|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Amos: My Lords, first, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that I am aware that they did not have access to the report until 12.30 p.m. Some of what is being said today is, in my view, partial. A complete reading of the document demonstrates that the report is comprehensive, balanced and thorough. Some of the views that have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, are not borne out by a thorough reading of the report. I would recommend to all Members of this House that they read the report from beginning to end.
With respect to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in relation to the intelligence material and what had changed, the noble Baroness is well aware of what changed. The context in which we discussed those issues changed fundamentally after September 11. The Statement makes that absolutely clear. Indeed, a reading of the report and, in particular, the intelligence material in relation to that period
14 Jul 2004 : Column 1264
makes that absolutely clear, as does the knowledge that terrorists were doing everything that they could to get hold of WMD. Again, that is factually borne out by the report.
The report and the Statement have tried absolutely clearly to put the discussions and decisions that were made in relation to Iraq in their proper context. That is something of which we should all be aware and something that we should all remember to do.
With respect to the issue of the legal basis for the war, I think that my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General has answered the questions that were asked of him in relation to that. I hope that in again asking those questions the integrity of my noble and learned friend was not being called into question.
To help the House, perhaps I may repeat where we stand. In the report, it is made very clear that the advice of my noble and learned friend was not based on WMD-related intelligence. I would direct noble Lords to paragraph 379 of the report. My noble and learned friend confirmed in this House, including on 21 March when he explained his view to the House, that it was his independent view that military action was justified.
The Butler report confirms, as my noble and learned friend has always maintained, that his advice, which the noble Lord's review saw, was based on the interpretation of relevant Security Council resolutions and negotiating history in the United Nations and, I repeat, not on WMD-related intelligence. So the lawfulness of the conflict is not undermined by the failure to find WMD or by any reassessment of the intelligence. It could not be clearer.
A question was also raised with respect to the use that was made of the dossier. When noble Lords look at the report in detail, I invite them to read the footnote on page 127 where the inquiry team makes it clear that it,
"wrote to some 60 Editors of national and regional print and broadcast media to ask them if they had been briefed by representatives of the Government about the dossier immediately prior to its publication or whether, post-publication, they were guided to report particular aspects, such as the '45 minute' story. All of those who replied said that they had not been guided to particular parts of the dossier prior to its publication . . . Some Editors noted that the '45 minute' story attracted attention because it was of itself an eyecatching item in a document containing much that was either not new or rather technical in nature".
"The Iraqi threat is indisputable. Horrific weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a despot who will use them or give them to others to use in every part of the world. Our shared objective is the destruction of these weapons before they can be used. The means of achieving it must be effective and enduring. We cannot rule any option out".
In conclusion, with regard to the comments which have been made about the nature of government, the so-called informality of the Government, and the fact that meetings are held which are not minuted, we all know that if you are to have effective government, you need to operate in a variety of different ways. Those noble Lords opposite who may remember a time when they were in government might recall occasions when it was necessary to hold informal meetings before they then had formal meetings.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, this is a sorry occasion. Reverting to the last reply given by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, I am among those who have been in government and served in a Cabinet for a considerable time. I can say that the strictureswhich they are, albeit in restrained termsmade in the Butler report at paragraphs 6.06 to 6.11, although not exclusively there, on the way that this administration conducts the procedures and processes of government is something that did not apply to any administration in which I have served.
I ask the noble Baroness whether she is aware that this is a serious matter. Throughout the over-long Statement of the Prime Minister, repeated by the noble Baroness, there was no acknowledgment of that whatever. When is this very important issue going to be addressed, and how?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord did not hear everything I said in the Statement, where it was made absolutely clear that we accept the report and the recommendations made in it. Perhaps I may also say to the noble Lord that at his press conference this morning the noble Lord, Lord Butler, was asked a specific question about the style of government. I watched it. The noble Lord said that the overall effect of the way the Government operated in no way made them any less efficient. Noble Lords should read what is in the report and listen to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Butler.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Can my noble friend confirm that the only substantive criticism of the dossier made in the report is that it failed adequately to emphasise, for the benefit of those who did not already know, that intelligence by its very nature is incomplete and frequently tentative? Can
14 Jul 2004 : Column 1266
she further confirm that this is the first occasion ever on which a government have made public information from the JIC? Would it not be surprising if this first attempt at transparency did not give rise to some lessons?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble and learned friend is absolutely right. Perhaps I may say in relation to his final point about transparency that, having watched governments operate over many years, no government have sought to be as transparent and as open with their people as this Government have sought to be.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I have not yet had the opportunity to read the Butler report in full, but as a former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and as a Member of this House who has strongly questioned and still questions the case for going to war in Iraq, I should like to make a few brief points.
First, it is quite clear from what I have read of the Butler report that the process of assessing and publicising intelligence in the case of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and therefore of the imminence of an Iraqi threat, was flawed.
Secondly, the role and involvement of political advisers and No. 10 press officers in the process of intelligence assessment and in producing the flawed dossier was unwise and led to pressure, perhaps unconscious pressure or strain, on the intelligence services to support the case for war. I am surprised that neither the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, nor, so far as I know, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has drawn particular attention to Mr Jonathan Powell's e-mail, in which he is reported to have complained that the first draft of the dossier was inadequate to support the Government's case for going to war.
Thirdly, this House was repeatedly assured by Ministers that no decisions to go to war had been taken. Indeed, I was assured privately by a Minister, within weeks of military action, that we would not go to war without a second United Nations resolution. But it has long been clear from Bob Woodward's books, as I have reminded this House several times, that a decision had been taken by senior members of the United States Administration as early as four years ago, if not earlier, that an early and imminent invasion of Iraq was desirable and necessary, and that the events of September 11 in the following year were used improperly and dishonestly as a justification for going to war.
Little attempt has been made either by the United States Government or by the British Government to correct the widespread belief in the United States that Saddam Hussein was behind the attack on the twin towers. I share the regret expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the Attorney-General's confidential advice has still not been published, when a great deal of information has been revealed which in my day would have been
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|