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Point of Order

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 10 September 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 2 September at Defence questions, I asked the Defence Secretary about a UK firm granted a licence to sell chemicals to Syria in 2012. The licence was revoked because of tougher EU sanctions. In reply, the Defence Secretary admitted that the export licences had been granted for some industrial chemicals that could have been used in processes that might be involved in the production of poisonous gases in Syria, but stated that no such chemicals were exported because the licences were revoked.

Yesterday the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley), who chairs the Committees on Arms Export Controls, wrote to the Business Secretary saying that the Defence Secretary’s statement in answer to my question was in direct contradiction to what the Business Secretary had written previously to the Chairman of the Committee. That letter of 10 April this year said that although the order had been revoked because of tougher EU sanctions, that could not stop shipments of chemicals already sent to Syria.

I put it to you, Sir, that the Defence Secretary inadvertently did not give me accurate information and could inadvertently have misled the House. In those circumstances, I ask for your help so that the position can be rectified and the Defence Secretary may come to the House to explain it.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice of it. I feel sure that the point of order will be drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State judges that in the circumstances a clarification or, indeed, a correction is required, bearing in mind that each and every one of us is responsible for his or her statements in this House, there are a number of ways in which that can be achieved. I suggest that at this stage, now that the point has been aired and will shortly be heard by the target audience of the Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman exercises modest patience and awaits the development of events. Knowing him as well as I do—he is a superb parliamentarian of enormous experience—I feel sure that if he is dissatisfied we will not have heard the last of it. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to the House.