Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1200-1219)


27 JUNE 2003

  Q1200  Mr Maples: That is not answering the question.

  Mr Straw: With great respect, Chairman, it may be that Mr Maples thinks I should not be allowed to answer it, but I will answer it.

  Q1201  Chairman: I am allowing you to answer, but briefly.

  Mr Straw: What I noted was that Mr Sambrook did not repeat the charges made by Mr Gilligan, which were very specific, all he said was: "There was disquiet within the intelligence service about one piece of evidence, that one 45 minute claim". Mr Gilligan did not say there was "disquiet", he made very specific charges, which are wrong, and that is one reason why the BBC does need to apologise.

  Q1202  Richard Ottaway: On this point about when the 45 minute claim first appeared Mr Campbell told us not once but twice on Wednesday that it appeared in the first draft of the report, do you agree with that?

  Mr Straw: The first draft of? The one produced in September, yes I think so, because we had the JIC report in early September. Mr Ottaway, the crucial point about the 45 minute claim is that it came from intelligence through the JIC, which was assessed to be credible.

  Q1203  Richard Ottaway: That is not the question, there are two points here: When did it go in? Was it credible?

  Mr Straw: We will deal with the narrative in the private session.

  Chairman: The question put by Mr Ottaway was rather different, Mr Ottaway would you repeat it?

  Q1204  Richard Ottaway: I am asking when it appeared in the draft of the September document.

  Mr Straw: I can give you the date.

  Q1205  Richard Ottaway: Was it in the first draft?

  Mr Ricketts: It was as soon as it was received and assessed.

  Q1206  Richard Ottaway: Was it in the first draft?

  Mr Straw: As we will explain in the private session the drafts of information to be made publicly available of some kind about Iraq went back to the early side of the summer, we have already made this clear. Then drafts of the document that was being published were being prepared. This information came to the attention of the JIC, as I recall, in early September and from that date and the assessment by the JIC that intelligence was accurately reflected in the dossier.

  Q1207  Richard Ottaway: It was added later.

  Mr Straw: That is what I am trying to tell you.

  Q1208  Richard Ottaway: The answer is that it was added later and it was not in the first draft.

  Mr Straw: Again we can go into detail.

  Q1209  Richard Ottaway: This is a very important.

  Mr Straw: Mr Ottaway, it is a completely trivial point, with great respect to you.

  Q1210  Richard Ottaway: It is one you have spent the last 30 minutes refuting.

  Mr Straw: It is not remotely material. The allegation was not that it appeared in the first draft rather than the second draft, let us be clear about that, the allegation was that the 45 minute claims was not properly sourced or corroborated and was then "sexed-up" in the final document.

  Q1211  Richard Ottaway: We will come to that. I am asking a totally different line of questioning here; did it appear in the first draft?

  Mr Straw: What I am saying to you is—

  Q1212  Richard Ottaway: You can cut right through this by saying yes or no?

  Mr Straw: It appeared in the first draft after the intelligence was received.

  Q1213  Richard Ottaway: It was not in the first draft it was in a subsequent draft, so it was added later.

  Mr Straw: That is a ludicrous way of describing it, Mr Ottaway.

  Q1214  Richard Ottaway: It seems pretty reasonable; people of basic intelligence can understand it.

  Mr Straw: We did not get the intelligence and it was not assessed until early September, palpably it could not have been included in earlier drafts if we did not know about it.

  Q1215  Richard Ottaway: It was not in the first draft?

  Mr Straw: I have answered the question, Mr Ottaway. I have given you a perfectly satisfactory answer to the question.

  Q1216  Richard Ottaway: I will repeat it, was it in the first draft?

  Mr Straw: I answered you; it was in the first draft after the intelligence was received, by definition it could not have been in any earlier draft.

  Q1217  Richard Ottaway: Was it in one of the subsequent drafts?

  Mr Straw: I have given you an answer.

  Q1218  Chairman: Mr Ottaway was talking about the first draft, when was that first draft prepared by the Chairman of the JIC?

  Mr Ricketts: If we go back to the beginning there were drafts discussed in March and obviously by definition there was no reference to the 45 minute in the first draft because it had not been received or assessed. The Prime Minister announced on 3 September an intention to produce a more detailed dossier drawing more fully on intelligence. The Joint Intelligence Committee then discussed drafts twice in the course of September. As far as I am aware that material was already included in those drafts because it had figured in a Joint Intelligence Committee report of 9 September.

  Q1219  Richard Ottaway: Mr Campbell told us it was in the first draft, you just seem to be contradicting that?

  Mr Ricketts: It does depend on your definition of first draft. If you mean March then clearly no.

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