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David Winnick (Walsall, North): Clearly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not agree with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's assessment of the position in respect of international law, but why should we apologise for overthrowing what was one of the most murderous of tyrannies? Is it not a fact that most people in Iraq—whatever their reservations about the occupation and the need for elections as soon as possible—welcome their country's liberation from Saddam's tyranny?

Mr. Campbell: The Iraqi people do indeed, but is the hon. Gentleman positing the principle that the end justifies the means in all circumstances, and that that principle is apposite in international relations? If so, I ask him to consider the position between India and Pakistan. The view across the line of control is that a

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pre-emptive strike might be the better way of ensuring the protection of one or other of those countries. Establishing a precedent of the sort created on the occasion of the war against Iraq means that a pattern would be established that others would follow and which it would be extremely difficult to criticise.

Of course, everyone is relieved—even rejoices at the fact—that Saddam Hussein has gone, but that is not a justification for a breach of international law. If we claim that a benevolent outcome will always retrospectively justify military action, we are opening up a chapter in international law whose consequences are difficult, if not impossible, to predict.

As the right hon. Member for Devizes pointed out, a motion for an inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 is still on the Order Paper, but the motion being debated today does not propose that sort of inquiry. Until I heard the right hon. Gentleman, I thought that that was a recognition of the innovative and far-reaching role of Lord Hutton's inquiry. I think that the Hutton inquiry has become the benchmark, and that it will remain so. Those who are aggrieved or who want some controversy resolved will want nothing less that a Hutton-style inquiry into the war.

The Hutton inquiry has been characterised by speed, independence and, as most would agree, rigour. It is important to note that, so far as we know, no one refused Lord Hutton's summons to give evidence, and no relevant or material documents were concealed from him—again, so far as we know. If a Hutton-style inquiry were to be launched, one would have to be satisfied that maximum co-operation would be available, that all relevant information would be put forward, and that all witnesses with relevant information would be prepared to appear and give evidence.

I do not intend to try to anticipate Lord Hutton's conclusions, but it is fair to say that he appeared to define and interpret his remit rather narrowly. In the nature of things, however, the trawl through Government and especially through No. 10 Downing street—where I imagine the e-mail has become a forbidden method of communication—has thrown up further information which, in my judgment, requires further investigation. It is legitimate to say that Hutton has shone a light into many dark corners of the Government machine.

The central question remains: did we go to war with Iraq on a prospectus that was flawed, either because the intelligence behind it was inadequate or because that intelligence was mishandled once it had been obtained? I shall set out some of the issues and facts that lead me and others to believe that that central question still has to be answered.

First, Mr. Jonathan Powell reportedly warned on 19 September that the dossier should avoid presenting Iraq as an imminent threat, either to its neighbours or others. That seems to contradict the warning in the foreword to the dossier published five days later, on 24 September, that Iraq posed a "current and serious threat". Exactly what were those words intended to convey to the ordinary reader? What was intended to be conveyed by the use of the expression "clear and present danger"? The provenance of the phrase is the US constitution, but it was used by Ministers here. What were they endeavouring to convey by the use of that expression?

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In addition, a sentence omitted from the same foreword apparently stated that Iraq was not capable of launching a nuclear strike on the UK. Moreover, the word "programmes" was removed from the dossier's title, which gave the impression that weapons of mass destruction were present rather than that Iraq had the potential to produce them.

Another problem is the ambiguity of the 45-minute claim. We know now that it related to battlefield weapons and was based on hearsay evidence from a single, uncorroborated source. The claim gave rise to newspaper headlines such as the one that appeared in the Evening Standard, which stated "45 Minutes from Chemical Attack". That proposition was never denied by Ministers. Sir Richard Dearlove described the 45-minute claim as "misleading". Dr. Kelly apparently called it "risible", and the Intelligence and Security Committee employed its usual moderate language to call it "unhelpful".

In addition to those matters, the following facts need to be borne in mind—that no weapons were deployed at 45 minutes' notice, that no weapons capable of being deployed at 45 minutes' notice have been found, and that no deployable weapons of any kind have so far been found. I add to that the concerns about the contents of the dossier expressed by Dr. Brian Jones of the defence intelligence staff. Another official, known only as Mr. A., said that the Government were clearly "clutching at straws".

The circumstances of the decision to name Dr. Kelly are a matter for Lord Hutton, but the evidence of witnesses to the inquiry, and Lord Hutton's attitude towards them, may well raise substantial questions about the Government's credibility that are relevant to the wider issues.

Finally, I bring to the House's attention two other apparent contradictions. First, the provenance of the claim that Iraq sought to buy yellowcake from Niger was rejected by Dr. el-Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, but the UK Government apparently still insist that the claim is valid. Secondly, the intelligence assessment was not only that war would increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks on the UK, but that an attack on Iraq would increase the likelihood of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists.

Some of the matters that I have raised are matters of fact, others of inference. However, if they do not give rise to sufficient anxiety to justify an inquiry of the kind proposed in the motion, I find it difficult to envisage circumstances in which such an inquiry would ever be thought to be necessary.

Mr. Reed : The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making the case that Parliament should discuss these matters rather well. As he knows, I agree with much of his assessment of the questions, but is it not the case that we should be holding the Government to account, not passing that duty on to some judicial inquiry? I can assure Opposition Members that on the basis of what I have heard today, I shall support the Government this evening, even though I opposed the war.

Mr. Campbell: I have not said this publicly before, but I imagine that it took a great deal of courage for the hon.

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Gentleman and other hon. Members who are normally loyal supporters of their Front Bench to take that decision on 18 March. I have two points to make. First, and I say this with some deference—with even more deference given that no members of the Foreign Affairs Committee are here—I doubt whether anyone would regard the Committee's performance in this matter as unimpeachable. Its inquiry was bedevilled by a lack of access to information. There was a great deal of division, although not always along party lines, and the conduct of its work was sadly disfigured by leaks. If the way in which that inquiry was carried out is to become some sort of paradigm, Lord Hutton may do one thing for us—he may prompt us to have a wholesale review of the way Select Committees operate in this place.

We need an inquiry of a public nature. That is why, I guess, the Prime Minister felt that Lord Hutton and the mechanism that he has employed were the way to deal with an issue of such public importance as the death of the unfortunate Dr. Kelly. For those two reasons—that our performance so far has hardly been brilliant and the fact that we are trying to deal with public confidence—an inquiry of the type being postulated is the way to proceed.

Mr. Straw: Whether or not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's criticisms of the Foreign Affairs Committee are well founded, none of those criticisms can possibly apply to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which conducted its investigation very thoroughly, scrupulously and on an all-party basis. Does he accept that the ISC's report is well founded?

Mr. Campbell: The report is a useful and effective contribution to the debate, but as I said a moment ago, we need something that is in the public arena. Given the necessary constraints on the way in which the Committee operates, a large part of its proceedings were conducted in private—indeed, on this occasion it was all of its proceedings. These are issues of such fundamental public importance that an inquiry that is accessible to the public, and shows them that we are not so precious about our responsibilities and performance in this place that we are unwilling to allow external scrutiny, is much more likely to command public confidence.


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