HC Deb 17 January 2000 vol 342 c325W
Mr. Maples

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when(a) he and (b) his office were first informed of the interception of Libyan scud missile parts at Gatwick Airport. [105013]

Mr. Robin Cook

I am updated regularly on Libya's ambitions and efforts to acquire weapons technology. I am not briefed on the details of individual HMCE operations nor would I expect to be. I was given a full account of this specific operation following the disclosure on 9 January of some details of it to the media.

I took our concerns about Libyan weapons programmes into account when reviewing policy on Libya before my statement in the House on 7 July 1999.

In May 1999 HMCE initiated their inquiry with regard to this consignment. FCO officials were aware of the grounds for suspicion. HMCE sought the assistance of FCO officials on 16 June in pursuing their investigation with the Maltese authorities. MOD officials inspected the consignment on 13 July. FCO officials received confirmation on 29 July that the contents were consistent with Scud parts. Libya has possessed since the 1970s a number of Soviet-supplied Scud B missiles with a range limited to a maximum of 300km. The parts seized at Gatwick could be applicable to the Scud B or other Scud derivatives, but would not have enabled Libya to extend the range of its existing Scud missile arsenal.

I congratulate HMCE on their vigilance in successfully detaining this shipment.

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