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Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): The MOD gave Challenger 2 tanks sufficient chemicals for the detectors to run for only six hours. Does that reinforce the right hon. Gentleman's point? Were we selling our troops short, or were some people in the MOD not taking the threat seriously enough?

Donald Anderson: I was not aware of that fact, and I shall have to reflect on it. I know for certain, however, that our troops were equipped in the way that I have just described, and that chemical weapon kits were also found among the Iraqi soldiers. On the face of it, therefore, they too were being equipped for such a war. It is also clear from the part of resolution 1441 that I cited earlier that the United Nations Security Council accepted that the Saddam Hussein regime posed a real threat to international peace and security.

I turn briefly to the points raised in the Opposition motion. In regard to the Select Committee having had insufficient time to conduct its inquiry, the schedule for the report was set unanimously by the Committee itself. It was wholly self-imposed, and for good reasons. One reason for the admittedly tight timetable was that we wanted the report to be published in time for the issues arising from it to be discussed at the meeting of the Liaison Committee with the Prime Minister on 8 July. Any criticism of the time constraints is, therefore, a criticism of the Committee.

So far as our having had insufficient access to crucial documents in concerned, I wholly concur with what the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) has said. We stated in our report that the lack of access to such documents hampered our work. In particular, we sought interviews with the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. In my judgment, it would have been good for the Committee—and, indeed, to the advantage of the Government—had the chairman been

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able to endorse orally what he had stated in writing in respect of the various letters involving Mr. Campbell, and so on.

Mr. McLoughlin: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Donald Anderson: I will, so long as I get injury time.

Mr. McLoughlin: Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why he thinks that the Government did not trust his Committee to interview the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee?

Donald Anderson: I believe that it was not a question of trust but of the Government relying—wrongly, I think—on the jurisdictional point that that was within the province of the Intelligence and Security Committee rather than the Foreign Affairs Committee. Hence, in paragraph 169 of our report, we recommended that the Government

Manifestly, the request to meet the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee was not a general fishing expedition. It was wholly related to our specific inquiry and, in my judgment and that of the Committee, it should have been acceded to. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary looks at the recommendation—within two months, he has said—he will give careful consideration to the point that we have made, and be prepared to trust us in such matters.

The right hon. Member for Devizes made an important point in suggesting that it was now the Opposition's policy to grant the Foreign Affairs Committee access to such documents, and that they would pursue that policy if and when they were elected to govern. May I have an assurance that any future Chairman of the Committee will be able to rely wholly on the integrity of Opposition Front Benchers in that regard?

Mr. Ancram: For the sake of accuracy, let me explain what I meant to say. I think that the Committee's inability to gain access to the documents is a very good reason for instituting an independent judicial inquiry.

Donald Anderson: I am not entirely satisfied with that response. The right hon. Gentleman has accused Mr. Campbell and others of not always answering the question, and I hope that, on reflection, he will look carefully at his own answer. Mine was a very simple question: am I to assume from the right hon. Gentleman's clear statement that the Opposition now believe that the Foreign Affairs Committee should be granted access to such intelligence material in the terms of recommendation 169 of our report?

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. If the right hon. Gentleman remains seated for too long, he will be in danger of losing the Floor.

Donald Anderson: That was a pregnant pause. I think that the silence of the Opposition spokesmen will be noted, for it was eloquent in its own way.

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The only certainty about the judicial inquiry was that it would drag on for years. Even the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), with all his persuasive powers, could not surmount the point about timing, and the fact that, if some artificial time limit were set, by definition, the inquiry would not be independent.

I am reminded of a wonderful story told by Lord Weatherill. An elderly Jewish tailor to whom he was apprenticed, when given work to do on a suit, asked the customer, "Do you want it good or do you want it quick?" That may be part of the answer in this case; but all that we know about the judicial inquiry, given the precedents of Franks and Scott, is that it will take a very long time, and at the end of the day may deliver no more than can be delivered by the combination of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee.

We are almost certainly reaching a time when it is not just a question of looking at what Mr. Campbell did or did not say, but of focusing on the future. There has been a media circus, sometimes using the theme "Get Campbell". Yesterday, I met UK officials returning from Baghdad, who painted a very different picture from the one conveyed to us by the press. Positive things are happening on the ground in Iraq. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that 98 per cent. of schools there were back at work. Alas, our press will concentrate on the 2 per cent. that are not.

As a sort of historian myself, I believe that when historians examine these events they will not look at the Campbell-Gilligan spat; they will look at the big picture. Of course the prospectus on which we went to war is important, but they will look at the effect on the middle east peace process, and the reconstruction of Iraq. The new governing council may have its limitations, but at a press conference on 13 July, Talabani said

and he went on to list them. I believe that that, and the broad support given by a representative group of Iraqis, will be judged to be the key in the longer term.

Let me return to the Committee's report, and the welcome that it has been given on both sides. I trust that it will be agreed that our report has fully justified the decision of our all-party Committee to conduct the inquiry, and that the fact of its having been conducted largely in public will be seen as a valuable contribution to what is an important debate on the subject of going to war in Iraq.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. As I am sure all Members realise, the 12-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches is now in operation.

2.15 pm

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): It is a pleasure to follow the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). He has chaired the Committee during

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a difficult and contentious inquiry that has involved a huge amount of work in a short time with his customary skill and patience.

Yesterday, and again today, the Foreign Secretary made what I considered an extraordinary statement, suggesting that the Government did not consider the intelligence assessment that was made before the war in Iraq to be central to the issue of whether we should go to war. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that had the Government's motion of 18 March not suggested that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and that assessments suggested that they were there in substantial quantity, were being concealed and were likely to be effective within 45 minutes of deployment, I do not think the House could possibly have voted for it. It is profoundly disingenuous to say that war happened purely because Saddam Hussein was in breach of UN resolutions. UN resolutions are being breached throughout the world, but we do not go to war because of that.

Mr. Straw rose—

Sir John Stanley: I will of course give way to the Foreign Secretary, but I ask him to bear it in mind that he spoke for more than half an hour and the rest of us are limited to 12 minutes.

Mr. Straw: I think that I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman will be allowed an extra minute in injury time.

With respect, the right hon. Gentleman has parodied what I said. The point about the September dossier—which, I may say, was produced not least because the Foreign Affairs Committee had clamoured it for in the past and at the time—is that it made the case for action against Iraq, rather than inaction. It did not make a case for military action. The strategy followed by the Government was to get the matter into the United Nations, and to seek to resolve it peacefully. It was only as a result of Iraq's failure to comply that we then brought the matter to the House.

As for the issue of the 45 minutes, which was mentioned earlier by another Conservative Member, as far as I know it was not mentioned by a single Member on 18 March.

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