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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I did not mention Article 10 in my speech. I referred to the important decision of your Lordships' House in the Reynolds case and to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I too have read the speeches and not just the extracts. My view is that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was entitledindeed, boundto reach the view that he did on the basis of the law as it now stands.
In the final minute of my speech, I shall comment on the reaction of the press. I found it extremely depressing. I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said on that subject. The tone of the press is so different from that of six months ago. Then it was roses, roses all the way as far as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was concerned. He was a wise and upright judge, a second Daniel come to judgment, who was going to give Alastair Campbell a bloody nose and the sooner the better. The great misfortune of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was that he reached a conclusion that was the exact opposite of what the press were hoping for. Articles were then written. I shall not refer to the article of my noble friend Lord Rees-Mogg, but I shall refer specifically to an article in the Spectator by Rod Liddle and to another article by Sir Max Hastings, in the Daily Mail, ridiculing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. Those articles of course make good copy. But sometimes I wonder whether journalists realise the harm they cause and the damage they donot only to the object of their derision, not only to the people who read and perhaps believe what they are told by the papers, but to the profession which they themselves follow.
It is that kind of article, that kind of allegation, that the whole report was a whitewash, which brings journalism into even greater contempt than politics. If anyone doubts that or thinks it is just the view of a judge and not that of a journalist, then I suggest they read a perceptive article by Mr Martin Kettle in yesterday's Guardian on the central question that the judge could not have reached any other conclusion. To call it a whitewash is not proper journalism.
The fact remains, however, that because of what eventually went into that dossier on so-called "weapons of mass destruction", what was left out, and even more how it was interpreted and subsequently presented to Parliament and elsewhere, not least by implying that the possible 45-minute warning for small battlefield weapons was somehow equally relevant to long-range strategic ones, the British people were left with the distinct impression that the threat from Iraq to this county was infinitely more massive, imminent and alarming than it has since turned out to be or, probably now, ever had been.
We know that the Government were determined to strengthen the dossier to the limit that the Joint Intelligence Committee would accept. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has confirmed this, finding no impropriety in such action. But I suggest that, not surprisingly, the Government wanted to do just this because the other justifications or excuses for invading Iraq would not have been readily acceptable to Parliament, the country and to many eminent lawyers. I refer, of course, to the longstanding series of United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 1441, to which the Government later resorted as the prime explanation for war and perhaps more compelling, if less advertised, to the fact that America was going to war come what may. The view could be strongly held that it would be in our own national interest to be alongside, rather than outside, like the French. Neither of those justifications, whatever their validity, embrace the essential element of totally lawful self-defence on which most of the country wished to be reassured.
So the question remains in the wider context, outside the remit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. Taking into account all the factors: the national interest, the pre-eminence of Parliament and even some political expediency, we must ask whether the Government's determination first to strengthen the raw intelligence when so many in the know had serious doubts, in particular about the likely offensive use of such weapons, and then by implication to misrepresent its significance in relation to strategic weapons, all in order to mobilise public opinion behind an attack to which this country may already have been committed, now opens the Government to the kind of criticism and censure which within the narrow remit of the Hutton report they have so far avoided. On this, I believe that the jury is still out.
Although it would be nice to think that the new inquiry under my noble friend Lord Butler of Brockwell might throw some penetrating light on these very things, I fear that unless we are given real assurances by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor about his committee's terms of reference, it
Finally, having made these accusations, I have to recognise that ultimately, in the real and harsh world, any historical judgment on whether we were right to invade Iraq will certainly not be made on the Government keeping on saying that they were right to do so, nor even on whether the country was taken to war under false pretences, which it may well have been, but on what happens in Iraq and the Middle East over the next one, two or even more years, and the effect that will have on our national interest and on international stability. On that, I believe it is still far too early to make a judgment.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. The happiest compliment I can pay him is to quote another earlier Field Marshal at the conclusion of my speech.
Two days after the Hutton report came out I was telephoned by a Sunday paper seeking my comments on the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, as a man. I explained that although I had met him on a series of occasions in Northern Ireland, he and I had, whether consciously or unconsciously, kept a general distance from each other in our respective offices, perhaps to underline the distinction between executive and judiciary in the Province. I greatly admire him, not least for 30 years' steadfastness during the Troubles and, as a man with three-eighths' Ulster blood, I take particular pride in the speed with which this careful and comprehensive report has been produced. Of the latter quality I give a tiny example.
In a minute from Sir Kevin Tebbit to Mr Hoon set out in paragraph 87, there is in sub-paragraph (3) a small and no doubt inadvertent but substantial slip of the metaphorical pen which brings the reader up short. In sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 430, that error is discreetly corrected without attention being drawn to it in the noble and learned Lord's own conclusions. It is a de minimis point, but it illustrates that the narrative was a real-time narrative and how, in the midst of such fast-moving events even Homer, in the form of a Permanent Secretary, can nod.
My overriding sense of the events described is of a Greek tragedy unfolding with a single individual the ultimate victim, as the title of the report spells out. As in Hardy's poem, "The Convergence of the Twain", subtitled "(Lines on the Loss of the 'Titanic')", one senses the Government and the BBC moving inexorably towards collision, with a single man crushed by this occurrence.
In terms of what has happened since the report, leading up to yesterday's announcement of a new inquiry, your Lordships' House must have felt for the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairsas I infer the Lord Chancellor prefers to be knownwhen his
Yet victory unqualified is the wrong phrase, however much the Government initially forgot the wisdom of Slim's wartime aphorism that no news is ever as good or as bad as it first appears. If top-up fees were a Pyrrhic victory on Tuesday, the ghost of Pyrrhus was also present on Wednesday. I do not know whether Lady Bracknell knew who Pyrrhus was, but she was arguably the first observer to recognise the importance of handbags in public affairs. She would certainly have commented on this 24-hour conjuncture.
Pyrrhic the Hutton report is because the BBC, like our Armed Forces, is one of our international jewels. The Government cannot have helped noticing, as some of my noble friends have quoted, in Thursday's Evening Standard that even in the light of the Hutton report the Government fell far below the BBC in public opinion reactions to the terms of the verdicts of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
Those in the BBC who have fallen on their swords have made it much easier for the BBC to reassert itself, as my noble friend Lord Carrington's heroic resignation did similar service for the then-Government in the aftermath of the invasion of the Falklands. But it remains essential that the prompt announcement made about BBC succession on Monday is swiftly followed up by actions and outcomes, as the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, encouragingly confirmed in his admirable speech.
My concentration on the collision should not ignore the individual victim. Because the verdict of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, on the BBC has suggested leniency elsewhere, it is necessary to draw attention to his excoriating judgment, in what I shall neutrally call "judicial language", between paragraphs 430 and 439 on what Mr Hoon described as,
If I may be personal, twice when I was a Minister I felt alone in public through my own actions. I acknowledge that I never felt remotely suicidal, but my weathering the storm was immensely assisted by the unwavering support of direct colleagues. I can imagine how much worse it would have been, despite the identification of mitigating circumstances by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, if my sense of
Now we are to have a further inquiry, never envisaged last summer, sprung on us when all the auspices pointed elsewhere, as the Government, for all the conventional mantras about issues being constantly kept under review, must themselves be feeling. International policy in this administration is exemplified by Longfellow's banner with a strange device, which bore the word "Excelsior"to which the Government have added as the first subtitle, "What works", and as a further one, "What Tony wants"; of which there is an echo in paragraph 228 sub-paragraph 7 of the report.
There is, no doubt, a further subtitle still, in invisible thread, adding the smaller words, "What George wants", but then to be fair a similar Longfellow banner in the United States might also include in invisible threadbut in tiny lettersthe same thought: "What Tony wants".
I spoke of the BBC in the same breath as the Armed Forces, for which in such debates universal praise is expressed. Oral orders in the heat of battle do not often come down through history to us, but I quote in conclusion two orders given by that fine fighting solder Sir Colin Campbellthe name is a coincidencelater a field marshal, in a three-year period. First, at Balaclava:
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I wish to concentrate entirely on the relations between the Government and the BBC in the light of the Hutton report and particularly on the report's impact on the future of the BBC. I should perhaps declare an interest as a former chairman and present pensioner of the regulatory body of commercial broadcasting in this country as well as the father of a member of the BBC's board of management.
I am particularly happy in concentrating on the BBC to follow the excellent maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder. He did a service to the House by taking the courageous decision to make his maiden speech at this belated stage in the present circumstances. I found great value in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, who brought to our debate his experience as a great director-general of the BBC. Perhaps some of the BBC's problems in the present situation would have been avoided if it had been able to stick to his famous exposition of broadcasting as a mission to explain; a mission to report the news rather than to make the news.
However, it is unfair that the totality of the BBCto use one of the Prime Minister's recent favourite wordsshould be judged by this particular aberration. The Government and the BBC should realise that great damage has been done to them both by this recent chapter of events. For the nation as a whole, the trust in two of our most important institutions has been seriously damaged and the sooner a line is drawn by both politicians and broadcasters the better.
I therefore welcome the Secretary of State's assurance the other day that this episode does not change the Government's view of the importance of preserving the BBC's independence in the forthcoming charter review. I was glad to hear the Minister on the Front Bench repeat a Statement the other day setting out the careful arrangements for approving the new chairman of the BBC.
It is a recognition that when all passion is spent, the BBC, warts and alland it has a fair share of wartsis a uniquely valuable national asset. In that tired cliche, it is one of the rare British institutions that is undoubtedly regarded as world-class and does us credit all around the world. Its contribution to the quality of civilised life stretches far beyond the inevitably controversial frailties of current affairs into education, music, sports and all the creative arts. It is the benchmark for the nation's standard in public service broadcasting and indeed for other broadcasters in the country. Compared to the pay-TV subscriptions that I happily now pay to enjoy sports and films, the BBC licence feeleaving aside the fact that I now receive it for free as an elderly pensionerremains extraordinary value for money.
The Hutton report may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the BBC if it is able to work with the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, and his ultimate successor, and Mark Byford, whom we all wish well, to deal with some of the consequences of recent events. They should help it to concentrate on sustaining its unique qualities in the multinational world of telecommunications now regulated by Ofcom. In my view, the key area for necessary changes lies in the role of the BBC board of governors in relation to the BBC's programme makers. The first task for the new chairman must be to equip the board of governors to be a more effective regulator and public trustee in the interests of the listeners and viewers. The BBC board of governors has the difficult dual role of being the public regulator, on the one hand, and being the non-executive directors of a huge creative enterprise, on the other.
It is a demanding role but not an impossible one. It is infinitely better than the alternative of transferring the public trustee role to a new and untried Ofcom, most of the regulatory responsibilities of which lie in the field of commercial competition. In any event, Ofcom will have quite a difficult time over the next few years in settling
But the Governors were ill provided to make any independent investigations of their own. The lesson is that under the new charter they should be equipped with their own distinct unit that will enable them to establish the public interest independently when the need arises. That would be to adapt the framework that I enjoyed as chairman of the old IBA, where we were proud of the creative work of the companies that held our franchises but we were at arm's length from them when something went wrong and we had to adjudicate on matters such as these. That model could be usefully explored.
I believe that Gavyn Davies was a chairman of quality and integrity who found himself, with his fellow governors, stranded between the bullying harassment of Alastair Campbell and the opportunistic reporting of Andrew Gilligan. In a vivid phrase in his own evidence, at page 211, Mr Davies said:
Baroness Goudie: My Lords, following the tragic death of Dr David Kelly, and given its circumstances, there was strong pressure for a public inquiry to be set up and for it to be conducted by a senior judge. Her Majesty's Government acted with the utmost speed. They immediately set up a public inquiry and invited a very senior and highly distinguished judge to conduct it. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, accepted the invitation.
I do not recall any clamour that there should not have been an inquiry; I do not recall any clamour that it should not have been a judicial inquiry; I certainly do not recall criticism of the choice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
We then had the judicial inquiry process in the full glare of publicity. The nation was at one in being highly impressed by the way in which it was conducted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, and rightly so.
We now have had the independent, impartial, meticulous and careful report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. The umpire has given his ruling. Imagine the uproar that there would have been if he had put his finger up when the Prime Minister, or the Secretary of State for Defence, or the No. 10 director of communications had been at the crease and they had not walked. They would have been expected to respect his verdict. Others should do so too.
However, within hours of the publication of the more than 300 pages of closely reasoned report, criticisms of it were being expressed. The criticisms amount to little more than the fact that a judicial approach of rigorous analysis was adopted. What on earth else was or should have been expected, except by those for whom nothing less than a witch hunt would do? I wonder how many of those who reacted to the approach of opinion pollsters had actually read the report when they did so. By contrast, among those who have read the sound and balanced report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, and who did not have preconceived views of what the outcome should have been, I have not detected any serious criticism.
For my part, I did have some reservations about there being an inquiry at all and, if there was to be an inquiry, some reservations about it being conducted by a judge. I often have such reservations. I suspect that we have too many inquiries. And I do have a real general concern about politicians asking judges to conduct politically sensitive inquiries and judges agreeing to do so. Certainly it was necessary for the Secretary of State to draw up tight terms of reference, and it would be wholly inappropriate for a judge then to be expected or entitled to broaden them.
In the present kind of situation there is an acceptable alternativeit is what would have happened in any eventa coroner's inquest, possibly with a jury. If there are perceived to be weaknesses in such a process, then the law relating to inquests should be reformed. If it is felt that some inquests require a more high-powered judicial input, then the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, or the Attorney-General, or the Lord Chief Justice should have the power to appoint a High Court judge or a special coroner. If, however, there are wider political issues which are not suitable for an inquest, then they are not likely to be appropriate for a judge at all.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, as a judge, was given a task. He accepted the burden. He has discharged his role with the utmost skill. We should be grateful to him. We should accept his conclusions and let the sniping cease.
The public are no longer as impressed as they might have been in bygone deferential days by inquiries led by senior judges and senior civil servants because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that this is merely a process to enable the establishment to close ranks. It seems to me that the American approach to its inquiry is both more transparent and comprehensive than is envisaged for here, which is a pity.
The two inquiries will be taking place during the run-up to two general elections. If the present level of public cynicism in this country does not abateand at present I can see no reason why it shouldwe might see a turn-out on polling day far below the abysmal 60 per cent of 2001. The cynics may argue that the Government do not care very much about this as long as they are returned to power, which is very likely at the present time. But we must remind ourselves of what happened in France last year when public cynicism led to a low turn-out and the Le Pen catastrophe. Of course I am not suggesting that a disaster of that kind could happen in Britain but, in very low turn-outs, extremists who can muster their support stand to gain.
The Government may rightly feel that much of this general cynicism is both unfair and nasty. They have not been given full credit by the press for the most successful period of sustained growth for more than a century; nor is there a proper recognition that, as a result of unprecedented levels of investment, most of our public services are at last beginning to show a real improvement; and Northern Ireland is enjoying peace, albeit uneasily.
It seems a tragedy therefore that the Government, and their supporters such as myself, find ourselves so lacking in public confidence. This is not helped of course by a vitriolic tabloid press which seeks, it appears, to usurp the role of the official Opposition.
If we cannot tackle that public malaisea combination of J.K. Galbraith's slothful culture of contentment and a deep disaffection with government and Parliamentwe are heading into dangerous and uncharted waters. When respect for democratic institutions becomes undermined, so do democratic values of tolerance and social justice.
The Profumo affair 40 years ago, culminating in the now much-discredited Denning report, did great damage to the public's perception of the establishment. But then the issues at stake were trivial compared with the subject of our discussions today. There was a credible opposition in Parliament to provide the public with an alternative
However, there is one issue that can restore some degree of public confidence and which cannot await the outcome of the inquiriesthe achievement of peace and stability in Iraq. For that to happen, the Americans, the British Government and our partners in the European Union must stand together and involve the United Nations as the only institution that has the ability and the trust of the world and the people of Iraq to deliver that outcome. The British Government must lead the way in persuading our American friends that their ambivalence and shabby treatment of the United Nations is no longer acceptable.
Lord Alexander of Weedon: My Lords, like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, one of my predecessors as president of the MCC, I am not in favour of challenging the decision of the umpire, whether with or without the aid of an action replay. The task of a judge at a public inquiry is lonely and difficult. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, conducted his hearings splendidly and sensitively. In considering his conclusions we should all remember that he had the advantage of assessing the witnesses and weighing all of the evidence. I share the relief at his view that the Government did not seek the inclusion in the dossier of intelligence material which was known to be false. That conclusion seems to me to be fully justified, as it does to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, on the evidence.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, did a service in finding the facts, which I would like to return to and I do not think have yet been fully appreciated. I have some concerns about the balance of the report. The BBC made mistakes and they have paid a high price. But they were put under enormous pressure by Alastair Campbell, who the Prime Minister himself has publicly described as "rough and tough". To me that seems to justify Mr Greg Dyke's remarks that it was bullying conduct. Am I alone in thinking that the days when the type of dealings that Mr Alastair Campbell had near the head of government were conducted by senior permanent civil servants were healthier days that should be renewed?
I want to say how much I admire the BBC for so much of its journalism. I am glad that it was prepared to probe so rigorously the case made by the Government for leading us into what so many of us consider to have been an unnecessary and costly war of choice. Throughout, my own party was very largely fully supportive of the Government. That made it more important that the media, and especially the BBC, should join the Liberal Democrats, so wonderfully led by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in redressing the democratic deficit by making certain that the doubts were heard. I am also glad that Tessa Jowell, over the past few days, has steadfastly said that she will uphold the independence of the BBC and, as I
For me the central problem flows from the narrow remit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. He pointed that out. He records with deadly precision some of the material which would have remained buried and out of sight but for his inquiry. I found the way in which he set out some changes in the draft dossiers in September 2002 particularly cogent. On 16 September the dossier told us that Saddam,
I shall also give another illustration by reference to the first draft of the foreword by the Prime Minister, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, remarked upon, and which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, drew attention to this afternoon. It included the statement:
The scepticism is greater now that an extensive search has discovered no weapons of mass destruction. Yet no one who read the reports of Hans Blix back in February last year should be surprised. He made it plain that the jury was still out and that he needed more time. But the Government ignored him and abandoned their long-standing commitments to the United Nations and followed the lead of the United States into war.
Against that background, I would find it deeply disappointing and unwise if the new inquiry, so hastily set up yesterday, focused only on the accuracy of the intelligence material and where it seems to have gone astray. The Government seem not to appreciate that
Any inquiry should take account of the advice that the Government received as to the legality of the war in international law. My concern was reinforced yesterday when the Government argued that war was justified for breach of Resolution 1441. But in international law the right to use force is a last resort and has to be unequivocally spelled out. Resolution 1441 did not do that. That is why the Government wanted a second resolution, until they realised that it would not pass. The Attorney-General then published a summary of his advice in which he based the ultimate authority for war on UN Resolution 678, passed in 1990, to authorise the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Yet both President Bush senior and Mr John Major publicly stated that this resolution would not have justified them in going to Baghdad. The suggestion that it somehow allowed an invasion for a different purpose 12 years later has been rejected by almost all international lawyers. It is widely believed that Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a very senior Foreign Office legal adviser, resigned because she disagreed. Yet the Government persistently refuse all requests for disclosure of the Attorney-General's full advice. We are apparently entitled to his "view" but not to his "advice", a distinction which seems incomprehensible to me. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has described his view as "straining at a gnat" and for what it is worth I have characterised it as "risible". In his advice, the Attorney-General would have needed to deal with some formidable objections to his view and his advice should at long last be disclosed to the inquiry. There are clear precedents for the Attorney-General's advice to be disclosed to official inquiries.
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