2.4 pm

Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): I am grateful for the chance to take part in an important debate that strikes at the heart of our role as Members of Parliament, for many of the uncomfortable reasons presented by the hon. Members for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and for Bradford West (George Galloway). It touches particularly on our responsibility, as the legislature, to our constituents. Our reaction, therefore, as Members of the House of Commons and on behalf of our constituents, to the grotesque delays in producing the report is a matter of great importance.

This debate is not about former Prime Minister Tony Blair. However, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I was here for that debate in 2003. Although advised by the Opposition Whips, I had not made up my mind how to vote when I entered the Chamber. I could not get a seat, so I sat in the Gangway, and I listened to the Prime Minister. To some extent, this answers the important question from the hon. Member for Bradford West about how we, who were supposedly well educated and informed, knew less than the phenomenal number of people out on the streets demonstrating against the Iraq war. Sitting in the Gangway, with the Prime Minister a few feet away, speaking about the threat to Britain and the international order and the importance of military action, I was persuaded.

Pete Wishart: May I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was not persuaded by the Prime Minister, but duped by the Prime Minister, with a fabrication, a fallacy and a pack of lies? Does he not now see that he was misled?

Mr Mitchell: The question whether we were duped is exactly the reason the process of this inquiry is so important. As I sat there, I firmly believed that the

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Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was making a case that I had a duty to support.

This was a hugely divisive matter. In my constituency, there were very deep divisions that had nothing to do with party politics. I remember the bizarre occasion when the entire executive committee of the Sutton Coldfield Labour party—not a large body—came to urge me as their Conservative Member of Parliament to vote against the Iraq war and their own party’s Prime Minister. During the debate, I remember going home to have dinner with my wife, who has always been viscerally opposed to the war and believes it was a terrible mistake. So these divisions run deep.

At the end of the day, however, this is not an attack on the former Prime Minister. It is inconceivable—this is an incredibly important point—that he could have made the case he did that afternoon without the passive acquiescence, if not the active support, of the full panoply of the Government machine. In my judgment, the Chilcot report is required not to expose an idiosyncratic Prime Minister—if that is the charge—but to hold to public account the workings of our Government machine.

Last December, we saw the long-awaited publication in the US of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11. It was certainly controversial, possibly flawed, but such reports, and the problems they throw up for politicians and Administrations, are crucial to the democratic process and our ability, as the legislature, to hold to account those who make these decisions. There is a clear benefit to be derived from revisiting these profound and significant decisions and actions, and although it might leave us open to criticism and reopen old wounds, it is a fundamental step in the process of moving forward and building on past actions.

For this House, therefore, this debate is an important and timely one. It follows the pertinent and important comments made in the other place by former Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd. His remarks should ring around the political establishment. I also congratulate the three promoters of the debate, and as ever my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) did the House credit in introducing it. It is a debate not about the substance of Sir John’s report, which none of us should prejudice, but about the manner of its conduct and timing and the way these issues have been pursued.

In allowing the inquiry to drift on in this way, Sir John and all of us are doing great damage to the process of accountability—a process that Parliament has a right to expect and a duty to pursue in order to hold the Government to account. It really matters that it is taking so desperately long for the report to be delivered. The failure to have this report before us will undoubtedly have had some impact—probably both ways—on the way in which Members voted on the Government motion for action on Syria.

On the Libya campaign, when I was the International Development Secretary, I had responsibility for the Government’s humanitarian duties and role, and my first question to officials in my Department was about the lessons to be drawn from the Iraq war, most especially on the plans for the aftermath of that conflict, which were fundamental to the plans we were making in

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respect of Libya. The lack of a proper inquiry meant relying on the memory and understanding of officials, which is what we had to do.

We come to the meat of the matter. This inquiry is entering its sixth year; it has already cost £9 million. That is clearly not the fault of the current Government. The events did not take place on our watch. Indeed, both the Prime Minister and I voted to set up this inquiry in 2006. The delay is an insult to every one of our constituents, to every taxpayer in the country and to every parent, spouse and loved one of the 179 servicemen and women who died in the Iraq war and of the many who were wounded and still live with those wounds today.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, led so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South, is absolutely right to call Sir John before it next week to ask him not for the contents of his report, but for a full and detailed explanation of the delays, the timing and the process over which he has presided. It is essential that we, the legislature, prosecute this matter vigorously and fully if we are not to bring ourselves into considerable disrepute. It is our role to hold the Government to account, and what could be more important than the issues surrounding a decision like this one—to go to war?

2.12 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): It was 18 March 2003, and both you and I were in the House that day, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was an ugly, brutal day. It was one of these huge set-piece occasions that we have in the House of Commons when every single thing is reported and every single nuance noted. It was the day that we voted to go to war. I will never, ever forget it.

I was a Whip that day, and I remember observing the Government Whips rounding up the recalcitrant, the doubters and those who were trying to make up their minds. I remember lots of good women and men being dragooned into the Lobby—against their better judgment —to support the Prime Minister and the fabrication of a case on Iraq. It was a horrible day—a day that should be ingrained in the collective consciousness of this House and remembered for its eternal shame. It was the day that we voted to go to war on a total fabrication, and we must find out why this House decided to do that.

Mr MacNeil: I was not a Member of the House at that time, but my hon. Friend reminds me of the time when the then Deputy Prime Minister was arguing that the road map for Palestine was somehow connected to the maiming and the murder in Iraq.

Pete Wishart: To try to get a flavour of what the House was like that day, I watched a YouTube video of Tony Blair’s speech that morning. I know that sounds a bit masochistic, but I wanted to find out what was said and what the case for war was. What I had to listen to was absolute and utter nonsense—fabrications and flights of fancy that Blair must have known were totally false and ridiculous. He said there were weapons of mass destruction that could, without doubt, reach us within 45 minutes. But there were none—there was nothing there. This House was misled; this House was duped.

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I have listened to Conservative Members saying that they believed the Prime Minister. The rest of the country knew. The rest of the country was not fooled by his mendacious nonsense—of course not. We were on a march in central Glasgow, and 100,000 people turned up to march against that war. Some 1 million people turned up in London to march against it. Yet this House voted to go to war on the basis of a lie—a House that was duped and misled. If anybody needs to know the reason why this House was misled, it is because of us, the parliamentarians.

I am disappointed in the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). He should not have changed his motion. We should have demanded today that we got that report. I do not want to hear the reasons why we are not getting it. I do not want to hear about the process of getting it in the future—we should have it now. We should have it before the general election, and this suggestion that it is political and somehow gets in the way of a democratic process in the run-up to an election is just fatuous nonsense.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I, too, recall that day, and I concur with everything the hon. Gentleman says about how people who were feeling very strongly about the issue were pushed and cajoled, with notes and letters being sent asking me to meet all sorts of people. Does he agree that this tells us the lesson that this House must always be very careful that the Whips and the party machine do not always get their way?

Pete Wishart: I am very grateful to the hon. Lady, who makes such a powerful and potent point about something as important as going to war. I was just a new Member, having been in the House for just a year; I was a young whippersnapper barely out of my shorts, yet I was listening to a Prime Minister making this case. I thought, “Surely, there must be something in it,” but I realise now, along with many other Members, that an issue as important as going to war should not have been whipped on this basis.

The House passed the vote on Iraq by 412 to 149. I was among the 149; my right hon. Friend the Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) was among the 149; I see two Liberal Democrat Members in their places —the right hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell) and the right hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker)—who were among the 149. This was the proudest vote of my 14 years in this House. It was a vote that defined the Parliament between 2001 to 2005. It was a vote, I now believe, that characterised the Labour Government. It was a vote that is now personally associated with Tony Blair, and it will follow him to the grave and be on his tombstone. Such is his association with it that he might as well have it tattooed on his forehead. The Iraq war will for ever be bound up with the last Labour Government and the personality of the last but one Prime Minister.

Rory Stewart: Is there not a danger of this debate becoming an opportunity for self-congratulation or self-laceration on the part of Members of Parliament rather than focusing on the real lessons for how Britain acts in the world?

Pete Wishart: I want to come on to that; it is so important because this House was misled. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman agrees with that, but

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I am sure that, as someone who looks at and understands these issues, he knows that this was a total fabrication. I see him shaking his head. The case for war was non-existent. We have got to understand why a majority of Members voted for it. We have to start to get to the bottom of why this was allowed to happen.

We are still feeling the implications and repercussions: half a million presumed dead; a region destabilised; a country divided; international diplomacy discredited. A point that the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway) made was that we have alienated a generation of young Muslims—here and around the world—dangerously radicalising many of them, giving them a grievance for some of the perverted causes that have been picked up to justify what they see as their perverted agenda. These are things that we now have to deal with for our own security. That is what Iraq bequeathed us. We have got to find out how this happened and why this set of conditions was allowed, enabling us to pursue this particular course of action.

I remember the almost ingenious lengths to which the Labour Government went to try to invent this case. I remember that the House was recalled. It was not just that day in March; we were recalled in September of the previous year. We were told to come down and find in our pigeon-holes the document that subsequently became known as “the dodgy dossier”—100-odd pages of utter drivel, manufactured fabrications and plagiarised sources. We found that most of it came from the post-doctoral work of some student called Ibrahim al-Marashi. It almost seemed like a script for a comedy sketch, yet this was the UK getting prepared to go to war in the 21st century!

We now know, of course, that there were never any weapons of mass destruction—still less any that could be deployed in 45 minutes. There was no collusion with al-Qaeda, even though jihadists now wander at will in the IS forces across Iraq. There was no evidence of any uranium project, and nothing whatsoever could be found relating to any nuclear programme. We were misled; this House was misled.

There are several Members in the House who understand and realise that they were duped, but there are still some who believe that it was right to go to war. I am very fond of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), but he must at some point say that this was a total fabrication, that the House was misled, and that a case was fabricated to go to war. The sooner the right hon. Gentleman does that, the sooner he will get himself off the hook, because this will pursue him, and the others who made the case for war, to the very end of their careers.

I do not think that the issue will end with the publication of the Chilcot report. We seen had four whitewashes—there have been four attempts to put this to bed—but it is not going to end. We will have the Chilcot report, but I do not think that it will get us there; I think it will be another generation before we get to the truth of Iraq. It is possible that there will be a judge-led inquiry, and that might help to get us there, but this is going to go all the way. I foresee that significant people will eventually be taken to The Hague, because this is such an important issue which has redefined so much contemporary foreign history. People say that it was a disaster bigger than Suez—of course it was. This was the biggest single foreign policy blunder and disaster ever made by any Government in modern history.

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So we need the Chilcot report. Do I believe that it we will get us to the heart of this with the Chilcot report? No, I do not, but I think it will go a long way towards describing and explaining some of the things that happened. It will be another generation before we arrive at the absolute truth. There are too many big reputations to be tarnished—again, I say that to the right hon. Member for Blackburn. There are people who will be in a position to try to ensure that this is kicked into the long grass. The only reason I have any confidence in the Chilcot report is that the establishment is trying to prevent us from seeing it, so there must be something good in it. I hope that that means that we may get a glimpse into the workings of this Government.

We are where we are. We hope that we shall see the Chilcot report soon. We should have demanded its publication in this debate, and I am disappointed that we have not been given an opportunity to do so. However, I do not think that the report will be the end of the process. I believe that this will go all the way to The Hague. We engaged in an illegal war on the basis of a fabrication and a downright lie, and we deserve to know the truth. Some day we will get the truth, but I do not believe that we will get it from Chilcot.

2.22 pm

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): It seems to me that the challenge in relation to the Chilcot inquiry is our inability in Britain to come to terms with failure, our inability to come to terms with what exactly went wrong with Iraq, and our inability to reform. As a result of all that, we have a real problem when it comes to acting in the world in the future. Unless we go through the process of coming to terms with who we are and how we got this wrong—whether through the Chilcot inquiry, through our Parliament, or by some other means—we will remain paralysed.

At present, Iraq is sitting like some rotting corpse in a cupboard, the nature of which we do not quite understand. We can see the consequences of that in the problems of British foreign and defence policy in the last 13 years. We can see the inability to come to terms with Iraq in our mistakes in Afghanistan. We can also see the inability to come to terms with Iraq in our current inaction. Britain is currently in a very paralysed state. There is a deep insecurity, and an anxiety. We are not pulling enough weight in NATO, and we are not pulling enough weight in the United Nations. We are failing to commit ourselves to spending 2% of our GDP on defence, which is symptomatic of our inability to come to terms with Putin or Ukraine.

All that brings us back to the four-letter word “Iraq”. Iraq has become, for us, a kind of Vietnam. It has become, in the British consciousness, something that we cannot get beyond, something that we cannot see through. The Chilcot report needs to be published to enable us in Britain to understand what happened in Iraq—understand exactly what happened in Iraq—to enable us to introduce the reforms that the Government need in order to be able to act again in the future, and to enable us to recover our confidence as a nation.

One of our problems with the debate, and, perhaps, with the Chilcot inquiry, has been that the understanding of what went wrong in Iraq is still too limited. We are

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still understandably obsessed with the legality of the war, and also with the issue of post-war planning. In Afghanistan we went into a war that was legal, in those terms, and in which, at least in Helmand, a great deal of planning took place; yet the results there were also a mess. In other words, the problem of Iraq cannot simply be reduced to legality and post-war planning. There is a deeper problem in Iraq, and the deeper problem in Iraq, with which I think we all struggle to deal, is a problem with ourselves. It is the problem of who Britain is, and what Britain does in the world. One way of expressing it is that we are failing to come to terms with our limits—the limits of our knowledge, the limits of our capacity, and the limits of our legitimacy.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman has called for reflection. He may recall the reaction of the American ambassador, when he appeared on “Question Time” after 9/11, to some of the things that were being said to him. There seemed to be an inability to look in the mirror, and to see the effects of foreign policy in the west pre-9/11 in the form of some of the things that were happening in the world and the anger that was being created in the world. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his call for us to use a mirror to look at ourselves, and to look at ourselves very hard.

Rory Stewart: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman in that I am calling for more confidence and more seriousness, not less. The problem with our interpretation of Iraq is that we have ended up with despair. This empty House, the lack of interest among journalists, and the general lack of focus on the issue imply that Britain wants to put this in the past—to put it in its history—and to behave as though it related to some other country and some other Government rather than to us.

The lessons of Iraq must be, among other things, lessons of seriousness. We are not serious, as a country. What Chilcot needs to focus on, above all, is our lack of seriousness on the ground—one problem with the Chilcot inquiry is that it did not spend enough time taking evidence from people who had operated in civilian roles in provincial areas—and that will involve our criticising ourselves in ways that we do not like to criticise ourselves. It will involve us, as a country, getting beyond our anxieties—and this is a very difficult thing to say—about soldiers dying in vain.

A soldier’s life cannot be held relative to the decisions of politicians. A soldier’s courage, a soldier’s sacrifice, is a commitment to his or her country. The danger of reducing every mistake that this country has made—from the Boer war to the Afghan war of 1842 to our recent debacle in Iraq—to the question of a soldiers’ life is that it stifles debate. No one can stand up and criticise what we did for fear that someone might say that soldiers died in vain.

Criticism begins with accepting that we were not serious enough in our commitment to Iraq. American soldiers did 13-month tours; why did we only do six-month tours? American civilians took leave once every six months; British diplomats took leave every six weeks, for two weeks. We remained highly isolated in compounds, under security restrictions which made it very difficult for us to engage with the local population. There was a serious failure to reach out to people who understood Iraq and the area. There was a lack of seriousness and commitment on the ground.

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There was also an obsession with abstraction and jargon. We stood up in the House, and we stood up in the foreign service, talking all the time about “the rule of law”, “governance”, “civil society” and “human rights”. We had absolutely no idea how to relate that kind of jargon to the reality on the ground in Iraq. In fact, what we were doing, again and again, was using words that looked like a plan, but were simply a description of what we did not have. Every time we said that what we needed to bring to Iraq were “governance, the rule of law and security”, we were simply saying that Iraq was corrupt, unjust and violent. Every time we said that we needed to create transparent, predictable, accountable financial processes, we were simply saying what we did not have.

As we move forward, and as Chilcot—hopefully—helps us to come to terms with this catastrophe, we must reform, but what does reform mean? Reform means becoming serious. What I hope we can take from the Chilcot inquiry is that seriousness begins with investing in knowledge and understanding of other people’s countries. Where I differ, perhaps, from the Scottish nationalists is that I do not think that this means that the future for Britain is to become Denmark. I do not think that the future for Britain is to withdraw. I think that the future for Britain is to reach out, and to understand.

Mr MacNeil: I have got to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Denmark was once in the empire game, but historians have noted that Denmark withdrew itself from that. It is time for us to learn from Denmark.

Rory Stewart: I understand absolutely that that is the hon. Gentleman’s position, but our position should be different, and this is where Britain differs from a country like Denmark. First, we should be investing in knowledge—investing in knowledge in the Foreign Office, which means ensuring that there are proper language allowances and that we dismantle the grisly core competency framework for promotion, and that we get out of the situation of there being only three out of 15 ambassadors in the middle east who can speak Arabic.

Mr Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): I do not know whether my hon. Friend remembers this, but in 2007 or 2008, I think, there were no fluent Pashto speakers across the Foreign Office, the MOD or DFID in Afghanistan.

Rory Stewart: There were absolutely no fluent Pashto speakers, and only two operational Dari speakers in our embassy in Kabul.

We must also develop the habit of challenge.

George Galloway: I admire the hon. Gentleman, but as he is speaking I can almost see him in his pith helmet striding across the Punjab as a district commissioner in another era, and his remarks about Denmark compound that. He and I both know that we almost lost our own country just last September; we were almost severed—dismembered—because of the collapse in the credibility of the British political class, and I promise him that we are not going to get that back by being better imperialists than the last group of politicians.

Rory Stewart: We will get it back by being serious again. We will get it back by showing the British public that we have acknowledged the failure and we have

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understood that failure—that we have learned the lessons and that we have reformed—and we will get it back by showing the superiority of Britain through a smaller conception of ourselves that is ultimately to do not with wearing pith helmets but with being an engaged global power. That does include, within the Ministry of Defence, having an ability to challenge ourselves, and having an ability, which we have lost in Iraq today, to provide an independent assessment of US missions. It includes, ultimately, our chiefs of staff recovering their confidence.

This is a good time to remember that, because I think where I and Opposition Members will agree is that on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau the conclusion that Britain should draw from Iraq is not one of isolation. It should not be that we should be doing nothing; it should instead be that we need to recover our confidence as a country—recover the confidence that we are the fifth largest economy in the world, that we have unique skills and expertise, that we have an enormous amount to contribute to the world—and that what we should take from the Chilcot inquiry is not despair or paralysis, but a need to recover our compassion, our common sense and our confidence.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. It will be helpful to other hon. Members if speakers restrict their remarks to about nine minutes, which is quite a long time.

2.33 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was worried for a moment that you were going to come up with the dreaded four-minute warning, so I am obliged to you.

It is a pleasure to be able to speak in this debate, but it is a pretty big indictment of our Parliament that there are hardly any Members here to take part in what ought to be an incredibly serious discussion, and a process of very serious self-criticism of the failure of Parliament both in 2003 and since to hold to account those who took crucial decisions on our behalf, the consequences of which all of us will live with for the rest of our lives, and the population of this country, and indeed of western Europe and the USA, are going to live with for many, many decades and generations to come. What happened in 2003 was a seminal disaster.

I respect the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) for his knowledge, his interest and his commitment, but I profoundly disagree with his analysis. It is essentially that we were good imperialists, then we became weak imperialists, and now we have got to be better imperialists. I have two messages. The first is that we cannot afford it. The second is that the lesson from the disaster of Auschwitz in the 70th anniversary of its liberation should surely be to say never again—never let racism raise its ugly head, be it against Jews, Muslims or anybody else—and also that we must learn a fundamental lesson: that the crazy triumphalism of the treaty of Versailles and that whole period in the 1920s led to the growth of the Nazis and to the disasters. The whole middle east region is still living with the disasters of Versailles—of the Sykes-Picot agreement and the borders we inherited.

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Rory Stewart: The danger of the hon. Gentleman’s anti-imperialist rhetoric is that we are not going to come to terms with how to prevent genocides in the future. What is he proposing in terms of reform, energy, compassion and confidence to deal with an Auschwitz-Birkenau, a Bosnia or a Rwanda in the future, if all he has to say is that we are a small country that cannot afford to do anything in the world?

Jeremy Corbyn: I propose a process of international law, a process of human rights engagement, a process of truth and honesty, and a process whereby we do not denigrate whole peoples and turn the other way when human rights abuses take place.

On a lesser example, but nevertheless an important one, we are apparently more interested in selling weapons to Saudi Arabia than we are in human rights in Saudi Arabia. That example can be multiplied in country after country across the world. If we were serious about human rights, we would not provide the Government of Bahrain with equipment to kill and injure demonstrators who oppose what they do. There has to be some honesty in the whole of our foreign policy, and if this debate does anything to make us start to think more seriously about foreign policy, rather than racing headlong into spending £100 million on Trident, developing more weapons and yet more weapons for our armoury, that will be something.

We have had inquiry after inquiry on Iraq. Parliament showed itself to be a failure and could not do it, and then there was the Butler inquiry and a Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry. We ended up with the Chilcot inquiry.

In 2006 I voted for an Opposition motion, despite the endeavours of the Labour Whips Office. I was not that bothered with its endeavours at that time—or on one or two other occasions for that matter—because I thought setting up an inquiry was the right thing to do. However, I do not think it is the job of Parliament to pass its duties on to somebody else and then complain vaguely when they do not report while saying that we are not going to interfere with the inquiry. This really is our failure. There should have been a serious inquiry, judicial-led in my opinion, with counsel that could have asked some really good questions of Tony Blair, the right hon. friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and a whole lot of other people. Michael Mansfield QC would have been a very good interrogator, and I think that after a few days of interrogation by him we would have gained far more truth than we did from these showman-like trips by Tony Blair to the inquiry and his lucrative tours around the world to say he would do the same again. He clearly has not learned the lessons from this.

I remember those debates very well. I am chair of the Stop the War coalition, and I have been involved in every demonstration I can think of against this war. Indeed, I spoke to that million-strong audience in Hyde park on 15 February 2003. There was something amazing about that day. I was there with many others in this House on that huge platform looking out on Hyde park, with 1 million people and hundreds of thousands more who could not even get into the park. That was after we had been told by the Cabinet Office that Hyde park was not available and we should hold the meeting in Battersea park. I resisted the temptation to go into Battersea park on a Saturday afternoon, however, and we persisted with Hyde park. I saw people there who

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politically profoundly disagree with me, and people who had never been at a public meeting or demonstration in their lives, but who were moved to oppose the war because of the obvious lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and why we had to go to war. Everyone there learned a lesson that day. The cynicism that we meet on the doorstep as we approach the next election is in part due to the contempt shown by Parliament on that day.

I shall not go on much longer, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I just want to say this. The idea that Members were not aware of the misinformation concerning Iraq really does not cut much ice. We had the dodgy dossier. I remember arriving in Parliament at 8 am to read that heroic document; I was the first to arrive at the downstairs Table Office. I knocked on the door at 1 minute to 8 and the people there would not open it, but the moment the door opened at 8 o’clock I put my hand in and grabbed two copies. I gave one to Glen Rangwala, an excellent academic from Cambridge, and I kept the other for myself. He went off to read his, and I went to my office to read mine. When we spoke on the phone 20 minutes later, we said, “This thing is utter nonsense. Who could possibly believe this stuff?” But the House did, and some members of the Security Council did, although France, Russia, China and a lot of other countries did not.

I also remember the extraordinary pressure that MPs were put under to vote in that debate. A number of us who could reasonably be described as Iraq sceptics met Tony Blair in a room at the back of the Chamber. After we had been around the track several times, with him not wishing to engage in the discussion and others wishing to do so, he started looking at his watch and saying, “We’ve got to go now.” I said, “Tony, just one question: why are we doing this?” He slapped his hand on the table and said, “It’s the right thing to do. That’s why we’re doing it.” When I said, “That’s not an answer”, he said, “That’s the only one you’re going to get.” That was the enthralling answer that we got from him.

The lesson surely must be that when the Foreign Affairs Committee interviews Sir John Chilcot next week, they must ask him how he is getting on with obtaining records of the barbecue discussion between Blair and Bush and the correspondence that took place, along with the handwritten notes that civil servants and the Foreign Office maybe did not know about. Perhaps a lot of people did not know about them, because I understand that it was part of Tony Blair’s charm and style to do things differently from anyone else so that people did not know what was going on. I also hope that the Committee will get from him an exact date for the publication of the report, but I think I shall be disappointed when it is published. I suspect that it will be full of redactions and that we will have to read a million words before we discover which bits have been redacted. This issue is not going to go away. We need to get to the truth, and we need a war powers Act to ensure that every MP is involved in decisions to send British troops abroad to war.

To follow up on something that the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border said, I agree that we need a serious debate on foreign policy and on our place in the world. Other countries that once had massive empires have learned these lessons. I recall being in Vienna in December when the Austrian Government proudly said, “Our Government have no nuclear weapons, want no

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nuclear weapons and will never have any nuclear weapons. We want to be a force for peace in the world.” That was once the centre of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Most of the other European countries that were once the centre of empires have learned lessons. Maybe the disaster of Iraq and the growth of al-Qaeda, ISIS and all those other forces that have been let loose by the disaster of the Iraq war will provide a lesson that we will have to learn the hard way, but if we do not learn it, we will suffer by having to repeat it again and again. I do not want to go to war memorials. I do not want to go to memorial services. I want us to be a real influence for peace, for justice and for human rights around the world. We do not achieve that by lying to Parliament. We do not achieve that by invading countries that do not have the weapons it was claimed they had.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. There is now a competition to see who is the most honourable Member by sticking to nine minutes. I call Mr Adam Holloway.

2.43 pm

Mr Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): I have no idea of the reason for the report’s delay—I do not think anyone has—but it does matter. This should not be about a pre-election period, or about bashing Blair or anyone else. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) has said, more than 150,000 civilians and 632 British troops died in two completely idiotic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we need the Chilcot report in order to ensure that we do not make the same mistakes again. The report will go some way towards helping us to work out why we made those mistakes. We need to learn.

It was Sir Basil Liddell-Hart who talked of the motivation to achieve the task in hand and of effective leadership from those placed in authority. Our failure in Iraq was caused, first and foremost, by a failure of effective political and military leadership. From what I have seen on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, we seem to have a deeply dysfunctional situation right across what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) referred to as the “full panoply of the government machine”. I shall divide this into four parts: an inexperienced class of political leaders; ambitious civil servants, most of whom have since been promoted; “can-do” military officers, most of whom have also since been promoted; and experts who were ignored or marginalised.

I shall start by talking about the inexperienced political leaders. Obviously, I am not including the right hon. and brave Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) in that category. There were no experts at the Prairie Chapel ranch when Tony Blair and George Bush agreed to go to war—when Tony Blair basically allowed his mate to drive the car while drunk. You don’t do that. Then there was the dodgy dossier, written late at night like something produced during a politics, philosophy and economics essay crisis. The line that the analyst had written in the intelligence report to say that the missiles no longer existed was completely ignored. We somehow convinced ourselves and most people in the House that there were weapons of mass destruction, and I think most people voted in good faith.

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We then went on to convince ourselves that the reason we were in Afghanistan was that we were fighting them over there so that we would not have to fight them over here. Only about two years ago, after I had given a presentation to the National Security Council, an immensely senior person in our Government took me aside and said, “Adam, are you really saying that the Taliban aren’t a threat to the UK?” That revealed the most fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It almost beggars belief. If I told you who had asked me that question, you would be appalled. [Hon. Members: “Go on! Name them!”] No. We cannot be too unfair on the politicians, because I think that they have been badly served by ambitious civil servants.

Some of those civil servants had a “good news only” culture. General Petraeus spoke in that context of putting lipstick on pigs. A Secretary of State for Defence was at a briefing at Basra air station attended by two of my friends. Apparently—he denies this—he banged the table and said, “Why have you not been telling me the truth? I had no idea that things were quite so bad.” There is a sense that civil servants play back what the politicians want to hear. I shall never forget the briefing in Helmand when we were told everything was going well. A few weeks later, when I was back in Kabul on a private visit, I was in a bar and the same official bounded up to me and said, “Adam, I’m really sorry about that briefing in Helmand. The thing is, we just don’t get promoted for telling the truth.”

The same is true of senior military officers. I do not think anyone thought about our responsibility to the people of Basra after the invasion. Indeed, one of my friends was on the recce in 2004 before we went into Helmand. When he got back to England, he went to see a very senior guy at Permanent Joint Headquarters. That very senior general asked him, “So, what’s the insurgency like in Helmand?” My friend replied, “Well, there isn’t one, but I can give you one if you want one.”

We have the same sort of thing with helicopters. Senior military people are constantly saying, “We’ve got enough helicopters to do the job”. We all remember the deaths of Rupert Thorneloe and Trooper Joshua Hammond. Before he died, Rupert wrote in a report of “unnecessary…road moves”. He stated:

“This increases the IED threat and our exposure to it.”

And yet, as I have said, the top brass were saying that we had enough helicopters to do the job.

A senior British general who had been in Kabul attended a Defence Committee meeting, at which he basically tore my head off for being a nay-sayer. When I went back to Kabul a few weeks later on a private trip, I went into his office and said, “General, are we still winning? Ha ha ha!” He said, “If we f***ing are, I’ll be dead by the time we do.” So there was a real mismatch.

We also ignore the experts. Of the people who knew anything about Iraq, who suggested it was a good idea to dismantle Ba’athists from the various structures of government? Nobody thought about that. As a soldier I was in Iraq before the war in 1991, and in 2003 I was back on the ground in Iraq, partly with Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria a couple of years ago. I will never forget driving into Mosul literally in the minutes the city was collapsing. It was the first occasion in my time in journalism that I was nursing a submachine gun

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under the chair of my four-wheel drive. There was the odd body on the streets, chaos and a threatening, nasty environment. American jets were coming down really low to intimidate. I went to the police station, where there were all these Saddam lookalikes. The chief one said to me, “You’re looking for the Americans, aren’t you?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “When you find the Americans, can you get them to send someone up here to tell us what we should do?” That was an amazing thing to hear from an Iraqi an hour after the city had, in effect, capitulated. So I found the American and did my business with the colonel and I said to him, “The Iraqi police brigadier wants you to go up there and tell him what his instructions are.” The American colonel said, “You can tell him to go f*** himself.”

In Afghanistan, we ignored the experts. I was there in 1984, the year before I went to university, and we had plenty of experts on Afghanistan then, but they were all ignored later. My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), a former Foreign Office official, had been living in Kabul. He spoke a great deal of sense about it, but we ignored him. We ignored people such as Semple and Patterson, after their failed attempt to make a deal with the Taliban, until it was just too late. We ignored the Russians and their ambassador Kabulov, who had been there for a decade. I remember sitting, in his house in Kabul, with the Afghan general who held that city for two years after the Russians left. He had four mobile phones in front of him. I said, “So, presumably the British have been asking you how to run Helmand?” He looked down at his phones and said, “I am still waiting for them to ring.” We still have not rung him.

In Syria, we are now largely ignoring the Foreign Office officials who, over the past few years, have been deployed forward with the Syrian opposition. I am talking about those who argue that ISIL is fundamentally a political and counter-terrorist problem, not a military problem: ISIL is a function of broken politics of the middle east. Those people are ignored.

I have not got much time left, so let me return to the importance of Chilcot. Clearly, Iraq went very badly wrong, and, similarly, the NATO deployment to Afghanistan was a disaster. Our overall approach since 9/11 has given this country an enormous level of strategic risk. After the chemical outrages in Damascus we were asked to bomb the Assad regime, yet a year later we were asked to bomb his enemies. So it is little wonder that the public do not have much confidence when Ministers tell them that they deserve their backing. As my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border says, we need to get serious and to learn. I hope that Chilcot goes some way to making the people of Gravesham safer.

2.53 pm

Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): I do not have a military background, as is obvious if one looks at my shoes—according to my wife, I am terribly untidy—but the House of Commons contains many military and foreign affairs experts. I recall 18 March 2003 clearly. My then party leader—in those days, we seemed to have a regular turnover of party leaders—was called to No. 10 Downing street and given a briefing. He came

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back and addressed the Conservative parliamentary party meeting. I listened carefully to what he said, but my gut instinct was that it was wrong for us to get involved in the conflict. Colleagues who were there have mentioned the House, and I was part of that packed Chamber. I listened carefully to what the then Prime Minister said at that Dispatch Box. He clearly told us that there were weapons of mass destruction that could reach this country within 45 minutes. I have to say to other Members who have spoken that I really did believe him. So I changed how I was going to vote and I will regret that decision until the day I die.

Following on from what colleagues have said earlier, when it came to the vote on Syria I did not discuss the matter with any colleagues. I dare say they said, “We’ll take the hon. Member for Southend West for granted. He is going to support the Government.” They were surprised, because I decided to use my own judgment and not make the same mistake again. I was one of the 30 Conservative Members of Parliament who voted against that particular involvement in conflict. Just to pick up on what one hon. Member said earlier, it was not six Conservative Members of Parliament who voted against the Iraq war—I believe it was 16 to 18. Oh, how I wished I had done what they did.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir David Amess: I am sorry, but I just feel that to do so would be unfair on others.

I pay tribute to Lord Hurd and Lord Dykes, who have done a lot of work on this issue. I am in complete despair that this House has suddenly burst into life on this matter. It happened two Prime Minister’s questions ago, when the Father of the House mentioned the issue and other Members chimed in behind, and I am puzzled as to why the Government have not done anything about this. In my naivety, I thought it was a clever ploy and we were going to have the report announced just before the general election. Clearly, that is not the case, and it is absolutely pathetic that this House is going to allow that situation to prevail.

I have taken advice from the Clerks in the House, having asked questions about this matter since 2010 and I have always been given the same answers. I have always been told, “The timing of the delivery is a matter for the inquiry as it is independent of the Government.” There are three things this House can do. First, we can move a motion for an unopposed return of the documents to Parliament, as was the case with, for instance, the Scott report in 1996 and the Hutton inquiry in 2004. That would ensure that the report enjoys the protection of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, which would make it subject to privilege. That would bring the lengthy Maxwellisation process to an end, without opening up the prospect of defamation proceedings—that was mentioned earlier in the debate—enabling the report to be published quickly.

Secondly, we can ensure that the report is published as soon as possible by converting the Chilcot process into an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. That can be done under section 15 of that Act and would require the consent of the Prime Minister who put in place the original inquiry. The Government would then issue new terms of reference, including a time frame, which is currently unspecified. Although the requirements of

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the Act are for warning letters to be sent out to those subject to criticism, it might be arguable that that requirement has already been satisfied by virtue of the Maxwellisation letters that have already been sent.

Finally, this House could adopt emergency legislation to put the Chilcot inquiry under special provisions, and to include in those provisions immunity from process and a deadline. Some £9 million of public money has been spent on this inquiry, which has been delayed over and over again. I regret the fact that, since 1997, the mother of all Parliaments has lost much of its power, but it is quite wrong to say that we can do nothing about when this report is published. There was a huge loss of life as a result of the war, and it is naive to suggest that, as a result of our involvement in Iraq, there has not been a huge destabilisation of the area and that there is no link whatever with what is going on with Islamic State and all the developments since then. There is no doubt at all that when we went to war there were no plans in place for regime change or for what would happen in the future.

I hope that Parliament will not accept this idea that the Government are not able to do something about the inquiry; they are able to do something and I have given three practical suggestions as to how this report can be published before the general election.

2.59 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) spoke before me and came up with some very practical suggestions about how things could be done. I am particularly pleased because those suggestions really underline the fact that we allowed the Government of the day to set up this inquiry in a haphazard and casual way.

I speak as someone who straddles two aspects of this matter. I was shadow Defence Secretary at the time and often spoke from the Dispatch Box in the run-up to the Iraq war. I am also taking part in this debate, in answer to the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), as someone who feels a deep responsibility for what has happened as a consequence of that war. It may surprise the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) that I agree with a phrase of his speech. It is that we need to understand the “set of conditions” that allowed us “to pursue this particular course of action”. It would have been nice if that had been put into the terms of reference, to which I will come in a moment.

The origins of the Chilcot inquiry go back beyond 2006, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) adverted. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) on securing this debate, because it has proved already to be a very informative and interesting discussion.

Just to go back to the origins of the inquiry, I have in my hand the resolution that was tabled by the then Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith). Another five of us were named on the motion, including me and a future leader of the Conservative party, now Lord Howard of Lympne. The motion said:

“This House is concerned at the growing public confusion since the summer adjournment as a result of increasingly conflicting accounts of intelligence relating to and events leading up to the

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recent Iraq war and what has happened since; and calls for the setting up of a comprehensive independent judicial inquiry into the Government’s handling of the run-up to the war, of the war itself, and of its aftermath, and into the legal advice which it received.”

How long was it before we actually got an inquiry, and a rather watered down inquiry at that? Let me explain why we called for the inquiry at that point—and this is a significant point. I came back from Iraq shortly after the invasion, having been on a shadow ministerial visit to Basra and had a comprehensive briefing. I then tabled a paper to the shadow Cabinet on what I had found that had caused me a great deal of concern. The paper on post conflict Iraq mentioned

“the widening gap between expectations and reality.”

It said:

“Many are wondering how much longer before the coalition’s window of opportunity closes.”

I went on to explain that what we needed was a proper comprehensive plan, a road map and benchmarks in order to structure a proper coalition provisional Administration, backed by the necessary civilian and military resources. In the addendum to the paper, I wrote, “Quagmire?” and for that I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway)—and it may disturb him that I am doing so. Of all the speeches that we heard on that fateful day when we voted to go to war, his was the most disturbing. I chose the word “quagmire” because I remembered him saying that we were entering into a quagmire.

We had done our best to satisfy ourselves from the Opposition perspective that there was plenty of planning. It is true that there was plenty of planning in Washington, but the problem was that the Americans had more than one plan. They had a Rumsfeld plan and a State Department plan and there was a competition between the two of them over which should be implemented. But neither plan was based on any proper understanding, depth of assessment or analysis of what we were going to find when we got in there, which is why it became evident so quickly that we were facing a disaster. I wrote:

“Currently all the elements for protracted insurgency warfare exist, though there is every opportunity to prevent the situation deteriorating.”

There was an inability to get anyone to hear this message in Government and, I confess, even some in my own party—this was the Government’s problem, not our problem. It is the same kind of truth blindness to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr Holloway) referred in the British political establishment, in the civil service, among the political leaders.

Jeremy Corbyn: Who does the hon. Gentleman think took the extraordinary decision to destroy the whole of the state structures in Iraq after the invasion, dismiss all the armed forces and the police and leave chaos behind?

Mr Jenkin: Yes, it was Ambassador Bremer. In my paper, I wrote:

“The Bremer administration has 3,000 US officials, only 16 of which are Arab speakers. 650,000 Iraqi Government officials have failed to return to work.”

There was a complete misappreciation in the first 100 days —the golden 100 days after the invasion—that we were sitting on a volcano. I remember asking questions from the Opposition Benches such as, “What are we going to

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do about the Iranian insurgents coming over the border?” The border between Iraq and Iran was completely open. There was flat denial that any of this mattered or was actually happening.

What this inquiry cannot do is resolve the controversies about legality or intelligence, which have been raked over so many times. So many other inquiries have looked at those things. What this inquiry must do is address the machinery of government problem, the capacity problem—the understanding problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), the Chairman of the Defence Committee so capably referred.

The Select Committee on Public Administration produced—this is the other side of the equation in this debate—no fewer than three reports in the last Parliament about how to conduct inquiries. We produced a report at the beginning of this Parliament entitled “Who does UK National Strategy?” The informal answer that I received from the then Chief of the Defence Staff, which we put in our report, was nobody. Nobody holds a strategic concept for the United Kingdom. No one creates a single document and keeps it updated on how we are to conduct our statecraft in this increasingly troubled world in which we are increasingly vulnerable.

I say to the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) that we found that the Foreign Office had an aversion to any kind of strategy. Culturally, it does not like the idea of being tied to a plan, misunderstanding that a plan is different from strategy. We need to learn. How does the machinery of government allow us to go to war without a better understanding of the consequences? Those consequences have led to a complete loss of confidence in this Chamber in the ability of Whitehall to make those judgments, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham said.

What sort of reform do we want to be able to drive—as my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border asked? Why does this disconnect exist between what people in Whitehall think is going on or think that they are able to control and what the people on the ground find out is actually going on and are unable to control?

When I came back from Basra on that occasion, I remember reporting to the shadow Cabinet that I had asked the General Officer Commanding in Basra what message he wanted me to take back home. He said in slightly less proper language, “Where the hell is DFID? What is the plan? What are we meant to do now?” There was no plan. I do not apologise for complaining about the lack of a plan in the aftermath because it reflects exactly what the General was saying. There is a lack of seriousness, a lack of trusting people who come with challenging information and uncomfortable truths.

We need more capacity in Whitehall to learn and understand, to gather real knowledge and information—capacity for analysis and assessment, which paradoxically we do quite well in the intelligence field through the Joint Intelligence Committee, unless it is sat on by political appointees. We need the ability to choose realistic objectives for our foreign and security policy; to formulate comprehensive plans and then be able to implement them.

As we wait for the inquiry to conclude and to report its findings, we must reflect on the process that we feel has failed us. The first lesson is that it is too late—much

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too late. It started too late, and it is taking far too long. Why did we not set a time limit? Leveson was set a time limit; why did we not set one for the Iraq inquiry? I have struggled to find definitive terms of reference for the inquiry. In fact, the terms of reference are drawn from a long and rambling statement made from that Dispatch Box by the then Prime Minister, who boasted about how broad and comprehensive and utterly large it was going to be. One wonders whether the words “long grass” were lurking at the back of his mind—the longer the better.

This House failed. This House failed to create an accountable inquiry process. We let it happen. We were all so desperate for an inquiry, so desperate to get it started, that we lost our perspective. If this was a judicial inquiry, as we originally called for, the issues of conflict of interests of people involved on the fringes of the inquiry would not be allowed to arise. There would not be any question about people being able to give their evidence in public, immune from prosecution, which the Chilcot inquiry has been unable to do. We could have ensured the inquiry’s independence. Speakers in this debate have asked why there are no politicians, lawyers or military figures on the inquiry. All those questions were asked when the inquiry was set up, and we are all now ruing the fact that those suggestions were not adopted.

I will recommend that my Committee follows up this inquiry in the next Parliament, covering such questions as how inquiries are established, why, what for, how they operate, judicial or parliamentary, lessons from the terms of reference, how the timing is organised when they are set up and how long they are allowed to sit. I fear this inquiry will turn out to be a shadow of what we really need and we will not learn the lessons. We did not learn the lessons before we went to Afghanistan, before we went to Libya, before we threatened Syria, and these are lessons that we must learn.

3.12 pm

Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): I thank the Backbench Business Committee for facilitating this debate in my name and those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland), who for personal reasons is not here today. I regret that we are debating the non-publication of the report rather than the report itself—a report that, as others have said, the previous Prime Minister, no doubt in good faith, indicated in 2009 should be published within a year. We still have no date for publication. Last week’s letter from Sir John Chilcot to the Prime Minister talked about taking “further months”—a phrase I think was also used in 2011. It is crucial that we have a time scale, which we do not have now.

It is a great disappointment to me and an insult to the British people that the report is not to be published before the general election. I am grateful that the Foreign Affairs Committee is to question Sir John Chilcot on 4 February. We do not know the reasons for the delay in publication, although some have been suggested today. One speaker suggested that there has been a shortage of staff, in which case, I suggest, Sir John Chilcot might have drawn that to people’s attention rather earlier, to get more resources. We have also heard about the Blair-Bush

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material—he says that that is now completed—and the Maxwellisation process, although we are not clear how far that has got.

May I ask the Foreign Affairs Committee to address these questions when it has Sir John Chilcot before it next week? How many people have been sent information to which they have been invited to respond? I am not asking for names, simply numbers. When did they receive the letter from the inquiry? What deadline was set for a response? There is some suggestion in the media that Maxwellees, if I can call them that, have sought expensive legal advice. Is any such person having his or her legal costs met from public funds? I think we ought to know that. Maxwellees have been given full access to the original documents or evidence used to support the criticism, and that is quite right, but we need to be clear whether their lawyers have been given the same access. I imagine they have been, if they are defending those individuals, in which case, have they been subject to clearance vetting for the material they see? Those all seem to me to be relevant questions.

Sir John Chilcot must have known of the desire of Members of Parliament to have the report published in good order, and of its importance. That is a point that many Members have made to Sir John, both publicly and privately. I made it to him when I saw him personally shortly after his inquiry was set up, and I reiterated it in a letter to him of 25 April 2014, which in turn followed an article in the Daily Mail the day before that suggested that a delay might take it past the general election. Why was no action taken at that point to ensure that the process could be speeded up, a whole year out, notwithstanding the other delays that have been referred to across the House this afternoon?

It is clear that Sir John Chilcot is totally independent—that is absolutely right—but we have a right to a statement from him next week on the process as to why the report is taking so long and a deadline for his action, which is one reason why I urge hon. Members to support the motion today.

The report is important because in the period 2002-03 the normal processes of Government were bypassed, the normal safeguards were trampled over, and a case was made for war that I believe the then Prime Minister knew to be false. We have talked about sofa government; that is exactly what happened at the time. I did not vote for the war, but other hon. Members did, believing that they should support the Prime Minister of the day when he had given such a clear undertaking that there was a problem. They feel betrayed by that process, as do our British servicemen and their families as a consequence of that war.

In September 2002 the Prime Minister told the House that the dossier—the famous dodgy dossier that was referred to earlier—was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”. Lord Butler, in his subsequent and underrated report—in civil service jargonese, but quite useful—called the report “vague and ambiguous”—very different from what the Prime Minister said. But the dossier had one element that the press were actively encouraged to cover—the 45-minute claim. So we had headlines in The Sun, saying “Brits 45 mins from doom”, and in the Evening Standard, “45 mins from attack”. What utter nonsense. There was no basis for that whatsoever. It was known by those in government—I include the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), for whom

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I also have time—that if it was accurate in any sense, it related to battlefield munitions, not long-range weapons. Robin Cook raised those matters with the Prime Minister and others in government at the time, as he says in his diaries. The 45-minute claim was clearly bogus, yet it was allowed to be the headline, without correction. The then Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, when asked about this in the Hutton inquiry, refused to correct it and said it was not his business to correct what newspapers said that was not accurate.

How did this happen? We know that it happened because the Prime Minister of the day asked Alastair Campbell to chair meetings overseeing the production of the dossier. How can it be right that a political special adviser is asked to oversee intelligence information and is able to change the details of that intelligence information in the report? Alastair Campbell suggested 13 changes, 10 to strengthen language and three stylistic. These are not simply minor matters. The dossier, when it came to Alastair Campbell, said:

“The Iraqi military may be able to deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.”

He changed “may be” to “are”, and John Scarlett agreed with that alteration, which he should not have done either. Yet Alastair Campbell told Lord Hutton that he had no influence “whatsoever”—that is his word—on the words in the dossier. Hans Blix subsequently said that question marks in the dossier had been replaced by exclamation marks.

The second dossier, in February 2003, entitled “Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation”, was copied, as has been said, from an article in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, and not even copied very well. It refers to the 1991 Gulf war, in any case. What a disgrace that that should have been put out in the Government’s name at the time.

Lastly, there is the Matthew Rycroft memo from July 2002, which subsequently appeared in the papers before 2005. That included an assessment from the head of MI6 at the time, Sir Richard Dearlove, of his recent visit to Washington. He was reported as saying:

“C reported on his recent talks from Washington…Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action…but the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

That is what was said in 2002. In April 2002, Tony Blair, giving a speech to the George Bush Senior presidential library in Crawford, Texas, said:

“we must be prepared to act where terrorism or weapons of mass destruction threaten us…if necessary…it should involve regime change.”

There can be no question but that this was all ramped up in order to get the House of Commons to agree to a war that had no justification whatsoever, and that the Prime Minister was party to that, as were others in government at the time, who were clearly very serious.

The events of 2002 are important in themselves and also highly relevant to today. Processes were abandoned. One process that was abandoned—I tried to intervene on the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), who would not give way—was the so-called inquest on David Kelly. The right hon. Gentleman called it an inquest. It was not an inquest; it was a non-statutory inquiry under Lord Hutton. The inquest was stopped by Government Ministers, who took the coroner off the case. What a schoolboy error from the

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right hon. Gentleman. I am sorry to say that if he is going to throw insults at people, he should at least get his facts right when he does so.

Mr Jenkin: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Norman Baker: I had better not. I am sorry.

Normal processes were abandoned. We need to know what happened so that we can stop it happening again.

3.20 pm

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): I thank the Backbench Business Committee and the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) for bringing this important debate to the Floor of the House. The discussion has been wide-ranging and I have listened with interest to Members in all parts of the House who have expressed many different views both about the decision to go to war in Iraq and about the decision to set up the inquiry and the way that it was established. Most of all, what unites all those contributions is concern about the length of time that it has taken for the inquiry to report. The delay is deeply frustrating. When the inquiry was announced in June 2009, it was never anticipated that in 2015 we would still be awaiting its publication.

In 2001 Sir John Chilcot said that it would take “some months” to deliver the report, given the complexity of the issues, the nine-year period that the report covers and the sensitivity of some of the information that it looked at. We accept that there is a balance to be struck between the need to be thorough and the need to remain relevant, but when the inquiry was announced it was expected to be published within a year. The right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) spoke compellingly about the subsequent delays, why they may have occurred and what that has meant for the inquiry.

We are keen for the report to be published as soon as possible, but the inquiry was established on an independent basis and we believe still that it would be wrong for the timing to be influenced by political parties. That in no way lessens the potential seriousness of the delay in publication. All of us are, or should be, acutely aware of the impact on the families affected by the Iraq war—179 British servicemen and women lost their lives and many others were injured, and we should remember, too, the thousands of Iraqi families who will be watching these events unfold. I know from my own experience of working with some of the families affected by Hillsborough just what a heavy price families pay for such delays.

Many of the questions that surfaced during the debate are questions for the inquiry. It is right to acknowledge that the reasons for the delay have not yet been made clear. When Sir John Chilcot appears before the Foreign Affairs Committee next week, I hope he will be able to provide some of the answers that Parliament and the public seek. Questions have been raised about the role of the Labour Government in setting up the inquiry, and I want to deal with the accusation that Labour voted against establishing an inquiry and in doing so caused unnecessary delay.

It is fundamentally untrue to suggest that Labour was opposed to establishing an inquiry into Iraq. It was the Labour party that established the Chilcot inquiry,

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and Labour MPs voted against initiating an inquiry on the basis only that there were still troops on the ground, and that it would have been wrong to undermine their role and potentially jeopardise their security. This was also the position advanced by the shadow Foreign Secretary at the time on behalf of the Conservative Opposition. In 2006 the shadow Foreign Secretary said that the Opposition

“do not believe that such an inquiry should be established now. As the Foreign Secretary said, important operations are under way in Iraq. Major political decisions in Iraq and efforts to contain the insurgency appear to be in the balance.”—[Official Report, 31 October 2006; Vol. 451, c. 183.]

It is important to remember, too, that the scale and the breadth of this inquiry are unprecedented. It was established with such a wide remit to ensure that the full story was told. Given the numbers of people who lost their lives or were affected by this conflict, it was essential that the inquiry had broad parameters and commanded the confidence of families.

Norman Baker: Does the hon. Lady not accept that the inquiry could have begun and taken evidence while troops were still committed but not published until after the troops had come home?

Lisa Nandy: Looking back in Hansard at the debates of the time, we can see that many Members in all parts of the House felt very strongly that to do so would have undermined the role of the troops.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) talked about some of the problems that he sees in the way that the inquiry was set up. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) said, when it reports there will be lessons for all political parties about how we establish such inquiries in future. At the time, the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), said:

“No British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the inquiry.”—[Official Report, 15 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 23.]

Some Members have raised concerns about why it was established with evidence heard in private—a decision that was, again, debated at length at the time. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn said, that potentially provides lessons to guide us in the way we conduct these inquiries in future.

Iraq was one of the most controversial episodes in recent history. It is right to acknowledge that it was a huge moment in this country’s history. It divided Parliament, as we have heard today. It divided my party. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) said, 139 Labour Members of Parliament voted against intervention. I worked for one of them at the time, and I am proud still to call him a friend today. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) talked about how it divided not just his party but his own family. All hon. Members should remember, whichever side of the debate we are on, that it divided the country too. At the time, it did not appear to be black and white to the people or to parliamentarians.

Many of us still hold as strong views now as we did when the war began over a decade ago. The Chilcot report, when it is published, will not remove that controversy. However, as the hon. Member for Perth and North

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Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said, it should at least be able to answer some key questions about the decision to go to war and how it came about. The inquiry was established to provide a reliable account of events and, crucially, to help to guide foreign policy making in future. Understanding the decision-making process is a question of justice, but, as the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) said, it is also vital for the future of this country.

We must learn the lessons from what happened. In order to do so, we must respect the sovereignty and the autonomy of the inquiry. That is why we say that it is not appropriate for any political party to seek to influence the timing of the report. However, we understand the frustration that has been expressed, on behalf of much of the public, by many Members here today. Those who initiated this debate and have taken part in it have helped to ensure that this report and this important issue are not forgotten, and for that we are extremely grateful.

3.28 pm

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Rob Wilson): I congratulate the right hon. and hon. Members who secured this debate on the Iraq inquiry. I thank all colleagues who have contributed to a very thoughtful and, at times, stirring debate. At times, with passions running high, it felt as though we were back debating the decision to go to war in the first place, all those years ago.

I am sure that I speak for all in the House in saying that when this inquiry was started in July 2009, none of us thought it would still not be completed by January 2015. It is frustrating and very disappointing that we still do not know when it will be published. It is clear that once it is published, the Government will need to look very carefully at what lessons could be learned for future inquiries. I am sure that everyone here will agree that the inquiry is unprecedented in its scope and scale. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) that Sir John Chilcot is trying to leave no stone unturned. Never before has a UK public inquiry examined in such depth and detail a decision to go to war and its consequences over a nine-year period.

At the risk of junking the rest of my speech, I will try to deal with as many of the points that right hon. and hon. Members have raised as possible. May I first pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), who made an excellent speech? He raised important questions about potential conflicts of interests, particularly regarding the Cabinet Secretary. The Cabinet Secretary was identified as a final arbiter in discussions about the declassification of documents because he is the most senior civil servant, is bound by the civil service code on impartiality and, crucially, can see the papers of a previous Administration. I am not aware of any opposition to his appointment to that role at the time.

I understand my right hon. Friend’s concerns about the process, but I have seen no evidence to date of Sir John Chilcot being prevented from going wherever his inquiry wished. The inquiry panel has had access to every paper, memo, e-mail or minute of a meeting—classified or otherwise—that it wished to see. As my

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hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) rightly said, there is a difference between what is declassified and what is published.

The right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) raised the involvement of the secretary to the Iraq inquiry in the foreign and defence policy secretariat. The appointment was agreed by Sir John in the full knowledge of that involvement, and he saw no conflict of interest, but the Foreign Affairs Committee may want to take that up and ask further questions.

The hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) and others asked about the involvement of the US. The US Government have not at any stage made any attempt to delay the publication of the report. They have not sought to block the disclosure of evidence, including the exchanges between the Prime Minister and the President of the USA, despite the fact that those exchanges are a privileged channel of communication. Because that decision was a very difficult one for the Cabinet Secretary, he consulted a number of parties, including US officials.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the declassification process. As Sir John has confirmed, the process of declassifying the most difficult and sensitive documents has been completed. In respect of other documents, Departments continue to meet every request made.

Jeremy Corbyn: If the British side is not blocking any correspondence or communications records between Blair and Bush, are the US or Bush blocking them? We need to be assured that all of that will come out if the inquiry is to have any credibility.

Mr Wilson: As I have said, there has been no attempt by the US to block any element of the inquiry. There have been discussions about the scope of what in the communications should be released. The gist of some conversations will be published, although they were previously confidential.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield asked why the Maxwellisation process has been held up. In a letter to the Prime Minister on 4 November 2013, Sir John Chilcot explained that the delay in Maxwellisation was due to the fact that the inquiry and the Government had not reached an agreement on the disclosure of the material that the inquiry wished to include in its report. Sir John acknowledged that disclosure of the material raised difficult issues, which had taken time to resolve but had been worked through in good faith by both the Government and the inquiry. The inquiry did not want to issue its provisional criticisms without a clear understanding of what supporting evidence would be agreed for publication. I think that the further delays in progress might be raised in the Foreign Affairs Committee on 4 February.

The hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who is no longer in his place, asked why we could not subpoena the evidence. The inquiry has identified the evidence it needs to reach its conclusions. The publication of that evidence without the context provided by the final report would lead to the issues being only partially understood.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker), who is not in his place, asked about Maxwellisation and Salmon letters. Salmon letters are sent before a

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witness gives evidence, while Maxwellisation happens before an inquiry publishes its report.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) asked about additional resources for the inquiry. That offer has always been on the table, not only from the Deputy Prime Minister but from the Government. The inquiry has, on occasion, asked for additional assistance and the Government have always provided it. I am not sure that Maxwellisation, which only recently started, as Sir John Chilcot has confirmed, could be speeded up by additional resources.

As many have recognised, it is a question of fairness that those who are provisionally subject to criticism are given the opportunity to make representations, and that the inquiry considers those representations properly. That process will take some time. It does not mean that the report will be watered down, as I understand the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale suggested recently. It will be up to Sir John and his colleagues to decide whether they accept the representations that are made.

The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) asked why the report should not be published before the general election. The inquiry is completely independent of Government, and the timetable and processes for completing its work are matters for the inquiry. I can imagine the outcry there would be if the Government interfered in an independent process, and rightly so. If she listened to my highly respected colleague my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, she would have heard that there is still a real possibility that this will be a very good report indeed.

Sandra Osborne: I am not sure whether the Minister has quite understood me. I was never under any illusion that the report would be published before the general election. My point was that we are now in the run-up to the general election. Does he not think that it is reasonable that Members of this House question the delay and ask for an indication of when we will get the report?

Mr Wilson: I hope that I will have time to come to that point in a moment.

Members asked why it was not a judicial inquiry. The terms of reference for the inquiry were established by the previous Labour Government. As Lord Wallace of Saltaire said yesterday in the other place,

“the Government are committed to learning lessons from the conduct of all public inquiries”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 28 January 2015; Vol. 759, c. 200.]

That might be one such lesson that we need to consider.

Why did the inquiry stop publishing declassified documents? It published documents to accompany the evidence sessions that took place up to February 2011. Since then, Chilcot has said that he does not want to publish further documents, as it would be unwise to have a running commentary on events.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland (Mr Simpson), I well remember the debate in Westminster Hall. If memory serves me correctly, we were the only two Members present. I congratulate him on getting up a head of steam behind this issue. I note his suggestion

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regarding a parliamentary inquiry. That should probably form part of the lessons that we learn. We have had a number of suggestions on that subject. He made an interesting one about publishing correspondence between the secretariat of the inquiry and the Cabinet Secretary. Again, it is for the independent inquiry to decide whether to do so. That, too, might be one of the lessons to be learned after the report is published.

The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) asked about compelling the publication of the report before the election. The inquiry is completely independent of Government, and the timetable and processes for completing its work are matters for the inquiry. It would not be appropriate for the Government to dictate to an independent inquiry how it should conduct itself. We know of no mechanism by which members of the inquiry panel could be required to put their signatures to a report that they did not consider to be complete and suitable for publication. I hope that that answers his point.

As I have said, the Government cannot say when the report will be delivered to the Prime Minister. That is a matter for the inquiry because it is fully independent of Government. However, Sir John will appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 4 February. Although he has said that he will be constrained in what he can say, it would be very helpful if he was able to provide some indication on the likely completion of the report. However, as he said in his letter to the Prime Minister, until the completion of Maxwellisation, he

“cannot give an accurate estimate for how long it will then take to complete”

the inquiry’s work.

All I can do is to echo the recent words of the Prime Minister. He hopes that the report will be delivered to him as soon as possible. Once the report has been presented to the Prime Minister and published, there will be an opportunity—this was asked about by one hon. Member—to debate its findings in both Houses. In relation to our accepting any recommendations that the report might make, it would be wrong to pre-empt the inquiry’s findings. The important thing now is to get the report published.

The Iraq conflict was a seismic political event, and it evokes strong feelings on all sides of the political debate. The Government recognise that it is of paramount importance that the inquiry is able to complete its work to provide a balanced, evidence-based report that shows why decisions were made and the lessons that must be learned. In October 2006, members of the current Government voted for an inquiry into the Iraq conflict and its aftermath. If the inquiry had been established then, it would have reported long ago.

3.40 pm

Mr David Davis: This has been an excellent debate, with cogent and well informed arguments delivered with both passion and forensic skill. There have been divisions between Members, of course, but virtually everybody in the House agrees that six years is too long and that the report should have been published some time ago. Although some think it is too late to hold people to account for what happened, it is not too late to learn. I believe that everybody agrees we should get this thing published as soon as possible.

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Next week, the Foreign Affairs Committee will meet Sir John, I think largely as a result of this debate being called, and will ask him for the reasons for the delays and for a timetable. I hope that he will be able to provide that. Part of the aim is to put pressure on him for a very fast delivery of the report. The reason is simple—the Iraq war was a disaster, and we need to understand why, simply so that we can make sure it never, ever happens again. To that end, I ask the House to support the motion.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House regrets that the Iraq Inquiry has decided to defer publication of its report until after 7 May 2015; and calls on the Inquiry to publish a timetable for publication and an explanation of the causes of the delay by 12 February 2015.

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Open-cast Coal Sites (Restoration)

3.41 pm

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered financial support for restoration of opencast coal sites.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for facilitating this debate. I also thank Jan Adamson, Councillors Huw David and Philip White and fellow south Wales MPs and AMs, among others, as well as many right hon. and hon. Members who have altered their travel plans to be here today to fight for their communities.

We have a national problem. There are currently 34 open-cast mines across the UK—17 in Scotland, nine in south Wales and eight in England. There are also an unknown number of unrestored and orphaned sites, where developers have declared bankruptcy and disappeared. The fate of all those sites is of great importance. The Coal Industry Act 1994, passed under the Major Government, privatised the remains of British Coal and gave the then Department of Trade and Industry powers to ensure full continuity from the coal corporation to private companies.

In 1995 the then Minister for Industry and Energy, when pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Mr Hood) on the issue of Coal Authority responsibility, replied:

“I assure him that those matters are being dealt with. The Coal Industry Act 1994 gives the Department of Trade and Industry powers to ensure full continuity from British Coal to the successor companies, which have the same rights and obligations as British Coal. Planning consent and the enforcement of planning conditions remain matters for the planning authorities. With regard to…concern about the ability to meet obligations for opencast sites, the Department checked carefully the financial status of the successor companies as part of the bid process.”—[Official Report, 8 February 1995; Vol. 254, c. 334.]

More recently, in March 2011, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr Francis) asked what assessment had been made of

“the effectiveness of land remediation following the closure of open-cast mining operations”.

He received the following reply from the then planning Minister, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill):

“This Department has not carried out an assessment of this type but we would expect mineral planning authorities in England, when granting planning permission for open-cast mining, to set site aftercare and restoration conditions…to secure the high standard of restoration of the land concerned.”—[Official Report, 9 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 1127-28W.]

Those are mixed messages about the responsibility for restoration.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Will Watson, chief executive of Celtic Energy. That company took over 13 south Wales sites in 1994. Nine have completed coaling and been restored, two are working, one pit is subject to a planning application and one, Parc Slip Margam, is a highly controversial site located in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). When Celtic Energy took over Parc Slip, also known as Margam, it did not provide a restoration bond. According to Will Watson, that was due to the Government’s decision in 1994 to take a larger cash receipt for the sale to the company in return for a 10-year bond-free period.

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Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend find it extraordinary that Celtic Energy was given an exemption from any form of restoration bond, whereas all the other private operators in the area had to pay such a bond? It made for a completely uneven playing field.

Mrs Moon: It most certainly did. Money went to the Major Government, and our community has been left with the financial responsibility for restoring the sites. It is shocking.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): My hon. Friend’s constituents in Pyle, my constituents in Cefn Cribwr—whom she used to represent—and others are deeply affected by this. They think it is totally unjust that the company seems able to walk away from its responsibilities for remediation and doing well by that community. Does she agree that it is astonishing that at some point in the distant past a deal was done—which our constituents regard as a dirty deal—to allow the company to renege on its responsibilities and walk away? It is not good, and it does not reflect well on the Government of the time either.

Mrs Moon: My hon. Friend is right. It does not reflect well on the Major Government or on Celtic Energy, which has had a good reputation in Wales. Now its reputation is deeply tarnished, and I am sure it will want to make whatever restitution it can to restore that reputation because I know that it wants to keep operating in Wales.

Will Watson says that

“had escrow funds been put away for Parc Slip at today’s level of around £10m per year for the years 1994 to 2004, then that fund would now stand at around £155m (assuming it was invested to simply cover inflation).”

My hon. Friend and I would be very confident if we had £155 million to restore that site.

Mr Watson also said that

“the Government in 1994 had £100 million in their restoration fund, (worth around £178 million today) that could have been made available for restoration.”

In his opinion, it seems reasonable to ask the UK Government to contribute to a solution at Margam and potentially at East Pit. If Mr Watson is correct, the Government took money that would otherwise have gone to restoration. There was a significant benefit to the Treasury in 1994. Where did that money go? How do we get it back?

My local residents argue:

“The Coal Authority, the government’s agent which sold the leases and licences was empowered to impose obligations on the private companies to ensure restoration and it failed to do so.”

Can the Minister confirm whether this was the case and why no obligations were imposed? Can he confirm the existence of a British Coal lump sum for this site? Where was it held and when was it imposed? What happened to it and how much was it worth?

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have published papers on failure to restore open-cast sites and talk of a £2 per tonne levy imposed by the Coal Authority. Despite questions to the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, I have been unable to

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clarify if the levy was imposed at Parc Slip Margam, how much was collected, where it was held and which mines were affected.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): My hon. Friend obviously has some knowledge of what happened in the Scottish situation. She will be aware that we have asked for some of the coal levy to be returned for restoration, but the Government have refused to do that. Does she agree that that is unreasonable?

Mrs Moon: I have awful news for my hon. Friend. DECC has informed me—this is such a sad thing to hear—that much financial information was unavailable because it relates to business practices from nearly 20 years ago. I have friends who have their bank accounts from 20 years ago! I find it incredible that the Department does not have records just because this happened 20 years ago under another Government. Unbelievable.

Parc Slip Margam is mostly in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Aberavon and for Ogmore, but the residents affected are mostly mine. Cynffig Hill is about 300 metres south of the void. The site is over a mile long and half a mile across, and includes a huge void that is filling with water. A pump in an old mining shaft that was supposed to send water into the nearest water course failed to function, and Celtic Energy began pumping on 20 January as the water had filled to 40 metres. When it went above that it posed a risk to the community below.

Mr Watson informed my office that Celtic Energy will be pumping water out of the void for at least three months, and would give three months’ notice before stopping. He stressed this was a good-will gesture. He indicated no liability and that his company would not be willing to continue to incur these costs. The water, I am told, goes through filtering ponds into tributaries of the River Kenfig. Water samples have been taken, although the analysis is not yet complete.

I have to admit family connections to these developments. My husband, when county ecologist for Mid Glamorgan, opposed the extension sought by British Coal in 1993. If only he had been successful. I spoke against the extension in 2007. If only I had been successful. Coaling ceased in 2008. At one point, it was hoped that the problem would be resolved by the opening of the drift mine by Tata. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore will remember being at the meeting when that was discussed. Coal from a slip mine into Margam mountain would have put the spoil into the Margam Parc Slip void. That failed to happen.

In 2010, Celtic Energy sold the land rights of Margam and three of the sites to Oak Regeneration, a company based in the British Virgin Islands, for £1 each. The Serious Fraud Office investigated the transfer, but legal proceedings failed twice as they were found to be wrong in law. According to Private Eye, after the sale, Celtic’s owner, finance director, solicitor, assistant solicitor and senior partner—five individuals—received bonuses and loans in excess of £10 million pounds from companies in the British Virgin Isles.

According to Celtic, however, it has no funds available and the restoration has become entirely the legal responsibility of Oak. My local authority, in a report to its development control committee, referred to Oak on 8 January, stating:

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“it is…evident that serving an enforcement notice is unlikely to secure restoration of the site, nor do either of the Councils have the financial means behind them to secure the restoration of the site in default.”

Mr Watson yesterday said I was misinformed when I stated on 13 January that in 2010 Celtic Energy had £136 million in a restoration fund, and that the fund had reduced by £63 million by 2011. He said:

“This is simply not correct. The figures you quoted are ‘provisions’ for liabilities on the balance sheet and do not represent assets in any form...The provisions were reduced when the land was sold along with restoration liabilities to Oak Regeneration Incorporated in September 2010. That transaction was the subject of the SFO investigation which has now closed. During the course of the SFO investigation it was not clear whether the transaction had been effective in transferring liabilities and so the accounts were amended to put back the provisions until the matter was resolved. That position will now be re-visited once more.”

Wherever the money is, let us have it back in some form of restoration fund for Parc Slip Margam.

“None of these changes in the provisions in the statutory accounts make any difference to the cash the company is holding, nor to the restoration escrow funds”,

which it claims are £46 million and

“held by local authorities.”

Bridgend county borough council has said that the restoration fund for Parc Slip Margam, which is in an escrow, stands at £5.7 million and that the estimate to secure the full restoration is between £30 million and £40 million. Oak Regeneration has submitted planning proposals, which have been rejected, including for the building of 2,500 new homes, heated and cooled using geothermal energy; a railway station; a new road to the M4; and five years of open-cast coal extraction.

The mining company Hargreaves has proposed tax exemptions, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) has argued that these proposals be considered. I do not want to steal her thunder, but I would be interested to hear more about those issues.

Coalpro represents the majority of UK coal producers. It supports any mechanism that helps to restore sites left behind by former operators. Although opposed to the carbon price support mechanism, it is in favour of a short-term exemption if this would ensure that abandoned and orphaned sites are restored for beneficial future use. The industry supports this, which is important, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I commend the forensic way in which my hon. Friend has researched and is explaining this complex situation. It often seems like one of those conjuring tricks with the three cups and trying to find the pea—only in this case, it is money, not a pea. Will she reflect on the fact that although pumping is taking place—temporarily at least—and people should not be worried at the moment, this is not a long-term solution? I hope to hear a way forward from the Minister, because we cannot keep pumping this stuff out when it is so close to the top.

Mrs Moon: My hon. Friend has been sneaking into my office and reading my speech. In fact, when I originally wrote it, I used the words “pass the parcel”, because every Government agency and Department I have spoken to has passed the parcel. It has been shocking.

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The scheme will relate only to orphaned restoration liabilities where owners and operators are bankrupt or liability has fallen back on the state, meaning no breach of the “polluter pays” principle, and the exemption would be limited to the amount of restoration coal necessary to make the scheme viable. If it is not the responsibility of companies, it cannot be right for the responsibility for open-cast coal sites to be devolved to the Scottish or Welsh Governments, or even to the mineral planning authorities, without the finance also being devolved. That is just not right. As I have demonstrated, the Treasury and its agencies have benefited before and since privatisation. The funding must go with the responsibility.

The problems affect everybody living close to the mines. Peoples’ lives have been blighted by ideologically driven legislative failures. As a Parliament, we have to give people a plan of action and a sense of hope that we are taking responsibility and tackling this problem, and we need a grown-up Government who will co-operate with devolved Governments. Gwenda Thomas, the Assembly Member for Neath, has issued a statement, which I fully concur with, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore does, calling on Celtic Energy to take decisive action to demonstrate its commitment to restoration. Celtic used to have a reputation in our area as a model of responsible mining. It needs to stand up and rebuild the respect our communities had before it ripped the profits from the valley, endangered local people and walked away.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady, and I do not want to take time doing so, but she has exceeded the normal time for a speech of this kind, and she will be aware that many of her colleagues also wish to speak. I do not suggest she stops immediately, but perhaps she can draw her remarks to a conclusion soon.

Mrs Moon: Madam Deputy Speaker, you too have been looking at my speech. It is not fair. People are sneaking into my office.

The Treasury has profited. Businesses have profited. Somebody has to hold up their hand and take the moral, social, political, financial and ethical responsibility. Nothing will change unless politicians do that. We must accept responsibility. We cannot let the private companies get out of this with a responsibility-free zone. Inadequate legislation failed; inadequate regulation failed; the mining industry has failed. We have passed the parcel of responsibility for too long. Let us stop the music, and make the changes our communities need, expect and deserve.

4 pm

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): The House owes a debt to the Backbench Business Committee and particularly to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) for bringing up this subject. The situation she reviews in south Wales is a really dreadful one, and a source of anxiety to any area where open-cast is currently contemplated.

My constituency was the last deep-mining constituency in the north-east, and it also has a large amount of open-cast mining—it has had for many years, it still does and it is committed to having more in the future, as

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permissions have already been given. In the early days of open-cast mining, whole villages were removed to make way for it. The villages of Radcliffe and Chevington Drift in my constituency were totally removed in order to enable open-cast mining.

More recent applications have in many cases been even more controversial because some of the earlier ones related to areas with a fair amount of dereliction from deep mining or for other reasons, and there was a net benefit from the restoration process. Open-cast mining now, however, is moving to areas that will suffer for a considerable period and, when restored, they will not be in any way better than the areas they replaced—even if the Banks Mining restoration on one of the sites on the estate of Lord Ridley, which features a large figure of a lady from the former Northumberlandia park, has had 100,000 visitors. I suppose that is one way of making a success of restoration.

Around Widdington and Widdington station in my constituency, people have lived with open-cast for 40 years, and it looks like they will be doing so well into the future. Permission already exists for the Ferneybeds site, another Banks site, with three years of excavation, three quarters of million tonnes of coal and 200,000 tonnes of fire clay expected to be taken out of the surface mine. Banks has a projected application for Highthorn, close to the magnificent Druridge bay and the villages of Cresswell, Ellington and Lynemouth. Local people are worried that this might be granted either by the planning authority or on appeal, and that the planning authority might be frightened of losing it on appeal and so might grant it in perhaps a more limited form. That fear exists even before the application has been formally submitted.

Where surface mining does take place, people are entitled to certainty that restoration will be completed to high quality and on time. The major sites in my constituency have been UK Coal sites—and we all know what has happened to UK Coal. The Butterwell and Steadsburn/Maidens Hall sites are UK Coal sites. The Butterwell site has to cease operation by July this year, while the Steadsburn/Maidens Hall site ceased operation some time ago. The soil has been replaced but no cultivation has yet commenced, and residents have complained about the delays in restoration and aftercare.

Following the demise of UK Coal, Harworth Estates has become the freeholder, and an organisation made up of former UK Coal directors—UK Coal Surface Mines Ltd—has become the operator in these areas. We are dependent on dealing with those organisations for the kind of restoration that the sites need either now or for the future. Coaling ceased at the Stobswood site in 2008, but site buildings and haulage roads still have to be removed, and footpaths reopened. In fact, Harworth Estates has now applied for planning permission to keep the site offices and use them for another purpose. There is therefore anxiety about sites that have already ceased coaling; anxiety about sites for which permission has been granted; and anxiety about potential further sites.

The hon. Member for Bridgend talked quite extensively about restoration bonds. These are clearly vital, but they do not appear to be enough. If he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, my parliamentary neighbour, the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) will probably

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want to refer to the Potland Burn site in his constituency, which we are all looking across at with some anxiety. At one point there was a £1.67 million restoration bond for that site, but I understand that the actual cost involved is more like £3.6 million. It is one thing to have a restoration bond, but another to have a huge shortfall, and we are very anxious lest the same situation should arise in our own area. Restoration bonds are particularly attractive to my constituency, where there has just been a fire in a waste site. There was no restoration bond, and there is no money to deal with the consequences, because the company is bankrupt. We do not want that to happen on open-cast sites. However, it is not enough to have a bond; the bond itself must be sufficient.

I do not want to take up too much time, because many Members with direct constituency experience wish to speak, but I do want to reassert a principle. Residents are entitled to assurances that all the promises made when open-cast permissions are granted will be fully kept, and that restoration aftercare will be carried out and carried out on time. If there is doubt about the money, if there is doubt about who will be around to see it through if a company goes bankrupt, or if there is doubt about whether the planning authority will be able to enforce the terms, permission should not be given in the first place.

Residents need cast-iron assurances. There is a huge burden of worry for people who have already borne the burden of surface mining near their homes, which presents a great many practical problems. The mining is quite important for the economy and for our energy supplies, and it generates some employment, but it is very difficult to live alongside, and those people have had to live alongside it because permission has been granted. The very least that they deserve is for restoration to be completed, and for the process to be guaranteed.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. It would be courteous to their colleagues if Members would now speak for less than six minutes, so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the debate.

4.6 pm

Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab): I hope to speak for much less than six minutes, because I have only one and a half examples to cite, although I want to ask the Minister some very specific questions about them.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) for initiating the debate, because it is very important. It concerns a legacy in coalfield areas that already contain some of the most deprived communities in the country. To be hit again after all these years makes things even worse for those communities.

I want to talk about a 204-acre site near Clay Cross, which was very toxic. An exciting plan was submitted by a company called Maximus, which proposed not just to restore the site, but to excavate the coal and build 1,000 new homes, as well as sports fields and changing rooms for which there was a large amount of section 106 money. People were very excited because there would be plenty of affordable homes. However, after the coal had been extracted, not 1,000 but 100 very high-end houses were built and sold for a great deal of

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money, and then the company went into voluntary administration. About 200 of the 204 acres are still uncapped, and the site is an enormous eyesore. Grey shingle has just been left on the ground, and, because the site is very high up, it is very visible from every angle.

To add insult to injury, the company—under a different name, Provectus—moved a mere few metres down the road to the neighbouring village of Tupton, and submitted another planning application for a very similar development. It will take ages for that application to be put together. The local residents, all of whom live very close to the site, are aware of it. Derbyshire county council is in a terrible bind, because it is having to spend a lot of time and money on offices and lawyers. The company itself is much wealthier than the residents. Meanwhile, house prices have dropped, people cannot move, and they are very worried about an increase in traffic. There is a 2,000-pupil secondary school right on the doorstep. People are very worried about this. Once the planning application goes to the county council, even if it overturns it the applicants will appeal, and it will go to the national Planning Inspectorate and the chances are that it will be overturned.

That would disregard the feelings of local people, and it does not take into account what these people have done only metres down the road. I want to know from the Minister what can be done to stop these people, who can only be called cowboys. They are going to do exactly what they have done in Clay Cross in Tupton. This is a big issue for local residents, and they are really worried about it.

As the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) just said, we are looking at other sites beyond our borders and seeing what is happening there. It is very alarming to hear what is happening in Wales, and this pattern is being replicated up and down the country. The worst thing about it is that it is the people who are living on the doorstep who are having to suffer all the air pollution, the lorry-loads and everything else. And who ends up paying for capping off those open-cast sites? It is the local taxpayers. I would therefore like to know what the Minister is planning to do about this.

4.11 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): First, I want to say that we need to dispel the myth that coal is a fuel of the past. I am a bit of a geek now and I was looking at the app on my iPhone 6 just before we came in, and, as of only 20 minutes ago, coal is producing 36.2% of the electricity generated in the country. That is 16,767 MW, and that shows the importance of coal.

Coal is not going away either in the UK or globally. Last year we imported about 42 million tonnes of coal, and we burned about 50 million tonnes. We imported about 50% of that 42 million tonnes from Russia—hardly a politically stable country, to say the least—and we also imported coal from Colombia, where they use child labour to mine the coal.

We need to embrace the fact that coal is not going away. As I have discussed with the Minister on numerous occasions, we need to ensure that coal is embraced—indigenous coal, together with carbon capture and storage, which will ensure we can continue burning coal with zero emissions. We must also secure state aid for Kellingley, Thoresby and Hatfield in the deep-mine sector. We have had discussions on that with the Minister as well.

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I welcome this timely debate on open-cast sites and restoration, and the lack of it in some areas, some of which have been blighted for quite some time now. That is of great concern. This issue and the needs of the communities concerned were raised by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith). They need assurances, and why not? When it is said that an area is to be open-casted, the people there deserve the right to be assured that the land will be restored to a state at least as good as that before the open-casting. We must ensure that.

We cannot have private companies raiding the countryside, ripping it back like the proverbial sardine-can and taking the coal out, and then leaving without restoration. We cannot accept that. From now, any company, or any director who is involved in a company, that produces coal and then leaves things in such a state should never be allowed to be part of an application in the future. That should be fundamental—it should be basic—and it would protect the people we represent.

I have a huge problem with Potland Burn in my constituency. It has already been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is a perfect example of the chaos that a private company can cause by abdicating its responsibilities. Potland Burn was operated by the then UK Coal. Somebody mentioned cowboys. “Cowboys” and “UK Coal” are often said in the same sentence. UK Coal operated this site, and then it went into liquidation. It then formed a new company called UK Coal Surface Mines, and it is now in charge of the open-cast site in my constituency. The company says that there is a £3.86 million shortfall, which means that it cannot restore the land. It has a £1.67 million fund with the county council, and £60,000 with the Coal Authority. That means that the site might never be restored.

The only option would be for the local authority to step in to help a private company, but that would mean that taxpayers would be paying out of their backside pockets to restore an open-cast site after the company has been in and raided it, exploited the coal and run away with the profits. That would be totally unacceptable. It would not happen in many other industries, but it is happening in the UK coal industry. The companies are blackmailing the local authorities by saying, “Sorry, we can’t restore this one, but if we get planning permission for another one, we will have the money to do it.” That is happening, and it is an absolute disgrace. It should be illegal. We should be putting these people in front of the general public.

This is happening at sites across the country. Scotland and Wales have their own huge problems. I am aware of a letter having been sent to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change about a potential deal on carbon price support, with a request that the tax be withdrawn for certain coals in and around open-cast areas. At least that is an attempt to find a solution, which would help, but it raises many questions as well. We need a UK-wide pot. Coalpro, the trade organisation, has come up with a wonderful idea. It has proposed a £1 levy on every tonne of coal burned in the UK. That would provide £50 million for a communal pot for the UK, which could be used by the Coal Authority to ensure that local authorities had enough money to restore every site, regardless of whether it was in England, Scotland or Wales.

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Natascha Engel: I agree that that sounds like a good idea, but would it not allow those people—who I think we both agree are cowboys who have made an awful lot of money from excavating the coal—to get away scot-free?

Ian Lavery: I fully agree with that, but I am looking at this from the perspective of the people who live next to those sites. They have had to endure the conditions created by the open-cast mines for quite some time. If there are legal processes available—as there should be—they often take a long time, but that is not to say that we should not challenge those companies for every single ha’penny we possibly can.

Coal has been a political football for quite some time; it has been kicked from pillar to post for generations. It has much to offer, however. Perhaps the real answer to the question of the cost of obtaining the indigenous coal reserves that we are blessed with would be to abolish the carbon price support in its entirety. I am merely suggesting that. I am not sure whether the Minister would consider it, but I would welcome his views on the matter.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. May I suggest that each Member speaks for five minutes? That will allow everyone to get in comfortably and give us enough time for the wind-ups before we have to stop. I am not going to put the clock on, so please be vigilant.

4.19 pm

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): I was born and raised in the mining communities of the Amman valley. Those communities were built around the coal industry, with villages developing around underground pits. In my formative years, apart from the Betws drift mine and the Cynheidre drift mine in the neighbouring Gwendraeth valley, those underground operations had all but ceased, apart from a scattering of small private mines. However, open-cast mining affected all the communities I am proud to represent in the industrial half of my constituency. I remember the noise of the huge machines that worked on those sites and the dust that accumulated when the weather was dry.

Today, someone who drives up Mynydd y Betws, past the Scotch Pine, and looks down at the lower Amman valley will see an extraordinary sight: a giant former open- cast site which swallows the communities of Ammanford, Llandybie, Penybanc, Tycroes, Capel Hendre, Blaenau, Caerbryn and Penygroes. The industry was advanced around these communities in staged developments, and life went on much as usual in the villages I just mentioned. The scene resembles a giant US plain or a Russian steppe, with a patchwork of villages within it, linked by roads. It is completely out of character with the rest of the Carmarthenshire countryside developed by the agricultural industry. The view from Mynydd y Betws symbolises the failure of the restoration processes of the open-cast industry to return the environment to its previous state.

In 2009, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins held a debate in the National Assembly for Wales regarding open-cast restoration. She called for a report into the failure to restore open-cast sites in

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Wales. During the debate, Plaid Cymru called for the guidelines issued to local authorities, minerals technical advice note 2—MTAN2—to be overhauled. Four years later, the Welsh Government finally commissioned a report, and “Research into the failure to restore opencast coal sites in south Wales” was published in April 2014.

The report identifies the Coal Industry Act 1994 as a fundamental problem where restoration is concerned. The report’s authors, ERM, suggest that prior to privatisation there were few issues concerning restoration, apart from the quality of the completed sites, and certainly no question as to whether restoration would go ahead or not. The fact that restoration protocols were not watertight in the Act reflects the carelessness and haste in which the Act was composed and passed through Parliament. The Act should have contained many more measures to protect coal communities, and has parallels with the debates on fracking that we have had recently in this place.

The status quo, where the law effectively permits operators to walk away from sites that they have no inclination to restore, can no longer remain an option. The Welsh Government have had to increasingly commit resources to public inquiries because, as the report suggests, the expertise to determine open-cast applications does not necessarily exist within mineral planning authorities. The Welsh Government should consider bringing determination of open-cast planning applications under the direct control of Welsh Ministers. Doing that would reduce the resources committed by local government, would allow particular expertise to be developed in one place and would help end the different interpretations of Welsh Government guidance which operators and their lawyers have been so adept at exploiting.

Let us consider the example of East pit in the upper Amman valley, which borders the villages of Brynamman, Rhosamman, Cefnbrynbrain and Ystradowen in my constituency. The latest planning application proposed the creation of a lake in the current void after use. Neath Port Talbot county borough council, as the responsible mineral planning authority, has had to contend with the Reservoirs Act 1975 and the Mines And Quarries (Tips) Act 1969. As the report suggests, mineral planning authorities cannot realistically be expected to retain such expertise in-house, and that is before we get to the vexed issue of the Commons Act 2006. The question has to be asked: at a time of swingeing cuts to local authorities with already stretched resources, can a mineral planning authority properly discharge its duties if it does not command the expertise to do so?

Bonds and enforcement are also topics covered in the ERM report. It notes that the Dynant Fawr site, which engulfs the communities of Drefach and Cefneithin in my constituency, is not adequately bonded or assured. The Dynant Fawr site poses a problem to the planning authority because it has been abandoned in an unrestored state and insufficient bond is reported to exist to meet the cost of its restoration. Carmarthenshire consultees to the report felt that the transfer of ownership of operating sites may cause problems for planning authorities, in that they have difficulty in making effective contact with the new owners or getting adequate responses from them.

Early disposal of restored sites to multiple owners, sometimes on completion of basic restoration or at the commencement of the aftercare period, has also been a problem. That was the big problem in Gilfach Iago site

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in my constituency. There was no bond and the operators sold the land in parcels before the restoration process was completed. Promises to restore roads linking the villages of Saron, Blaenau and Penygroes have not been kept. Promises to replant trees and hedgerows also were not kept, resulting in the plain effect I referred to earlier and devastating the natural habitat of much wildlife. Carmarthenshire county council has taken legal action against the operators, Celtic Energy, at a cost to local taxpayers, yet the operators have been able to escape fulfilling their obligations although the local planning authority won the case. It is an insult to local people to be treated in that way, given what they have had to endure to accommodate the industry.

We need more than fine words. The Welsh Government can and must deliver meaningful action to protect communities. The UK Government should also be ready and willing to assist by sharing expertise, supporting the devolved Governments in tackling the issue and helping fund restoration work not completed largely as a result of the loopholes left by the coal industry privatisation legislation, supported by this House. That fund should be funded by contributions by the UK Government and open-cast operators, and the trustees should include members of communities affected by open-cast operations. If we do not get that, given that these planning issues are devolved, the Welsh Government should set up a national open-cast fund based on historical and new contributions to repair the damage caused by the failures of the past.

I did want to make a far more detailed speech, but time has escaped me.

4.24 pm

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): I will try my best to cut down my speech to five minutes. To be fair, I did secure a Westminster Hall debate on this subject on 6 January, so the Minister has heard it all before, but he will have to hear it again.

The situation in Scotland is far worse than in the rest of the UK, and the situation in my constituency of East Ayrshire is far worse than anywhere else in Scotland. I do not need to say any more to emphasise just how bad the situation is. We have almost 20 sq km of disturbed and unrestored land, which has been abandoned. East Ayrshire council commissioned an independent assessment of the true cost of restoring the land and a cost of £160 million was identified for East Ayrshire. Hargreaves estimated a cost in excess of £300 million for the whole of Scotland. But the bond to carry out the restoration work in East Ayrshire totals just over £28 million, and even that is not settled. Clearly, there is an enormous funding gap.

I have pressed the Government to return funding to Scotland from its contributions to the coal levy, but that has not been forthcoming. I am not aware of any other fund that is available, but if my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) is right and that money exists, I would certainly support the idea of devolving it to the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government have responsibility for this matter, and they are not coming up with any money either, so we have problems at both UK and Scottish level.

Any money that is available will pay for a greatly reduced quality of restoration. That is why the proposal by Hargreaves for a technical change to extend the coal

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slurry carbon price support exemption to include coal derived from schemes supporting restoration projects is well worthy of serious consideration. I cannot over-emphasise the urgency of the situation. I will not go into all the technical details as I had originally planned, but people can read


for 6 January if they want more details.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to any proposal, but this is the only game in town of which I am aware. The recent proposals from other members of the Confederation of United Kingdom Coal Producers have come in only at the last minute and they have not been thought through. I know that the Treasury has received a detailed analysis of the net economic impact and potential benefits of the scheme. I am pleased that the Minister responded well to my debate on 6 January and said that he and Treasury officials would meet a group of us, and perhaps some of my colleagues, to discuss the proposals. I look forward to that meeting taking place as soon as possible.

My main emphasis is that this is a disaster for our communities. It cannot be ignored; it must be dealt with as soon as possible.

4.27 pm

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) on securing the debate and pay tribute to the Welsh Government for commissioning the review, “Research into the failure to restore opencast coal sites in south Wales.”

Restoration of open-cast sites pre-privatisation was relatively assured because British Coal, the then controlling body, managed the contract cash flow by holding a restoration lump sum in reserve, which was tantamount to a restoration bond. Furthermore, in the event of all such precautions failing, British Coal, as a Government body, could, as a means of last resort, restore an abandoned site at public cost.

At privatisation, Celtic Energy acquired the British Coal open-cast operation in south Wales but it was not required to provide any restoration bonds, for reasons that have already been explained. It is staggering to think that for the first 10 years after privatisation, 1995 to 2005, there was no effective mechanism to require the restoration of open-cast sites, but that is precisely what happened.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Mr Hood) raised with the then Department of Trade and Industry Minister responsible the issue of the enormous burden that was to fall on local planning authorities as a result of privatisation, and how right he was. It has been an enormous burden. Following privatisation, it is absolutely clear that all large open-cast coal sites should have been the subject of adequate restoration bonds.