FORMER defence minister Sir John Stanley has told Vince Cable to come clean over the Syrian chemical exports scandal exposed by the Sunday Mail.
The chairman of the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) has lodged a series of questions with the Business Secretary.
We revealed two weeks ago how Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills issued two licences to export potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.
Both chemicals can be used to make nerve gases such as sarin, which Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces used to kill almost 1500 people in Damascus on August 21.
Tory MP Stanley has set an October 4 deadline for Cable to answer.
He said: “There can’t be any good reason why the Secretary of State should not give us answers. There’s an absolutely clear accountability.
“I can have a good go and he will have to produce a very good reason for not doing so. We’ve got some details now and I expect him to do so.”
After our revelations, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the Commons that the exports did not happen.
But his claim contradicts a letter that Cable sent to the CAEC in April which said some material was sent.
Stanley said: “There is a contradiction between the Government saying that none of the materials for these two licences left the coutry compared with Vince Cable’s letter, in which he said that some had already left.”
As well as the two licences granted last year, there have been five others for sodium fluoride to Syria since 2004.
Such dual use chemicals have innocent applications such as making toothpaste. But they can also be used to manufacture the chemical weapons that are stockpiled by the Syrian regime.
Stanley sent a letter to Cable on Monday seeking answers on 10 key points. And he sent a second letter on Wednesday with an additional four questions.
The CAEC want to know the name of the UK firms granted the licences so they can quiz their bosses.
They also want to know of similar export deals to other countries that have chemical weapons.
Committee member Ann McKechin, Labour MP for Glasgow North, said: “We want them to declare the identity of the companies that applied for these licences.
“We want to ask these companies to give evidence to the committee.”
Stanley added: “The reality is that if the Assad government is going to be procuring precursor chemicals, it’s obviously going to do so through a front company. It wouldn’t be called Syria Chemical Weapons Ltd.
“I’ve seen reports the intelligence community has suspicions that the Assad government was using front companies to help its chemical weapons programme.
“Even before the civil war began, for years Syria was a known holder of chemical weapons.
“Syria was also a known non-signatory of the chemical weapons convention.
“These chemicals are known precursors of some of the most appalling chemicals.”
The Government insist all proper checks were taken before granting the export licences.