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history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial...war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning.
Unfortunately, we have not seen that kind of honesty from any Government Minister to date. However, it is fair to say that the Foreign Secretary came perilously close when she said that history may judge the Iraq war to have been a disaster. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of waiting for historys verdict; we need some answers and action now.
A Government who were prepared to parade before our eyes dossier after dodgy dossier of carefully edited intelligence will not now let us read any of the intelligence on what is happening on the ground. We
have had no comprehensive statement to date of Government policy. In February last year, the Prime Minister promised the Liaison Committee that General Lucks audit of coalition security strategy in Iraq would be published. For the record, I quote the Prime Minister:
I have seen a draft that is still under discussion...When there is a finished article, it will be published.
Before the Government come back and say, That was not our fault; the decision not to publish was made in Washingtonlike so many other foreign policy decisions under this GovernmentI should point out to Treasury Ministers that they have not published a single word of Sir Ronnie Flanagans assessment of the UKs contribution to Iraqi security sector reform, which was completed 10 months ago. Of course we understand that parts of these reports have to be withheld for security reasons, but does the Foreign Secretary really believe that Parliament can do its duty in holding the Government to account if we get no information about their strategy?
There are two Iraqs: the Iraq of George Bush and the Prime Minister, where things are going to plan and getting better all the time; and the real Iraq of murder and mayhem, whose future is uncertain. The state of denial that characterises the Governments policy now mirrors the state of delusion that characterised their policy in the run-up to war. The Prime Minister told us that night that it was beyond doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, even though the intelligence supplied was packed with doubt. He rattled off the huge quantities of WMD that he said had been left unaccounted for. Then he treated us to the punch-line:
We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few yearscontrary to all history, contrary to all intelligenceSaddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.[ Official Report, 18 March 2003; Vol. 401, c. 762.]
Well, not as things turned out. In my more uncharitable moments, I am reminded of that famous Aneurin Bevan put-down during the Suez crisis. He said, If Sir Anthony Eden is sincere in what he is sayingand he may be, he may bethen he is too stupid to be Prime Minister.
Adam Price: Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, I should like to state as a matter of record that I do not believe that the Prime Minister is stupid; that is a wholly unwarranted and unfounded accusation.
Dr. Palmer: The difficulty that I and many others have with the idea of a fresh inquiry is the partisan response to the previous four inquiries, whereby those who did not wish to accept what they heard simply rejected them as whitewashes. Does the hon. Gentleman accept the Butler inquiry, the Hutton inquiry and the all-party inquiries that we have already had?
Adam Price: I have heard this charge of political opportunism [Interruption.] Well, I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that, facing as we are elections in Wales and Scotland, and given that we have one of the most unpopular Prime Ministers in history, political opportunism should mean that we would like to keep him there. In fact, we are doing what is right on a cross-party basis. On the inquiries to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the key issue is: how can the Butler and Hutton inquiries have been genuinely independent of the Executive when their remit and membership were decided by the Prime Minister himself? When you are in the dock, Mr. Speaker, you are usually not allowed to make decisions about the charge sheet, the judge and the jury.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman recall that during the debate on the Hutton inquiry the Prime Minister actually confessed that he was unaware that there was evidence that the weapons of mass destruction for which he was looking were just defensive weaponsartillery shells or small-calibre weaponry? He was unaware of that at the time, as was Hutton, so we had a situation in which the Prime Minister was making representations to the House on evidence that he did not understand and had not read.
Adam Price: Absolutely. The responsibility of Ministers to tell the truth is not just in making sure that they say what they believe to be true, but testing it against the factsactually getting into the detailand there is plenty of evidence, as the hon. Gentleman says, that that did not happen in that case.
Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): Is not this symptomatic of the way the Government address such important issues? They held several narrowly defined inquiries, rather as they did with foot and mouth, so that we never got the full picture, which is of course very much to their benefit.
Adam Price: Absolutely. The wording of our motion reflects the wording of the Franks inquiry, so that there can be a broad-ranging inquiry and we can learn lessons, to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.
Mark Fisher: Does the hon. Gentleman share my view that one of the things at stake this afternoon is the credibility of Parliament, and that the key responsibilities of Parliament are to scrutinise the Executive and hold it to account? If we fail to fulfil those responsibilities in relation to the Iraq war we shall further deepen the growing and worrying imbalance between Parliament and the Executive.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher) has laid bare the constitutional
question, which is at the heart of the debate, about restoring the balance of power between Parliament and the Executive.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Some have accused the hon. Gentleman of opportunism in choosing to debate this subject on an Opposition day, but does he agree that the people of Wales are keen to get to the truth of the matter and that what we really need today is a sober and considered debate rather than point-scoringprimarily by a very defensive Government? Does he hope that rather than putting party political interests first we can make the interests of democracy and our mistakes in Iraq the primary consideration in our debate?
Adam Price: I agree, and I pay tribute to courageous Members on both sides of the House who have declared support against their party line. Some things are genuinely more important than party politics, and it is a good day for parliamentary democracy when we see beyond party loyalty and look at issues of principle.
I want to return to some of the Prime Ministers statements that were out of kilter with much of what he was being told. To give just one example, on 3 April 2002 he said: We know that heSaddam Hussein
has stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons.
We believe Iraq retains some production equipment, and some small stocks of chemical warfare agent precursors, and may have hidden small quantities of agents and weapons.
So may became we know and small quantities became major stockpiles; that was the pattern in the presentation of the case. Small changes in emphasis and the selective use of intelligence were repeatedly used to transform a threat from minor to dire and doubtful to definite, and caveats and caution to blood-chilling certainties.
Evidence that would have undermined the case was held back. The Prime Minister frequently cited the defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Husseins son-in-law, and his admission in 1995 that Iraq had indeed had an extensive WMD programme. However, what the Prime Minister omitted to tell the House was that Hussein Kamel also told UN inspectors in 1995 that he had personally ordered the destruction of all biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and that that had happened.
Most indefensible of all was justification of the war in Iraq on the basis that it would reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack, even though the intelligence services were saying the opposite at the time.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman also concede that any inquiry should look in some detail at the circumstances under which the UN weapons inspectors, led by Hans Blix, were withdrawn from Iraq in January 2003 and not allowed to go back, having confirmed that they believed with 99 per cent. certainty that there were no such weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
Adam Price: As we have learned over the past few days, with the leaked Cabinet minute and the leaked national intelligence estimate from the United States, the invasion of Iraq has increased the threat of terrorist attacks. It is a sad indictment of the Government that we learn more from leaked Cabinet papers than we ever do from a Cabinet Minister speaking at the Dispatch Box. I hope that this afternoon will be an honourable exception.
Another critical issue surrounded by confusion and controversy was the timing of the decision to go to war. We were told right up to the last few days before the debate in the House that no decision had been taken, but there is now compelling evidence that the Prime Minister had already made a decision to invade a year earlier. As early as March 2002, the Prime Ministers foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, was assuring Condoleezza Rice of the Prime Ministers unbudgeable support for regime change. Days later, Sir Christopher Meyer sent a dispatch to Downing street detailing how he repeated that commitment to the US Deputy Defence Secretary. The ambassador added that the Prime Minister would need a cover for military action:
I then went through the need to wrong-foot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN Security Council resolutions.
Most incredibly of all, in the most recent leaked memorandum, we read that, in a meeting with the Prime Minister, the President even suggested provoking a war with Saddam by flying a US spy plane bearing UN colours over Iraq and enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it. That is the clearest suggestion yet that the UN was being used not to prevent war, but as a pretext for beginning it.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether, in his preparation for this debate, he had discussions with any representatives of the Iraqi Government? Has he had representations from the Iraqi trade union movement? Is it not right that the voice of ordinary Iraqi people who support their democratic Government and the actions taken should be heard in this debate?
Adam Price: I would welcome the opportunity to go to Iraq. I have been trying to go, but I was told by the former Foreign Secretary that it was not safe for a Member of Parliament to go to Iraq. That is a sad indictment of the state of affairs on the ground. Those who will support the motion include Members who opposed the war and those who supported it.
There is no shame in changing ones mind when new facts come to light. Ask the Attorney-General. He changed his mind three times in three weeks. He finally decided on 13 March 2003, after talking things through with his secretary, that his 7 March opinion was wrong after all and that, to quote the Attorney-Generals recent disclosure to the Information Commissioner,
the better view was that a further resolution was not legally necessary.
Incredibly, that U-turn was not based on a detailed paper setting out the legal arguments. The Attorney-General who, by his own admission, is not an expert in international law, did not ask for legal advice until after he had come to his decision. [ Interruption. ] The Minister is shaking his head. I am reading from the Governments own disclosure to the Information Commissioner, which states:
It was also decided to prepare a statement setting out the Attorneys view of the legal position and to send instructions to counsel to help in the preparation of that public statement.
The Attorney-General went on in the same disclosure statement to admit, crucially, that the revival argumentthe notion that the use of force authorised by resolution 678 from the first Gulf war was capable of being revived by the Security Councilwas and remains controversial. Finally, a full three years on from the invasion, we have an unequivocal admission from the Attorney-General that his statement to the House that the war was legal was controversialhis word, not mine.
Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman has said one thing this afternoon with which I wholeheartedly agree: the people of Wales will be looking at the debate with interest. However, many service families will want to know his view not about the beginnings of the war and whether troops should have gone to Iraq in the first place, but about whether they should remain there now. Is it his position that they should leave immediately?
Adam Price: With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, he knows my position because we debated that a week ago. We are having a different debate, but my position [ Interruption. ] I would gladly debate this with the Prime Minister any time. Let us have [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Mr. Hall, it is not your function to heckle an hon. Member constantly, especially when I have given an instruction. I am looking at a few other Members who should behave themselves as well.
Adam Price: There is a fundamental breakdown at the heart of the Government that is continuing to affect decisions that are being made now. The Government have made a catalogue of errors that have resulted in problems on the ground. As hon. Members have said, the problem was that we had not government by Cabinet, but government by cabal. The delicate checks and balances of our constitution were swept away. Cabinet was sidelined and Parliament was misled[Hon. Members: Order!] I did not say by whom.
Adam Price: There is a problem at the heart of our constitution and tonight we need to reapply the constitutional brakes. The military men have been lining up to criticise and so have the mandarins. A letter from Sir Michael Quinlan, of all people, a former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said that the Prime Minister
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