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3.1 pm

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): This is an important debate. I listened with interest to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) and to my surprise, and occasional alarm, I agreed with him on several of the matters that he raised. However, I was surprised by some of his remarks. He seemed to question the legality of the action that was taken in Iraq but I seem to recall that in the debate on 24 September 2002 to which the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) referred, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that a resolution—the debate was held before resolution 1441 was passed—was not legally required before taking military action, although he believed that it was politically essential. At that time, he seemed to think that action even without resolution 1441 would have been all right.

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Mr. Menzies Campbell rose—

Mr. Ancram: May I make my second point and then the right hon. and learned Gentleman can deal with them both together?

The right hon. and learned Gentlemen also cast doubt on the existence of weapons of mass destruction, yet I recall that on "Breakfast with Frost" last August, he said:


That was a slightly different tune to the one that he is singing today, but the popular wind was probably blowing in a different direction then.

Mr. Campbell: It just so happens that I brought a copy of Hansard with me. On 24 September 2002, I said:

If the right hon. Gentleman had listened to the analysis that I gave a moment or two ago, he would know that I said that any military action must be a last resort. United Nations Security Council resolutions are not the only fountain of international law and action taken must be proportionate. It did not seem to me that regime change was proportionate action.

Mr. Ancram: I think that I can rely on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's words from last year. As we said when we practised together in the Scottish courts, I rest my case.

I also listened with particular care to the Foreign Secretary. As he and hon. Members know, we supported the Government's action on Iraq and their reasons for it. We believe that the Prime Minister and Government acted in the national interest and we backed them. We do not resile from that position in any way, nor do we modify our view that the campaign in Iraq was well conducted and effective. I must say that we are less happy with the Government's failure to prepare properly for the peace and we shall have to return to that vital issue on another occasion.

Our main concern stems from allegations about the Government's handling of intelligence material and evidence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction that proliferated last week while the House was in recess and we were unable to raise the matter. The intensity and nature of the allegations was designed to undermine the credibility not only of the Government, but of our intelligence services. Allowing such allegations to go unanswered could be nothing other than damaging to our national interest. They need to be answered not only comprehensively and fully, but urgently. It is not enough to dismiss them as absurd,

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which the Prime Minister seemed to do in certain press conferences last week. The allegations were detailed and the response to them also needed to be detailed.

The Government constantly claimed that they had answers to all the questions and we hoped that the Prime Minister would come to the House and clear the air, thereby ending the damage that the doubts and suspicions created by the allegations were causing. That is why a letter that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition sent to the Prime Minister yesterday set out five key questions and why I listened to the Prime Minister today with particular interest. He gave us answers but they did not answer the questions that we raised and neither were they full or comprehensive. They did not dispel the doubts and suspicions, and I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not take the opportunity to lay the matters firmly and conclusively to rest today. I therefore listened especially carefully to the long speech made by the Foreign Secretary. He dealt with the contents of various documents in detail, as he always does, but I do not believe that he gave satisfactory answers to the five key questions that we posed yesterday.

Let me remind the Foreign Secretary and hon. Members of the questions. First, we still need to hear the truth behind the allegations that the dossier's original conclusion was deleted and a new preamble, reportedly written by the Prime Minister, was inserted. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary read the report in The Sunday Times on Sunday suggesting:

and others in Downing street, various changes were made. The article also says that in a memo to Alastair Campbell, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee said that the foreword, written by the Prime Minister,

In order to try to establish the precise nature of the original JIC report, we have called for the document, including the conclusion, to be published so that we would know whether there was any real truth behind the allegations in the article. We have received no satisfaction so far.

Secondly, we have not been satisfied on the question of the 45 minutes. It is all very well to say—I do not disbelieve it—that the piece of intelligence was vetted and passed by the JIC and included in the report. However, the suggestion that the information was not significant flies in the face of the evidence. The information appears three times in the report: in the preamble, the executive summary and the body of the report. As the leader of the Liberal Democrats pointed out, the Prime Minister referred to it in his speech at the time. If the Prime Minister had not regarded the information as highly significant, it would not have been treated in such a high-profile way. Was the intelligence single-sourced or, as several reports yesterday suggested, was it double-sourced—or corroborated, as we say in Scotland? When significant intelligence information is used, how often is single-sourced intelligence accepted as opposed to corroborated intelligence? My right hon. Friend the Member for

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Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) asked a question in which I think there was a barbed hook. I heard the Foreign Secretary's reply but we should be told whether single-sourced or double-sourced intelligence is usually used on such occasions.

Mr. Dalyell rose—

Mr. MacDonald rose—

Mr. Ancram: I shall give way to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) but I shall not give way after that because the three Front-Bench speeches have taken up quite a lot of the time that we have for the debate.

Mr. Dalyell: Had there been weapons of mass destruction with a 45-minute capability, someone in Iraq would have come forward after the war to ingratiate themselves or to get money by giving us all the details. Perhaps in tonight's Adjournment debate on the detention of Tariq Aziz, the question can be addressed as to why one of the many who are now in the hands of the coalition has not corroborated the information that the House wants.

Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman and I approach the issue from a different angle. I believe that the Prime Minister accepted that intelligence information as genuine and that is why he spoke about it in the House. I am trying to clear the air by getting the Government to say why the information was regarded as so important that it was mentioned so often and why a single-sourced piece of information was used in that way. I see Government Front-Bench spokesmen shaking their heads, but until they deal with those questions the suspicions and doubts will continue, and it will be because of their reactions.

Thirdly, we asked for a categorical assurance that there was no disagreement between Downing street and the intelligence services on the handling of intelligence information. A number of allegations have been made about that which go to the heart of the relationship between our intelligence services and the Government. In the light of this morning's developments, the question is more urgent and relevant. We need clear and categorical reassurances. We have not received them.

Fourthly, Secretary Rumsfeld said last week—I have taken some trouble to establish precisely what it is that he said—that "it is possible" that at the time we invaded Iraq we were not sure whether Saddam had biological and chemical weapons and was prepared to use them. Secretary Rumsfeld also said:

We need to know whether the Government agree with that assessment because it was made by a very senior member of the American Administration. If they do, we need to know how that squares with the Government's reiterated assertions, which I do not disbelieve, that weapons of mass destruction exist and will be found. Again, on that we have not received a satisfactory answer.

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Lastly, the Prime Minister told us on television on Sunday that there was new information to back up his previous statements about weapons of mass destruction which had not yet been published. In the light of the allegations now being made, not least by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife, we need to know what that information is. If it confirms the Prime Minister's position, surely this is the moment when it should be published. In the light of current speculation, it should be published immediately.

In St. Petersburg, the Prime Minister said:

Surely it cannot take long to assemble evidence that is, according to the Prime Minister, already available and is now urgent. Again, we have received no satisfactory response to that request. We are therefore left with the situation in which, after Prime Minister's questions, a Prime Ministerial statement and a long speech from the Foreign Secretary, the doubts and the suspicions remain. The air has not been cleared and the damage continues.

There is also another element. In an extraordinary outburst, the Leader of the House today launched an attack on growing rogue elements in the intelligence services.

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