Straw heckled in Harwich

WITH many predicting the reaction to the Iraq war to dominate the General Election campaign, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited the north Essex base of a company linked to the arms trade yesterday.

WITH many predicting the reaction to the Iraq war to dominate the General Election campaign, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited the north Essex base of a company linked to the arms trade yesterday.

Tony Blair's trusted lieutenant made the key Labour marginal constituency of Harwich his first stop-off point in the four-week election campaign - only to be greeted by chants of "go home murderers" from protesters opposed to the war.

Accompanied by MP Ivan Henderson, Mr Straw took part in the centenary celebrations of Exchem Organics, which is based on Bramble Island, Great Oakley, near Harwich.

Mr Straw cut the cake baked to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Exchem Organics, a division of Exchem Plc, which is part of the French EPC Groupe.


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At the multinational's Great Oakley plant, which employs 55 people and generates £11million annual turnover, Exchem Organics specialises in making chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry and diesel additives designed to make the fuel cleaner.

But also based there is its sister company Exchem Defence Systems Ltd, which assembles missiles and other weapon systems as well as storing and disposing of powerful explosives.

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Despite the protest outside the factory gates, Mr Straw said it was "not inappropriate" to launch the election campaign in Great Oakley and added: "This is a company that makes good sets of civilian products.

"We have a very big defence industry in this country and it's good that we do. "It supports thousands of jobs across the country for export.

"We also have the best system of export control for defence equipment anywhere in the world.

"Ivan Henderson has been a brilliant MP and I'm delighted to be here to support him."

Malcom Braithewaite, managing director of Exchem Organics, said: "We are very proud to have the Foreign Secretary visit us on our centenary.

"Exchem Plc does not manufacture any weapons in the UK - we're to do with commercial explosives and chemicals."

As well as Mr Henderson, other declared candidates for the Harwich constituency are Douglas Carswell (Con), Ivan Henderson (Lab), Keith Tully (LD), Jeffrey Titford (UKIP) and John Tipple (Respect).

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