The substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ, according to Swiss state Spiez lab, the Russian foreign minister said. The toxin was never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with an incapacitating toxin known as 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, citing the results of the examination conducted by a Swiss chemical lab that worked with the samples that London handed over to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The Swiss center sent the results to the OPCW. However, the UN chemical watchdog limited itself only to confirming the formula of the substance used to poison the Skripals in its final report without mentioning anything about the other facts presented in the Swiss document, the Russian foreign minister added. He went on to say that Moscow would ask the OPCW about its decision to not include any other information provided by the Swiss in its report.
The Swiss center mentioned by Lavrov is the Spiez Laboratory controlled by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and ultimately by the country’s defense minister. The lab is also an internationally recognized center of excellence in the field of the nuclear, biological, and chemical protection and is one of the five centers permanently authorized by the OPCW.
The Russian foreign minister said that London refused to answer dozens of “very specific” questions asked by Moscow about the Salisbury case, as well as to provide any substantial evidence that could shed light on the incident. Instead, the UK accused Russia of failing to answer its own questions, he said, adding that, in fact, London did not ask any questions but wanted Moscow to admit that it was responsible for the delivery of the chemical agent to the UK.
The scandal erupted in early March, when former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in critical condition in the town of Salisbury. Top UK officials almost immediately pinned the blame on Russia.
Moscow believes that the entire Skripal case lacks transparency and that the UK is in fact not interested in an independent inquiry. “We get the impression that the British government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making a transparent investigation impossible,” the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, said during a press conference on Friday.
Comment: Oops, slight flaw in the Russia-did-it conspiracy theory there.
“Based on the results of the investigation, traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursors, related to chemical weapons of the second category under the Chemical Weapons Convention, were found in the samples. BZ is a nerve gas that temporarily puts a person out of action. The effect is achieved within 30-50 minutes and lasts for up to four days.”
Police officers are preparing the material while the OPCW (Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) inspectors are working on the incident surrounding former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
“Of course, if the OPCW rejects the findings of the Spiez Laboratory, it will be interesting to hear the explanations,” said the Foreign Minister.
Previously, OPCW experts found that the Skripal poisoning used a high purity, toxic chemical, but did not say who was behind the incident.
From the description of its effects, it sounds like a match for the Skripals’ condition: ‘temporarily put out of action’.
The Western media is deathly silent about this inconvenient fact.
With many thanks to: Sott.net for the origional story.
U.N. chemical weapons experts visit people affected by an apparent gas attack, at a hospital in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya.
On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.
The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.
Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.
Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.
In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:
“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”
The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”
So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.
Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:
“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”
In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:
“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”
Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:
“One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations.”
The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US’s key allies and enemies – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran – to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.
The report noted especially that Syria is among several “downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow”, increasing a risk of conflict. Thus, although the RAND document fell far short of recognising the prospect of an ‘Arab Spring’, it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, US defence officials were alive to the region’s growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.
These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. An Agence France-Presse report claimed Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas”.
Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.
The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.
It would seem that contradictory self-serving Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of an equally self-serving oil-focused US policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.
What is beyond doubt is that Assad is a war criminal whose government deserves to be overthrown. The question is by whom, and for what interests?
• This article was amended on 7 October 2015 to provide clearer attribution to a quote about tAssad’s rationale for rejecting Qatar’s proposed oil pipeline.
Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed
A more detailed in-depth special report based on this article is available at the author’s website here.
With many thanks to: The Guardian for the origional story.
Follow these links to find out more: http://anonhq.com/cia-hell-bent-destroying-syria-oil-declassified-document-reveals/
Some “terrible mistakes” were made in cases involving the Windrush generation facing deportation from the UK, says immigration minister Caroline Nokes.
Many long-term immigrants who arrived from the Commonwealth as children have been told they are here illegally.
The BBC understands Home Secretary Amber Rudd plans to set up a team in the Home Office to help those affected.
It follows a reversal by the prime minister, who will now discuss the issue with other Commonwealth leaders.
A meeting of leaders, which will take place this week, was announced amid growing calls for Theresa May to take action, including a letter from a cross-party group of 140 MPs.
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted that the meeting was a “small U-turn”, adding that he wanted the government to “guarantee the status of all the Windrush children caught up in this crisis” by the end of the day
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted it was “disgraceful” that the rights of the Windrush generation had been brought into question, calling on Mrs May to “answer serious questions about how this happened on her watch”.
Mrs May’s spokesman said the prime minister was clear that “no-one with the right to be here will be made to leave”.
He added that the PM is “aware that many people are unlikely to have documents that are over 40 years old”.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he welcomed Mrs May’s decision to meet with other leaders, but added: “She must now go further and make an immediate commitment to recognise and secure the rights of Commonwealth citizens.”
They are known as the Windrush generation – a reference to the ship, the Empire Windrush, which brought workers from the West Indies to Britain in 1948.
Under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain – but the right to free movement between Commonwealth nations was ended from that date onwards.
However, the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, meaning it is difficult for the individuals to now prove they are in the UK legally.
The BBC understands that Home Secretary Ms Rudd will make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon to confirm the creation of a new team in her department to help the Windrush generation and ensure no-one loses their access to public services and entitlements.
She is also expected to waive fees so that those affected will not have to pay money for new documents to prove their status.
Mr Lammy has also tweeted that he has secured an urgent question in the Commons on Monday to push Ms Rudd for answers.
‘No question of right to remain’
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Ms Nokes said the Windrush generation had “contributed an enormous amount to our community [and] to our society” and that the government had “an absolute responsibility to make sure there are no more of these mistakes”.
Asked by ITV News if any people had been deported as a result of these “mistakes”, Ms Nokes said: “There have been some horrendous situations, which as a minister have appalled me.”
Told by the reporter “that’s a yes” and asked how many, she said: “No, I don’t know the numbers, but what I’m determined to do going forward is we’ll have no more of this.”
Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said she wanted to reassure those affected, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “People who are in that situation, there is absolutely no question of their right to remain, and their right to gain access to services such as healthcare.”
A letter to the prime minister, co-ordinated by Mr Lammy, called for a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.
It said: “We urge you to guarantee the status of all Commonwealth nationals whose right to remain is protected by law and to provide an effective, humane route to the clarification of their status.
“What is going on is grotesque, immoral and inhumane,” he said.
It was signed by 140 MPs including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston.
‘Not welcome’ in UK
Omar Khan, from the Runnymede Trust charity which has been involved in trying to tackle this issue, said the onus should be on the Home Office to help people find the documents they need.
He also called for an extension of legal aid to these cases.
He told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “These are individuals who do have legal rights – this is not really an amnesty. The issue is their ability to prove it through documentation is now quite difficult.”
Guy Hewitt, Barbados high commissioner, told the BBC: “I have held as a great honour the fact that I am the first London-born high commissioner for Barbados.
“This is the first time I have felt that the country of my birth is saying to people of my region ‘you are no longer welcome’.”
The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates there are 500,000 people resident in the UK who were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971.
People born in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are thought to be more affected than those from other Commonwealth nations, as they were more likely to arrive on their parent’s passports without their own ID documents.
The Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks with 482 Jamaicans on board
Many have never applied for a passport in their own name or had their immigration status formalised, as they regarded themselves as British.
The Guardian newspaper has highlighted a number of cases of such people being threatened with deportation.
With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.
Lawyers acting for whistleblowers have released further evidence they say shows the Vote Leave campaign broke EU referendum spending rules.
The material allegedly shows how closely the campaign worked with youth group BeLeave.
It comes from Mark Gettleson, a web designer, the third person to make claims about Vote Leave’s spending in evidence to a select committee.
Vote Leave has rejected claims of illegal co-ordination with BeLeave.
Legal Firm Matrix Chambers argues, in a 50-page legal opinion, that Vote Leave should have declared payments of just over £625,000 to Canadian data firm, AIQ.
Facebook suspends Brexit data firm
If included in the campaign group’s overall spending return, the payments would have pushed Vote Leave over the £7m limit.
Vote Leave says the £625,000 doesn’t count as its own expenditure, as the money was a donation to Darren Grimes, who set up the group, BeLeave.
He says he spent the money on services provided by AIQ, although the money went directly to AIQ from Vote Leave, for “services in kind” to BeLeave.
The Electoral Commission has said this would have been within the rules, provided that Vote Leave and BeLeave were not working together – a decision that is the subject of a separate legal challenge by the Good Law Project.
Former Vote Leave activist Shahmir Sanni and Christopher Wylie, who worked for controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica, have already claimed that Vote Leave used BeLeave to get round spending limits.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a key figure in the Vote Leave campaign, has claimed that the allegations are “ludicrous” and that the Leave campaign won the poll “fair and square and legally”.
In the Matrix Chambers legal opinion, Mark Gettleson – who is referred to as J – adds further details of alleged working together.
It also reveals that he met Darren Grimes when they were both working on MP Norman Lamb’s Lib Dem leadership campaign.
The Fair Vote group, which campaigns for another EU referendum, has published some of Mr Gettleson’s evidence on its website.
It includes an email from Mr Gettleson, who worked for Vote Leave between February and April 2016, that says that Vote Leave was responsible for the BeLeave campaign concept and website.
It also shows Mr Gettleson introduced Vote Leave to AIQ, saying he “headhunted the successful digital team,” the campaign group says.
Another email between Mr Gettleson and Cleo Watson, Vote Leave’s head of outreach, is about another group, Veterans for Britain, which donated £100,000 to AIQ. Campaigners claim Veterans for Britain was also used by Vote Leave to sidestep the rules.
Kyle Taylor, director of the Fair Vote Project, said: “This new evidence, on top of Shahmir Sanni’s and Chris Wylie’s, should without a doubt force Parliament to take immediate action and show the British public that it cares about protecting one of our highest ideals – democracy.”
Mr Gettleson’s lawyer, Tamsin Allen, of Bindmans solicitors, said he had hoped to remain anonymous but realised the details in the legal opinion might have led to him being identified and had taken the decision to release the emails.
The legal opinion was submitted by Matrix Chambers as evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s inquiry into fake news.
“We consider that there is a prima facie case that… electoral offences were committed by Vote Leave in the EU referendum campaign,” the opinion says.
The Electoral Commission, which is investigating Vote Leave’s spending, declined to comment.
Former Vote Leave officials and Veterans for Britain have been contacted for a response.
With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.
Facebook has suspended a Canadian data firm that played a key role in the campaign for the UK to leave the EU.
The social media giant said AggregateIQ (AIQ) may have improperly received users’ data.
It cites reported links with the parent company of Cambridge Analytica (CA), the consultancy accused of improperly accessing the data of millions.
AIQ denies ever being part of CA, its parent company SCL or accessing improperly obtained Facebook data.
The Vote Leave campaign paid AIQ £2.7m ($3.8m) ahead of the 2016 EU referendum.
An ex-volunteer with the campaign has also claimed Vote Leave donated £625,000 to another group to get around campaign spending limits, with most of the money going to AIQ. Vote Leave has denied any wrongdoing.
AIQ’s website once quoted Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings saying: “Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of AggregateIQ. We couldn’t have done it without them.” The quote has since been removed.
In total, AIQ was given £3.5m by groups campaigning for Brexit, including Vote Leave, the Democratic Unionist Party and Veterans for Britain. The UK’s Electoral Commission reopened an investigation into Vote Leave’s campaign spending in November.
Zuckerberg: I’m still the man to run Facebook
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“In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“Our internal review continues, and we will co-operate fully with any investigations by regulatory authorities.”
In a message posted to its website, AIQ says it is “100% Canadian owned and operated” and “has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL”.
It adds: “Aggregate IQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”
Media captionHow the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal unfolded
It also denied ever employing Chris Wylie, the Canadian whistleblower who alleged that the data of 50m people was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has since said the number of people affected could be closer to 87m. CA says it obtained the data of no more than 30m people and has deleted all of it.
Spotlight on Brexit campaign
Analysis by technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones
It was three weeks ago that Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica just hours before a whistleblower’s revelations to the Observer newspaper triggered the current scandal over improper use of data.
Christopher Wylie insisted that Aggregate IQ was closely linked to Cambridge Analytica, and supplied documents to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee which he said proved it.
Now Facebook’s decision to suspend the Canadian firm from its platform appears to give further validation to Mr Wylie’s claims. It also throws the spotlight back onto the potential use of Facebook data during the Brexit campaign.
Facebook says it is looking into whether the data that Cambridge Analytica acquired improperly from as many as 87 million people – 1 million of them in the UK – ended up with Aggregate IQ. The firm worked for both Vote Leave and BeLeave during the EU referendum campaign, but has always insisted it has never been a part of Cambridge Analytica, and has not had access to any of its Facebook data.
AIQ is a small company operating out of Victoria, British Columbia. It uses data to help micro-target voters and was founded by two Canadian political staffers.
Apart from its Brexit work the company has also been accused by Mr Wylie of distributing “incredibly anti-Islamic” content on social media ahead of the 2015 Nigerian presidential election to discredit Muslim opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who went on to win the contest.
The BBC has approached AIQ for a response to the Nigeria allegations.
Mr Wylie has said that AIQ was referred to among Cambridge Analytica staff as “our Canadian office”. He told the Guardian he helped to set up the firm as a “Canadian entity for people who wanted to work on SCL projects who didn’t want to move to London” and that he had known the firm’s co-founder, Jeff Silvester, since he was 16.
AIQ says it “has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica” and that “Chris Wylie has never been employed by AggregateIQ”.
Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of a row over whether it used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.
With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.
CLEAR submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Home Office asking for full details of the licences accounting for the legal production of cannabis in the UK. This arose from the story which we broke on 4th March revealing that the UK is the world’s largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis, this according to data provided to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) by the government.
The Home Office has refused the request. Its grounds for refusal are that disclosure “would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime“.
Presumably this means that the commercial interest of GW Pharmaceuticals and whoever else has been granted such licences would be prejudiced and that they would risk robbery or other crime at their places of business.
INCB Production of Cannabis 2015-2016
We consider this to be false and without any merit whatsoever. How would it prejudice anyone’s commercial interest? We would not expect any detail that goes behind the licence holder’s normal commercial confidence and it must be right that the identity of those companies or individuals licenced to produce cannabis should be on the public record together with outline information about the terms of the licence – what is it for, for what period, in what quantities. Furthermore, with the security precautions required for such a licence, any attempt at crime would be foolhardy and utterly stupid. It would be much easier either to import or produce your own cannabis. The sort of criminal enterprise that would be required to raid, for instance, one of GW’s grows would be on a grand scale, incredibly risky and with sentences probably higher than for production of cannabis.
Clearly, disclosure of the information around these licences could, in any case, be limited to redact any specific information which should be kept confidential
It’s quite clear that this refusal is simply an excuse, probably to cover-up not only the extent of the licences but also the basis on which they have been issued.
Of course, the Home Office has pre-empted the next step in a FOI request and states that “the public interest falls in favour” of not providing this information. We consider this to be nonsense. It is clear that the public interest (not just the interest of the public) is very much that the issue of such licences should be a matter of public record. It is outrageous that this information is being kept secret.
The answer to the second part of our FOI Request provides further insight into how little trust can be placed in the Home Office and demonstrates that its answers are dishonest. In answer to a written question in Parliament on 1st March 2018, Home Office minster Nick Hurd MP said “No licences for pharmaceutical companies to grow and process medicinal cannabis for exportation to other countries have been issued.” However the INCB report, which information can only have come from the Home Office, shows that in 2015/16 the UK exported 2.1 tons of medical cannabis. We asked for an explanation of how Mr Hurd’s answer is consistent with the facts reported.
Nick Hurd MP, Home Office Minister
The Home Office’s answer is that “these figures could include any plant material exported for pharmaceutical purposes or pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids that are manufactured in the UK and exported, such as Sativex.” and that it takes ‘medicinal cannabis’ to mean “substances produced to be consumed, be that smoked or ingested in any way.”
It is clear therefore that the Home Office has given two different answers to the same question and that the answer given to the INCB is correct whereas the answer given by Mr Hurd is without doubt intended to mislead Parliament. It also seeks falsely to create a distinction between Sativex and other forms of cannabis which is manifestly and beyond doubt another deception, based on information published by GW Pharmaceuticals which CLEAR revealed in 2016.
In summary therefore, the Home Office has refused to answer the FOI Request in relation to licensing on grounds which are entirely spurious and has demonstrated that it is actively engaged in deceiving both Parliament and the public on the export of medicinal cannabis from the UK.
Following the required procedure, we have now requested an internal review of the Home Office’s handling of the FOI Request. We argue that: “It goes directly to the question of the massive public demand for legal access to cannabis for medical use and the total denial of this by government. This policy is itself irrational and against the public interest and the refusal to disclose the information requested is a political cover-up.”
We anticipate this will be a whitewash and further attempt at a cover-up. Thereafter we have a right to complain to the Infomation Commissioner. At this stage we would also seek to mobilise support from MPs with an interest in this area. Ultimately, we may be able to apply to the High Court for judical review of the Home Office’s decision and we will consider mounting a crowdfunding campaign to enable this.
With many thanks to: CLEAR for the origional story.