign Secretary, was issued in February 1999, following the Committee’s investigation into the actions of the Foreign Office, which had allowed British arms to be shipped to Sierra Leone in breach of UN sanctions. A copy of the report had been leaked to Robin Cook and the Foreign Office in January in advance of its official release, by a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Labour MP Ernie Ross.

Robin Cook has always denied that he made any use of the leaked report in briefings to the press or for other purposes, both in the House of Commons and in written evidence submitted to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee. But Ernie Ross actually tabled an amendment to the Committee’s draft report after he had leaked it to the Foreign Office. At the time the Conservative Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, spoke for many MPs when he criticised the Foreign Office that it did not made public the fact that it had received the leaked report. Sir George also said it was "a threat to our democratic process if we do have a government that will do almost anything it can to mollify, marginalise and discount criticism, particularly from a select committee of the House of Commons".

Now a new book, written by BBC correspondent Nick Jones, also claims that Robin Cook and another Foreign Office official quoted to him a part of the leaked report, which appeared to present the Foreign Secretary in a more favourable light, before its official publication. Opposition MPs are demanding a full investigation and are emphasising that misleading Parliament is a breach of the Prime Minister’s ministerial code of conduct and is a sackable offence.

To go to the heart of the matter, one has to see beyond the issue of Robin Cook’s misuse of a leaked document. Indeed, it could be said that to focus on this issue is to mystify what is the basic wrong-doing of the Foreign Secretary, because this is not a party-political issue. The heart of the matter is that the British government gave itself the right to meddle in the affairs of the African country, as it has done time and time again not only in Africa but with the Balkans, Iraq and elsewhere. It has done so solely with the justification that it is its moral duty so to do, because "something must be done". This "something must be done" is the catchphrase to cover over that Britain’s interests are being followed, and that the sovereignty of countries and peoples count as nothing to the English bourgeoisie. The wrong-doing extends to the continued presence of British troops in Sierra Leone, and elsewhere, which are not stationed out of humanitarian concern, but to take sides in an internal conflict, behind which in any case stand the big powers, for what the British government regards as its "enlightened self-interest". This is no more and no less than the government’s guideline for its foreign policy. Self interest certainly, but where, one might ask, is the enlightenment.

This recent recrudescence of this sordid issue also demonstrates how the two-party system works to cover over and justify a reactionary programme – in this case, interference and armed intervention abroad. Attention is diverted by means of a brouhaha over some procedural or other misdeed of a Minister, while both parties tacitly consent to the prosecution of the reactionary programme. The interests of the people, either at home or abroad actually, come nowhere, despite all the protestations regarding moral values. The "misleading" is just part of the arsenal of the government (whichever party might constitute it) to paint a reactionary deed as progressive, and its exposure must be seen as the exposure of the whole deed. Not just the Minister but the whole party system which sanctions Britain’s chauvinistic and interventionist foreign policy through keeping the people away from political affairs, must be changed.

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Robin Cook Again Criticised on Arms Contracts

Robin Cook has been criticised by MPs for failing to submit arms contracts to parliament before they were approved.

A joint report of the Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry committees issued the rebuke.

Article Index

News In Brief

Chubb Workers Take Firm to Court

The National Union of Lock and Metal Workers is taking the Wolverhampton firm Chubbs to court as part of its campaign against the decision to make 170 redundant.

A 90-day consultation period on the decision to switch production from the safemaker's plant in Wednesfield to Europe comes to an end today.

General Secretary of the union, Ray Ward, said that they were taking the matter to a Tribunal at the end of the month. He said: "Staff are unhappy with the way the 90-day consultation has been handled."

The campaign so far has included a rally of 200 people, a lightning strike and a demonstration outside of the factory. The rally, in January, was attended by Chubb workers and supported by Rover Shop Stewards.

West Midlands Correspondent

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Demand to Drop Possible May 3 Election

Rural leaders have called on the government to scrap the possibility of a May 3 general election because of the foot and mouth outbreak.

However, Tony Blair is said to be still digging his heels in for a May poll.

Why should this be? There is only one aim – to get the Labour Party re-elected as the government so as to finish its job of putting in place all the arrangements of its "Third Way" programme. The Chancellor’s Pre-Election Budget, the apparent intransigence and impatience of Tony Blair in discounting the foot and mouth crisis, the Labour Party’s "vital campaigning tool" of the pamphlet The Choices for Britain – all point in the same direction. This direction is the calculation of the bourgeoisie that they can pull off the confidence trick and have the Labour government re-elected at this time.

The working class and progressive forces must therefore get prepared to participate in the election on the basis of opposing everything the "Third Way" programme stands for. The democratic forces in society must rally round the independent programme of the working class – Stop Paying the Rich, Increase Investments in Social Programmes! – and demand that this voice be heard.

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Campaign For Palestinian Rights

This Saturday, March 17

Assemble 11.00am, Hyde Park (nearest Tube - Marble Arch)

Rally At Trafalgar Square

Speakers: Rt Hon Tony Benn MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Dr Ghada Karmi, HE Afif Safieh, Bruce Kent, Ken Cameron

Dr Hanan Ashrawi, a sponsor of the demonstration, states: "Unfortunately I cannot attend the Palestinian Rights demonstration in London on March 17, but I strongly support this initiative and I hope that as many concerned citizens, students and trade unionists as possible in the UK take part. The greater the pressure of public opinion on governments like the British government to restrain Israel, the more quickly our just demands will be recognised"

Sponsors: Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, General Union of Palestinian Students, Palestinian Community Association of Britain, Just peace UK, Socialist Workers Party, Green Ribbon, Mariam Appeal, Emergency Committee on Iraq and Palestine, Freedom and Justice for Samar and Jawad campaign

End the Occupation!

Support the Right to Return!

For further info, email:

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