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Profile: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn was a participant or observer in the following events:
British Energy Secretary Tony Benn announces an inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Pakistan for use in that country’s nuclear weapons program, and suspends such sales. The action results from a tip-off about operations run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan from a disgruntled former supplier. Ernst Piffl had supplied Khan with 20 inverters, but Khan was unhappy with the price and switched suppliers (see Before July 1978). Piffl then blew the whistle on the business, alerting Frank Allaun, an MP for the British Labour Party, that the components were for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons industry. Allaun, who is associated with the anti-nuclear movement, began to ask questions about the parts in parliament and Benn then decides to suspend sales and start an inquiry. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54] The inquiry will report back in the fall (see November 1979).
The British government places high-frequency inverters, equipment purchased by A. Q. Khan in Britain for his nuclear weapons work, on its export control list. This makes it practically impossible for Khan to obtain the parts in Britain. The move follows an official inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Khan (see July 1978). The inquiry found that a previous sale of inverters to Khan, arranged by British businessman Peter Griffin, was legal at that time. However, British Energy Secretary Tony Benn comments: “We acted in a way that was right and proper. But I have a sort of feeling it wasn’t effective, and that what President [actually Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto began and President [Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] continued is going to be, if it isn’t already, a nuclear weapon in Pakistan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]
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