Robert Ledger
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How public inquiries and scandals reshaped UK foreign and aid policy
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The 1994 Pergau Dam inquiry shone a spotlight on policy practices that embarrassed a number of Conservative politicians and angered the British public, ultimately leading to a cleaving of the Overseas Development Administration from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a change in the law regarding ‘tied aid’ in British overseas development policy. Whilst carrying out the inquiry, the Foreign Affairs select committee demonstrated the interplay between the oversight role of the UK Parliament, the Official Record and government policy-making. The 1996 Scott Report into the Arms to Iraq scandal, likewise, showed the opacity of ministerial accountability and arms sales, adding to calls for more open government and freedom of information legislation. Drawing on under-utilised aspects of the official and public records, as well as academic work, this chapter explores the intersection between the Westminster Select Committee system and scandals stemming from British foreign and arms policy with Malaysia and Iraq. This chapter first introduces Westminster select committees. Next, elements of UK arms and trade policy under the premierships of Margaret Thatcher and John Major are documented. Attention then moves, in turn, to the Pergau Dam and Arms to Iraq scandals. The final section documents the impact of these two scandals on UK foreign and aid policy.

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