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Lord Garden: My Lords, I shall not dwell on the sorry tale of strategic incompetence that dogged policy making before the intervention in Iraq. We have heard from many noble Lords about that and I hope that we are all able to learn the lessons from it. But as we now look at the litany of errors in the months after major combat ended on 1 May 2003, it is clear that there was equally no strategic vision for the building of the new Iraq. Much of that blame rightly attaches to the US, which was the leading nation in the coalition.
Yet the requirement for a British grand strategy does not disappear because we are the junior members of the coalition. The need for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Iraq was more urgent after the intervention than before it, yet the British Government have accepted a submissive role in the US-led shaping of policy for Iraq.
I draw your Lordships' attention to the current edition of Foreign Affairs. It contains an article entitled "What Went Wrong in Iraq". It was written by Larry Diamond, senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority for the first four months of this year and an academic. He reveals the extent of the mismanagement. Time does not allow me to go through his great long list, but he rehearses the consequences of too few troops on the ground during the post-conflict period and the use of the wrong kind of forces. He describes the coalition handling of the growing al-Sadr problem as,
Dr Diamond gave an interview about his article in Foreign Affairs in which he made some interesting remarks about Britain's role in all of this. He said that the British were regarded just as warily by the Coalition Provisional Authority as was the State Department. He specifically said that the British Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, was systematically shut out. Dr Diamond regrets that, saying:
Our strategic aim should still be to seek peace and stability in the Middle East, to reduce international terrorism and to ensure the security of energy supplies. We need to know now that none of these is likely to be achieved by accepting that US policy-makers know all the answers.
There is a good starting point for forward planning for the Government. It is the recently published House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on foreign policy aspects of the war on terrorism. It contains a section on Iraq which I commend to your Lordships. The committee makes 27 recommendations on Iraq in order to make our policy work. I enjoin the Government to take those recommendations very seriously indeed.
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The committee warns that if it does not go well, the alternative to a positive outcome in Iraq may be a failed state and regional instability.
As the Minister said, better security is the key enabler. Just because the media loses interest in day-to-day reporting of the continuing unrest and disorder, it does not mean that things are improving. We have heard various illustrations in speeches today. We are approaching the 1,000th US military death in Iraq, and, as many noble Lords have said, we do not know how many Iraqi civilians have died but the number is certainly 10 times that. The wounded of all nations, whether they are UK, US, Iraqi or other contributors to the forces, go largely unreported, but violent events happen everywhere, every dayas we saw with the tragic deaths near Fallujah yesterday. The US deaths were near Fallujah because American forces have not been able to go into Fallujah since the end of April.
All of this means that there is a continuing requirement for UK security support for a long time to come. As the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, said, this is not really a very good time to be thinking about reducing our defence forces when we have these sorts of tasks ahead of us. This is particularly so when we have other obligations; for example, in Afghanistan.
Trained Iraqi police, border guards, infrastructure protection and some competent Iraqi military are needed quickly. The Minister said that there were 200,000 already, but the question is how much training have those 200,000 had. The training programmes have been unbelievably slow. The very low levels of training were reported by the CPA in its final report. The figure, for example, of Iraqi police was 88,039 but only 5,857 had been trained. Of the 18,248 border guards, only 255 had been trained. That is not good enough. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, said, it takes time to train. A largely untrained Iraqi security force will just make problems worse, and risk return to authoritarian rule using repressive means. The police approach to journalists is a worrying sign of that. Democratic accountability is not understood by many of the Iraqi forces at the moment. It also creates increasing pressure to use private military companies instead. We need to have a clear direction on the legal regime under which such companies operate and we also need transparent contract arrangements for them.
On the economic side, reports show that reconstruction targets in most areas are being missed. The lack of reconstruction progress just deepens discontent and that worsens the security situation, which makes it more difficult to do the reconstruction.
We have a deep moral and legal obligation to Iraq after embarking on what was a hasty and unwise intervention. We are investing the lives of our peopleboth civilian and militaryas well as a heavy financial cost. We need to be sure that the British Government have a greater influence on the overall strategy than they have been able to exert so far. It is astonishing to me as it was to the Foreign Affairs Committee that we
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still appear to have no separate status of forces agreement for our forces with the interim Iraqi Government.
Given the scale of the UK commitment to the future of Iraq, I ask the Minister to tell us what measures the Government are taking to ensure that the UK is now able to have greater influence on the strategy of the interim Iraqi Governmentgreater I hope than it managed to have when the CPA was in charge.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster: My Lords, at this late stage in a long and very interesting debate, I intend to confine myself to a few remarks about two aspects of the Butler report. I endorse the gratitude expressed by so many to the Butler committee for what is a very impressive report. I should have expected no less from the committee chaired by my noble friend and successor, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who has added to our debt to him by his speech here this afternoon.
The report demonstrates that there are occasionsthe Franks report after the Falklands war was another such occasionwhen an inquiry of this kind is best chaired by someone with relevant experience of the subject matter as well as unquestioned integrity and impartiality, rather than by a learned judge. A judge's integrity and impartiality will of course be beyond question, but, inevitably, a judge cannot bring to the task the sort of experience that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, brought to his.
That is the end of the measured quotation. I do not suggest that there was any information in the dossier that did not have some counterpart in the intelligence reports and assessments on which it was based. But there is no doubt that some of the information in the dossier was presented in a harder and more positive way than the intelligence community's assessments of its reliability warranted. The necessary qualifications and caveats were omitted. What should have been presented with a "maybe" was often presented with an "is" or a "will be".
Each of us will form his own judgment about where responsibility for that lies, based on careful reading of the Butler report. My concern this evening is that we should make sure that it does not happen again. It is understandable that the Government should have wanted to make the best case that they could for what they were doing and expecting to do. I can understand why the Government wanted to buttress the credibility and objectivity of the dossier, by attributing responsibility for it to the Joint Intelligence Committee.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, that decision was mistaken. It put the Joint Intelligence Committeeindeed, the whole intelligence communityin a false position. As the Butler report explains, the collection,
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assessment and interpretation of intelligence is a skilled and complicated business. It calls not only for skill and experience but for unquestioned integrity and objectivity among all those engaged in it. The process will be put at risk if members of the intelligence community are looking over their shoulders at the possibility that their reports or the material in them will be published with attribution to them but without the qualifications and caveats that, in their view, affect the judgment on their reliability.
The Butler report addresses that problem. Its preferred recommendation is that if the Government want to publish a document using intelligence-derived material, they should themselves draft the document, gain the JIC's endorsement of the intelligence material inside it and then publish it, acknowledging that it draws on intelligence material, but without ascribing it to the JIC. That seems an eminently sensible and necessary recommendation and I hope that the noble Baroness who will reply to the debate will be able to tell us without equivocation that it has been accepted by the Government.
"We do not suggest that there is or should be an ideal or unchangeable system of collective Government . . . However, we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informed collective political judgement".
Every one of those last four words is loaded with meaning and implications for government in this country. In the British system, every member of a Cabinetindeed, of a Governmentbears collective responsibility for every policy decision and action taken by the Government, so long as he or she remains a member of it. That is as it should be. It is Ministers who will take and deserve credit for good decisions; and Ministers who will take the blame and pay the political price for bad decisions.
That principle of collective responsibility is not an outmoded, textbook concept; on the contrary, it is a practical necessity. The observance of collective responsibility is indispensable to the coherence and authority of a government. We have all seen times when the breakdown of collective responsibility has undermined that coherence and authority.
Ministers who are required to accept collective responsibility and to answer to Parliament and the electorate for major decisions of government are entitled to expect to have opportunities for collective discussion of those decisions for which they will then be expected to bear collective responsibility. They are also entitled to expect to receive the information necessary for arriving at properly considered decisions.
Those not in government who are affected by government decisions or who are required to carry them out, including members of the Armed Forces, are entitled to expect that the decisions will be taken on the
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basis of full information and after proper consideration and discussion by Ministers who are answerable to Parliament and the electorate.
We are told that Iraq came up at meetings of the Cabinet no fewer than 24 times. But we are also told that papers prepared for discussion on the subject were never circulated and that the subject was not discussed by the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee of the Cabinet. It really looks as if those references in Cabinet were more for information than discussion. It does not sound much like good Cabinet government.
The Prime Minister seems to prefer what has come to be described as "sofa government"; that is, sitting around and taking decisions with unelected advisers in informal gatherings at 10 Downing Street. The Butler committee's conclusion reminds us that that is in the interests neither of good government nor, as I believe, of political leadership, which wishes to command and deserve the confidence of Parliament and of the electorate.
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