Report in 1996 resulting from an inquiry into alleged British government complicity in secretly allowing sales of arms or arms-related equipment to Iraq in the period leading up to the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Headed by Lord Justice Richard Scott (1934– ), the board of inquiry heard evidence from a succession of senior officials and politicians.
Matrix Churchill The British government had declared an official embargo on arms sales to Iraq in 1988. However, in 1992 charges against Matrix Churchill Ltd, which was being prosecuted for selling defence-related equipment to Iraq, were abruptly dropped after the government admitted that it had in fact approved the sales. The Scott Inquiry was set up by prime minister John Major to investigate and report on the implications of the Matrix Churchill case.
Scott Report The report was published in February 1996. Its length and style obscured its conclusions, but it was clear that there had been considerable duplicity on the part of highly placed government officials, and a general tendency to hide from Parliament and the public any information that might show the government in a bad light.
Government denial of wrongdoing Despite its many damning strictures, spokespersons for the Conservative government argued that the report exonerated the government from most of the criticisms that others had made of it. In the ensuing vote in Parliament, the government survived with a majority of one. All the opposition MPs, the nine Northern Ireland Unionists, and three Conservatives voted against the government. No member of the government resigned.
Upshot During the Matrix Churchill trial, so-called public-interest immunity certificates (PIICs), signed by a number of ministers, had kept secret various government documents that might have been used by the defence lawyers if they had been revealed in court. It was eventually announced that PIICs would no longer be signed as automatically as had previously been the case.