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What have we learned about insurgency and counter-insurgency, and how we deal with them? My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Holloway) made a passionate speech about how we went into Basra believing that we knew what we were doing about counter-insurgency. We believed that our experience from Northern Ireland could be directly translated into the south of Iraq, but we had some big lessons to learn. How exactly will we take those lessons and transfer them into Afghanistan, so that we do not make similar mistakes again? We cannot afford the time to wait—the delay—for such an inquiry to take place, because these things are already happening in real time. We need to ensure that those lessons are learned, for the well-being of our armed forces and of the people in Afghanistan.

We need to learn these lessons while memories are fresh. The hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) and my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) made the point graphically that this is not just about the facts on paper, but about the recollections, the pressure, the tone of conversations and the whisperings in corridors about when people knew what—all those things are extremely important.

25 Mar 2009 : Column 364

We also need to see what lessons we have learned on procurement and the equipment for our armed forces. Many bereaved families who lost loved ones in Iraq will expect the inquiry to address this key issue: why did the Government hold back on authorising the acquisition of sufficient equipment to protect our soldiers? On 9 December 2003, the National Audit Office said:

A report in The Guardian on 22 January 2004 about Sir Kevin Tebbit’s evidence said that the Government did not order crucial equipment for British troops because of

To put the matter in a more personal context, in the inquiry into the circumstances that led to the death of Sergeant Roberts, the coroner, Andrew Walker, said:

What lessons do we still need to learn? Why have we had this unnecessary delay when we still have troops fighting in Afghanistan and those lessons may be literally vital for them?

The Government today have not even pretended to hide behind their previous discredited excuses for delay. It is now a simple, nakedly political delay, designed to prevent the truth from emerging before the general election. The Government should now bow to the inevitable. This House and the country need to learn from what went wrong so that we do not repeat those mistakes in the future. For the sake of the sacrifices already made and the wellbeing of our military and civilians alike, we should have no further delay for blatantly party political reasons. Members on both sides of the House must ask themselves whether they are willing to tolerate naked partisan prevarication or whether they want the truth to emerge.

3.51 pm

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn), with whom I often disagree, brought home the gravity of the decisions with which we were all confronted back in 2003 by the simple act of reading out the names this afternoon of all of our people who died in the operation in Iraq. Acknowledging that gravity is something that unites the House.

A couple of other things also unite the House. The first is the need for a full investigation of our involvement in Iraq. That should be comprehensive and should look at the reasons leading up to the decision to invade Iraq. It should also look at the aftermath and the full agenda that applied after the initial invasion in order to try to capture all the lessons that we owe it to people—most of all our armed forces—to learn for the future. No hon. Member would disagree with that.

We can also unite on the ground that we need to be able to say that those people did not die in vain. I do not believe that they did die in vain. I firmly believe that our armed forces have displayed a phenomenal capability and an indomitable spirit in Iraq, and that they have achieved massively. I have heard only one hon. Member
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this afternoon question whether they will be able to leave Iraq, irrespective of political arguments, with their head held high, having achieved a great deal.

It is important to acknowledge the improvement that has occurred. The situation in Basra, the area for which we have operational responsibilities, is phenomenally improved. We have had elections, which went off peacefully and in which people were free to vote. I have been able to walk around Basra and people have talked to me about the same kind of things that worry us here in Britain—jobs, the economy and the future of their families—and not the abject fear that dominated them a couple of years ago and throughout the reign of Saddam Hussein.

If all those things unite us, as I think they do, what divides us? We are divided, simply, on the timing. The Conservatives are trying to say—the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) said it, in his usual amusing way—that it is an issue of time. He did not allow the facts to stand in the way of a good joke when he put his case. He was determined repeatedly to suggest that we no longer have people actively engaged in Iraq. He said repeatedly that our people are not actively engaged in Iraq. That is not so. There was an attack on the contingency operating base only a couple of weeks ago that killed not a member of the British armed forces but a civilian contractor. There are, albeit at a far lower level, improvised explosive device attacks taking place in the south-east as well as in the rest of the country. Our people—more than 4,000 of them—are still in danger at this moment. There are still malevolent forces intent on doing them harm.

It is our duty—I worry about this in my role as Minister for the Armed Forces—to ensure that no complacency creeps in during this final period of our active engagement in Iraq that could possibly lead to unnecessary deaths. I put our people at the forefront of my mind, but there should be no distractions either. It is no good saying that only the military would be distracted. I do not want the top of the shop—both on the military side and the civil service side in the MOD—to be distracted from the task at hand while we still have people in harm’s way. All we are arguing about is the timing. The timetable is not a political one, but is simply a matter of our people still being actively involved in Iraq.

Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): The Minister knows that I voted against the war and that I want to see an inquiry. Is there not a way out of the timing problem that he is putting to the House? The inquiry will take some time, so could we not split it? Part of the inquiry could look at what went before the war and at the diplomatic and political issues. We could get on with that now. Nothing in our involvement in Iraq at the moment would stop us considering those pre-war issues. By the time that we are finally out of Iraq, as the Minister says, we could come to the military side. We should get on with the inquiry now, but split it into two halves.

Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend has put that argument to me privately and he now puts it to me publicly. I do not believe that there is a case for splitting the inquiry
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into two halves. We need a group of people to sit down and seriously to consider the issues in the round. They need to consider all the measures that are to be taken. Of course, there are people who want an inquiry in order to score political points, but most people in the House, including those on the Government Front Bench, want an inquiry in order to learn the lessons that we badly need to learn from our involvement in Iraq. Many lessons that will need to be learnt will be appropriate to other engagements—not least, as has been said, to our involvement in Afghanistan. Not all the issues are transferable, but some of them potentially are. We need the inquiry to be comprehensively involved.

I do not necessarily think that the date of 31 July is set in stone. The issue that is set in stone is whether or not we have combat troops actively engaged in Iraq. Once that action has ceased, we can move on to what is a very important agenda. However, that agenda is not for today: it is for tomorrow, and for the period after the operation has ceased. I hope that my hon. Friend will see the importance of that approach in the way that he votes this afternoon.

Question put ( S tanding Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 265, Noes 303.
Division No. 88]
[4 pm


Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Durkan, Mark
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark

Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Lynne
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mason, John
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Salmond, rh Mr. Alex
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, Alan
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael

Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, David
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tredinnick, David
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Stephen Crabb and
Jeremy Wright

Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela

Eagle, Maria
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James

Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, David
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Steve McCabe and
Chris Mole
Question accordingly negatived.
25 Mar 2009 : Column 367

25 Mar 2009 : Column 368

25 Mar 2009 : Column 369

25 Mar 2009 : Column 370

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.

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