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Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): The right hon. Gentleman referred to his beliefs at the beginning of the war, prior to the publication of the dossier. He said that he had good reason—he used some such phrase—to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction. Will he put on record the basis for his good reasons for believing that? If those were relevant, surely they are relevant to all of us in the House.

Mr. Ancram: My reasons include that to which the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife alluded last year—that we had heard over a long period, and in the course of several United Nations resolutions, that the UN Security Council believed that there were programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): I am sorry about my voice—I hope that my right hon.

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Friend can hear me. Does he agree that we can never get to the bottom of the matter unless we have access to the private communications between the Prime Minister and President Bush—in particular, the minutes of the various meetings that they had last year?

Mr. Ancram: My right hon. and learned Friend makes his point. I am keen that there should be a judicial inquiry that is able to call for the evidence that it believes it needs in order to establish the truth. If it is to be independent, it is important that we do not try to push it in a particular direction.

David Wright (Telford): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ancram: No, I want to make some progress.

Then there are the recent allegations of cover-up made against the Prime Minister and the Government. It is alleged that they concealed the extent to which the joint chiefs had reservations about our military capacity in the face of Government-induced overstretch; covered up the reservations of the JIC about the possible impact of military operations on the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom; and covered up the private minutes of reservations sent by the Foreign Secretary to the Prime Minister shortly before action began. Now that the war is over, it is surely in the public interest to explore those allegations and to test them against the actual outturn. What better way of doing that than through an independent judicial inquiry?

In the background to all this is the opaque figure of the Attorney-General. A number of allegations have been published about his role, particularly as regards the legal advice that he gave to the Government before the war. I accept that that is a sensitive area that might not necessarily benefit from the sharp spotlight of public scrutiny. I respect that, as does my hon. Friend the shadow Attorney-General, who will in due course deal in greater detail with the questions that need to be asked. Suffice it to say that the controlled and disciplined and, where necessary, discreet environment of a judicial inquiry might well be the best arena in which to respond to those questions. Clearly, it is vital that they be responded to in the interests of restoring the reputation and integrity of the office of the Attorney-General.

Then there are the extraordinary and tragic events of the summer and the Hutton inquiry. I do not intend to get involved in the intricacies of the complex evidence placed before the learned and noble judge, who will make his report in due course, but it is almost impossible to separate much of the evidence presented at the inquiry from the wider issues. In considering the case for a judicial inquiry, it is therefore pertinent to comment on one or two of the more amazing contradictions that have arisen.

The Prime Minister says that he was not involved in the process that led to the naming of Dr. Kelly; the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence says that the Prime Minister was. Who is right? It cannot be both, so the credibility of one or the other is critically at

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stake. No Minister seems prepared to accept responsibility for either the first or the second dossier. It must have been somebody, so who was it?

Mr. Straw rose—

Mr. Ancram: The Foreign Secretary wants to speak. Was he responsible for either of those dossiers; and were they published in the name of the Foreign Office?

Mr. Straw: The point that I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: does he not accept that the issues that were properly raised before Lord Hutton, and on which he has taken evidence, are matters for him?

Mr. Ancram: As I said, Lord Hutton will report in due course. However, the issues that I am raising are pertinent to a wider inquiry, and should be put before such an inquiry as part of the whole picture.

I ask again: who was responsible for the dossiers? This is the Government all over. Whenever there is a problem, no one accepts the blame—they all point at each other. This Government, who were elected on a slogan of trust, are now showing in technicolour that they do not even trust each other. Is it any wonder that the country no longer trusts them?

In normal circumstances, I would not be concerned at the current discomfiture of the Government over the confusion and suspicion that surrounds them—I might even take some quiet pleasure in it—but when it affects the national interest, it affects us all. It is damaging to the national interest when there is a major and continuing question mark hanging over the credibility of the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Government as a whole. It is damaging to the national interest when there is a serious question mark hanging over the effectiveness and accuracy of our intelligence services; when there is a question mark hanging over the basis and reasons why we went to war in Iraq; and when confusion reigns and the truth appears increasingly to be the victim of spin and counter-spin. The confusion must be ended, the truth must be established, and the Government must be held to account. We need a comprehensive independent judicial inquiry to answer these questions, and we need it now.

2.5 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

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Iran is a subject that should be a matter for vigorous debate in this House. [Hon. Members: "You said Iran."] If I said Iran, I must still be in an Iranian time zone. Iran, too, should be the subject of vigorous debate in this House.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Straw: I want to make some progress first.

There will be a written ministerial statement on Iran in due course. If the shadow Leader of the House wishes to arrange for Opposition time to debate Iran, I shall be happy to give the House further information about it. In fact, most of the members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs are there at the moment.

Iraq should be subject of vigorous debate in the House. Indeed, there have been many such debates, including two before the summer break—on 4 June on a Liberal Democrat motion, and on 16 July on a Conservative motion.

There are many important and current questions relating to Iraq, including the steps that the Iraqi people are taking to establish a representative Government and the considerable efforts that the coalition provisional authority is making, not so much to put the country back on its feet, but to make it far better than ever it was under Saddam. Those questions are not just important for Iraq; they are surely among the most vital challenges facing Britain, the European Union, the United States and every country with an interest in peace and prosperity in the middle east.

That is the reason for the intense negotiations in recent weeks at the United Nations to agree a new Security Council resolution in respect of Iraq, culminating in the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1511 on 16 October. That sets a deadline of 15 December by which the Iraqi interim governing council should provide a timeline and a programme leading to an Iraqi constitution and to democratic elections. It also confirms the central role of the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq and encourages UN member states and international bodies to support that process. The next step will be the Madrid donors conference that is being held tomorrow and on Friday, where Her Majesty's Government will be represented by three senior Ministers—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and my noble Friend Baroness Symons, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In Madrid, the United Kingdom will pledge a further £300 million of assistance over two years. Together with money already committed, that will bring UK assistance for the three years from April 2003 to £550 million. That is on top of the contribution that we are making through our commitment of British troops.

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