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Mr. Campbell: It is not for me to select those who should become Law Officers and sit on the Treasury

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Bench. The Law Officers are represented by the Solicitor-General, who is extremely able and competent, so there is no reason why these points could not have been made.

Mr. Calum MacDonald (Western Isles): Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say exactly where in the Attorney-General's opinion the word "imminent" is used or the concept of an imminent threat is mentioned? That is not the Attorney-General's opinion; that view is based entirely on resolution 1441.

Mr. Campbell: We never saw the Attorney-General's opinion; what we saw was an abstract of it. As I said earlier, if ever one is sent counsel's opinion, one should ensure that the factual statement on which that opinion is based is also supplied.

I want to pick up on a point that the Prime Minister made with some robustness during his answers today. He said that there has been a concentration on humanitarian efforts that has inevitably had an effect on efforts to seek out any weapons of mass destruction.

I am bound to say that the primary task of the coalition forces was to secure any such weapons—or, indeed, the facilities for their manufacture—so as to prevent them from falling into the hands of the very terrorists who formed such an important part of the G8's conclusions during the past two or three days. I do not believe that the legitimate humanitarian objectives were in any way mutually inconsistent with the overwhelming and primary responsibility to lay hold of and secure any such weapons.

On the question of the existence of such weapons, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) provided something of a searchlight into the position in his forensic and most dignified resignation speech of 17 March. He said:

The right hon. Gentleman was suitably coy about the sources of information on which he based that conclusion, but I am willing to infer that during his time in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he had access to information and material of the utmost sensitivity, and that he would not have expressed his conclusion in those terms unless he was satisfied that there was a sound factual basis for doing so.

I shall now deal with the question of the form of the inquiry. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he expects an inquiry to be mounted by the Intelligence and Security Committee and that he will co-operate in every respect and make all materials available to it. I am not sure how far he went in respect of making all witnesses available, but it is certainly the case that any inquiry—whether by the ISC or an independent inquiry—will not be effective unless it can see everything and question everyone.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): I understand the purpose of the motion before us on weapons of mass destruction. However, can the right hon. and learned

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Gentleman, unlike critics on the Government Benches, bring himself to welcome the fact that one of the most murderous and barbaric dictatorships has been destroyed, and that the people of Iraq are free from Saddam? I have not heard that sentiment expressed by critics today, and I wonder why.

Mr. Campbell: Let us be clear. I have said clearly in the House that Saddam Hussein was steeped in the blood of his own countrymen and women, but we cannot make assertions such as the hon. Gentleman's without taking some moral responsibility—collectively, if not on a party-political basis—for what happened. It was after Halabja, where 5,000 people were killed, that the British Government of the day extended further credit facilities to the Saddam Hussein regime. It was after the end of the Iran-Iraq war that the British Government of the day continued to extend such credit facilities. There was a time when, because of his opposition to Iran, Saddam Hussein received the support of the United Kingdom and the United States. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) may like to distance himself in a party-political sense from what I said, but it is not something easily understood on the streets of Arab capitals in the middle east.

The Intelligence and Security Committee is composed of people of independent judgment and senior Members of the House. I could not say otherwise, sitting in front of my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) in the presence of the right hon. Member for Dewsbury (Ann Taylor) who chairs the Committee, the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) and the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin) who was present a few moments ago. My comments are no reflection on their independence or their judgment. The ISC's recent report on Bali demonstrated its willingness to be critical of the Government. However, I do not believe that an inquiry by the ISC is the best form of inquiry for the specific circumstances of this case.

I refer back to the depth and extent of public anxiety evidenced by the number of people who turned out on the streets of London and elsewhere to demonstrate and by the postbags of every Member of Parliament. Clearly, we need an investigation that is answerable not just to the Prime Minister or the House, but to the public who came on to the streets in such numbers to express their anxiety.

Initially, I took the view that there might be scope for a special Select Committee of the House, but I have subsequently changed my view and I shall explain why. The Leader of the House made an important intervention this morning both in The Times newspaper and in an interview with Mr. John Humphrys. I have no doubt that that interview will become part of the learning process of young BBC interrogators and, perhaps, of budding Leaders of the House for a long time to come. I fear that anyone attending a BBC Christmas party is likely to hear that tape many times.

To be serious, that intervention raised the stakes on any interpretation. A senior member of the Government says that he believes that someone in the intelligence services undermined the Government. Those of us with long political memories will recall that that intervention echoes some of the events of the Wilson era. It raises the

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stakes in a highly significant way, which cannot be denied. Secondly, I have become more persuaded that the substance of any inquiry must inevitably be what passed between the Prime Minister's office and the intelligence services, which requires a unique scrutiny. I do not believe that a Committee of the House or Parliament can provide such scrutiny.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the intervention of the Leader of the House upped the stakes, but he tabled the Liberal Democrat motion before that intervention was made.

Mr. Campbell: Indeed. I would have argued what I am arguing in my speech in any case. One cannot alter the fact of these events. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is a student of John Maynard Keynes, but it was he who aptly said, "When the facts change, I change my opinion".

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman lack ambition for the House and for parliamentary Select Committees? Should we not all be saying that those are the right forums for an inquiry, in preference to a Franks inquiry behind closed doors or a Scott inquiry that will take us to 2004–05 before it reports? The House of Commons is the right place and the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs should be buttressed in its campaign to prosecute this matter and gain access to security and intelligence documents.

Mr. Campbell: I hope that I lack no ambition for the House and I can deal with the hon. Gentleman's criticisms in what I am about to say. I have already said that for any inquiry to be effective, it must have access to everything and to everyone—at all levels of Government, politicians and officials alike. When national security is not involved, there is no reason why an inquiry should not sit in public.

On the question of the time limit for production of a report, the right hon. Member for Livingston and myself formed an ever-lasting bond on the rain-spattered pavements outside the mews of Buckingham Palace, waiting to gain entry to the Scott inquiry, which went on for a considerable period—or, as some would argue, for too long. There is no reason why an inquiry of the sort that I seek could not be given a time limit within which to report. The inquiry should be headed by a judicial figure with experience of weighing evidence and attaching significance to it.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): We have argued in the past that Select Committees should be given greater investigatory powers. What therefore is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's difficulty with the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs investigating this matter?

Mr. Campbell: It must be obvious to the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Affairs Committee has a certain level of security clearance, but it is not a level of clearance that is apt in the circumstances with which we are concerned. [Interruption.] I am not talking to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), but to the hon. Member for Coventry,

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South (Mr. Cunningham). I know that he wishes I was talking to him, but I am talking to his hon. Friend. I was saying that the particular level of clearance given to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee might not be appropriate. Whoever is charged with the responsibility to investigate must have the ability to see everything and to talk to everyone. I am not convinced that that will be allowed.

I am a survivor of the Trade and Industry Committee's inquiry into the Iraqi supergun affair, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the record of those proceedings shows clear evidence of the fact that that Committee's efforts to get Ministers and officials to appear before it and tell it what they knew—indeed, to get a Member of the House to appear before it and tell it what he knew—were thwarted time after time. I confess that my experience does not lead me to be overly confident in the notion that a Select Committee inquiry would be the best way to deal with the matter.

The inquiry to be established will have several significant questions to consider. The Prime Minister used the word "overriding" on several occasions today, and he no doubt did so precisely and deliberately. The question that the inquiry must consider is whether Downing street sought changes to last September's dossier, as is now alleged, although such seeking may have fallen far short of overriding. The inquiry should consider who was responsible for the final contents and form of the so-called dodgy dossier. Who was responsible for the allegation that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger? That allegation was comprehensively destroyed by Dr. el-Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the course of the Security Council's proceedings, when he pointed out that the exchanges of correspondence appeared to be false. As later investigation proved, one item bore the name of a Minister who had not been in office for some seven or eight years.

In the light of what the Leader of the House has said, the inquiry must also consider whether there is any evidence of efforts by one or more persons in the intelligence services to undermine the Government. That would be a grave constitutional outrage if it were true, and it is therefore worthy of investigation. The inquiry should also consider to what extent the Government relied on Iraqi sources who may have been motivated by an understandable desire to overthrow the regime, and whose objectivity may have suffered as a result. In the light of what the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, frankly told the "Today" programme last week, the inquiry should also consider the extent to which our Government relied on uncorroborated information from a single source.

I hope that the whole House will vote for the motion. I apprehend from the interventions from the leader of the Conservative party that we may be able to look to him and his colleagues for support. Those who supported the Government have a stronger reason for voting for the motion than those who did not, because the supporters did so on the basis of statements of fact, some of which are now subject to question. Had they known so at the time of the historic vote on 17 March 2003, it is reasonable to infer that more of them would have found themselves unable to support the Government. I do not wish to speculate how many would have changed their minds, but it is not

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unreasonable to infer that had the facts and information now before us been available then, some who were persuaded to support the Government would have been unable to do so.

We owe it to ourselves to have a thorough investigation by an independent inquiry, but—much more than that—we also owe it to the whole country.

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