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In 2012 the EU halted British corporates’ sale of UK-licensed supplies of sarin gas ingredient to Syria

No laughing matter: arriving in St Petersburg to discuss the Syrian crisis, before this news broke

No laughing matter: arriving in St Petersburg to discuss the Syrian crisis, before this news broke

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A reader has just drawn our attention to reports that, although Syria is one of only five countries who have refused to sign protocols against the use of chemical weapons, UK companies supplied sodium fluoride, with government–issued export licences issued in May 2010. The last British supplies of sodium fluoride reached Syria late that year.

Sodium fluoride is a ‘key ingredient’ in the nerve agent sarin, which scientists at the Porton Down proved – after testing items of clothing recovered from the scene – was used in the chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21st.

govt bisThe Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) also admitted issuing licences for the export of sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride to Syria in January 2012 before revoking them several months later, following EU sanctions, but refused to say how much sodium fluoride was sold – or which companies were involved.

Professor Alastair Hay, a toxicology expert at Leeds University, told The Daily Mail: “The Government’s approval of sodium fluoride sales to Syria during a period when it was widely suspected the regime was stockpiling dangerous substances is deeply disturbing”.

One report quotes the view of intelligence expert Richard Kemp, a former member of the Government’s COBRA emergency committee, that these exports were ‘grossly irresponsible’.

mp richard ottawayMP Richard Ottaway, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said:

“Any sensible person would be concerned if an ingredient of sarin gas was exported from the UK to Syria”.

He thought that the issue should be brough before House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls.

Last word: “The Government is confident that UK export controls continue to be among the most stringent in the world.”

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Royal Mail privatisation: Government yet again rewards multinationals for failure

This link was sent by a reader with the comment “Stupefait!“

The government has announced that Goldman Sachs, which has ‘sparked a great deal of controversy over its alleged improper practices’ – especially since the 2007 and ongoing financial crisis – and UBS, fined £940m for its role in the Libor rate rigging scandal – are to be the global co-ordinators and bookrunners of the Royal Mail privatisation.

The department for business, innovation and skills (BIS), which is in charge of the sale, refused to say how much the banks will collect in fees, but they will collect 1% of the flotation value.

A BIS spokesman declined to comment on the banks’ roles in recent scandals.