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The example of Barcelona has been quoted, quite rightly, because that is the best example of the past two or three decades, if not longer. London can easily surpass that legacy on the basis of the very careful preparations we are making, both in terms of the physical position and in terms of the legacy with regard to sport and the participation of our people.

With regard to the physical legacy, I heard what the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, said. It is the case that we have not as yet identified who will take on the Olympic stadium. As he knows, the stadium will be reduced in size from its Games position of over 80,000 down to a capacity of 25,000. That rules out certain kinds of legacy. You will not get Premier League clubs interested in a stadium of that size. There are a whole range of possible legatees, however, who will be willing to sign a contract. We do not have great anxieties with regard to the facilities in those terms. We are of course taking care to make sure that the Olympic park and its surroundings provide one of the great legacies for the nation and for London in particular.

I take on board all the criticisms that have been voiced today. We will look at those with the greatest degree of care. I would, however, like to make an obvious point that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Coe, was too modest to make in his opening speech. When the International Olympic Committee’s co-ordinating commission visited London two months ago, it came to assess the progress that we have made. The commission’s chair, Denis Oswald, said that,

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That is a judgment three years before we mount the greatest sporting spectacle that the world anticipates every four years. We shall have every confidence that that is exactly what we are going to do.

2.22 pm

Lord Coe: My Lords, when the founding father of the Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, mapped that seamless path between sport, culture and education 120 years ago, he was right then and he is right today. He would have been heartened by the quality of the debate that has dignified this place over the past few hours.

It was a wonderful debate. It contained passion and insight and, if I may so, the questions, and the forensic nature of those questions, were of the highest order. It is normally the province of the Minister, but with leave of the House I will, if it is thought to be reasonable, write separately to noble Lords about the specific issues that were raised, particularly around the organising and staging of the Games.

It would be remiss of me not to join noble Lords in the compliments that were paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Loughborough, for a very fine maiden speech—the first of many, I hope. I am delighted also to be joined in this place by my former university tutor.

It would be remiss of me to alight upon any speeches in particular, but I think the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, summed it up when he said that the bulk of people in this country want this project to be a success. He also said “I want to be there”. I can do no better than echo those words. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.



2.24 pm

Moved By Lord Fowler

Lord Fowler: My Lords, it is fairly unusual to have two dozen speakers for the second debate on a Thursday afternoon but it shows the importance that this House places on the issues involved. The only sadness is that we have so little time to explore them.

There are many questions which arise in this debate but let me start on a point where there is unity throughout this House. That is to praise the courage and professionalism of the British troops who have fought and have been under fire in Iraq over the past six years. Their effort and dedication has been magnificent, part of which I saw for myself when I visited Basra last year. I saw then everything I wanted to see, given the security position at the time, and was certainly able to

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put all the questions that I wanted to ask. I thank the Ministry of Defence for that opportunity, although I have to admit that on one occasion I was helped by an unaccountable rumour that I was in fact the First Sea Lord.

The truth is that the invasion of Iraq was deadly serious in intent and deadly serious in its impact. The price that was paid for the invasion was extraordinarily high. One hundred and seventy-nine British service men and women have been killed and several hundred others badly or severely injured. The number of Iraqi dead has been much greater. At a conservative estimate, the figure is 100,000 but many would put it much higher. Many of those killed were also tortured and the reign of terror has had a traumatic effect on ordinary Iraqi lives—so traumatic that an estimated 2 million refugees sought shelter in surrounding countries such as Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, while another 2 million sought refuge elsewhere in Iraq itself. The war created the worst refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948.

Of course, there have also been gains. A new democracy is, one hopes, emerging. The internal security position has, one hopes, permanently improved. Certainly, the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein has been replaced. We need to weigh those advances against the price that has been paid. There is no agreement on whether they justify the action that was taken.

The decision to go to war in Iraq was almost certainly the most controversial political decision taken in post-war years. Many opposed the invasion from the outset. They took part in the massive demonstrations in London and elsewhere and they maintain that opposition to this day. Others—and I was one of them—supported the action that was taken and relied on the information provided by the Government. What unites us today is the need to know the truth about the decision to go to war and, even given that decision, whether some of the appalling later results could have been avoided.

Among the questions that need to be answered are the following. We need to know whether the Government misled Parliament and the public by overstating the evidence there was of weapons of mass destruction. It does not seem to me that the report from the intelligence community that it knew little about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons since 1998 justified the claim made by the Prime Minister at the end of 2002 that our knowledge was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”. We need to know just how the decision was made inside Government—what advice was proffered by the Foreign Office and whether that information was put before the Cabinet. We need to know what planning there was for the aftermath. The invasion is one thing; occupation is quite another. We need to know what action we have taken to help the refugees who have been created by this conflict. Too often they are the people who have been forgotten. There is an assumption that, as the security position improves, they will all return to Iraq. But frankly that is not the case.

Earlier this year I went to Syria on an IPU delegation. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, was also part of it. In Damascus we interviewed some of the refugees who

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have been living in Syria for the past few years. We need to face the fact that there are people there who have no intention of returning to Iraq. They have nothing to return to. Their memories are memories of murder and of violence. They are the survivors of torture and of kidnapping. They are men and women who have been persecuted for their religious beliefs. That is why a resettlement programme in other countries is being organised by the United Nations refugee agency. We need to know whether Britain is playing its full part in this. The evidence from Syria was not encouraging. Our help in resettlement was not only behind the United States, which is to be expected, but behind Canada, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands. We need to know whether we are meeting our obligations.

In essence, we now need closure on a political decision that by any measure has bitterly divided this country. That was why I initiated a debate in this House 18 months ago, calling for an inquiry and saying that I knew of,

That is why, four weeks ago, I tabled the Motion that is being debated today.

In one very substantial way, the story has moved on, with the Government at long last conceding the case for an inquiry; so the crucial question today is not whether there should be an inquiry but whether the inquiry that the Prime Minister announced on Monday meets the widespread and legitimate public concern. In my judgment, it does not; it is in essence a political response, and as such it runs the risk of satisfying no one.

What has the Prime Minister said? He said on Monday that the proceedings will be held in private, which he justified; that there should be no attempt to “apportion blame”; that the committee should include no senior military figures and no experienced politicians; and, of course, that the report should not appear until after the next general election. Perish the thought that the public should be influenced by its findings.

The inquiry is to be held in secret as, according to the Prime Minister, this is the best way of getting “full and candid” evidence. That is an extraordinary reason, coming as it does a week after the Government proclaimed that only openness and transparency would serve the public interest. However, it is worse than that. If this inquiry is to achieve any kind of closure, it has to satisfy a wide national constituency. It needs to satisfy: the relations of those killed in Iraq; those who have been injured; people like me who supported the war that we were not deceived; and people who opposed the war, who should at least be satisfied that this was an honest undertaking. It needs to satisfy the people of Iraq, who have taken the full force of the action, that the cause was entirely legitimate.

I give four reasons why the inquiry as presently constituted will not achieve those goals. First, a secret inquiry of the kind announced by the Prime Minister on Monday simply will not satisfy the public. The Government say that this was the procedure of the Franks inquiry in 1982, but that was 27 years ago. Times have changed, as the Government up to this week have proclaimed constantly. The plain fact is

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that an inquiry behind closed doors is not what the public expect at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

I also observe in passing that the Franks inquiry, even at the beginning of the 1980s, did not satisfy everyone. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, a familiar face here now who was then a Member of the other place, called it,

while none other than the late Lord Callaghan said that the committee,

over the issue. I do not deny that when there are undoubted issues of national security, the committee will want to go into private session, but surely the presumption should be the very opposite of what is proposed. It should be that evidence is given in public unless there are overwhelming reasons of national security to do the opposite. That is the test.

We hear today that, somewhat typically of this Government, a letter has gone from the Prime Minister to the chairman of the inquiry and includes, it is claimed, concessions. We are told that the chairman will be allowed some sessions in public, but we already knew that. That was exactly what the Leader of the House of Lords said to me in response to direct questions in this House on Monday; it can be seen in the pages of Hansard. We wait to hear what the Minister says on the Government’s latest position on this, but I suggest that it needs to go beyond reheating Monday’s Statement. We need to know whether the presumption is for openness or secrecy. That is the crucial question which the Minister should answer.

Secondly, I am frankly astonished by the blandness of the Prime Minister's statement that the committee will not “apportion blame”. The truth is that there may well be blame to be apportioned. Even Ministers agree that the planning for the aftermath was utterly inadequate. Are we to say that this was entirely and exclusively the fault of the United States? If Britain was also culpable, blame may well be apportioned, and so it should be.

Thirdly, I am concerned by the make-up of this committee and the absence of military and political experience. If the Government are to quote Franks, it should be pointed out that this was a committee with massive political experience that included Merlyn Rees and Harold Lever, the late Lord Lever of Manchester. The Prime Minister ignores such experience and says that he wants the committee to be as objective and non-partisan as possible. I think he shows a lack of understanding of what happens in such inquiries. As the Select Committee system in this House and the other place shows, politicians are entirely capable of setting party positions to one side.

Then there is the Prime Minister’s later comment that he is relying on the advice of,

Frankly, I find that strange. Are we to believe that no members of his chosen committee has expressed any view on the most controversial foreign policy decision

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for more than 60 years? If that is the case, I am not sure that I want a committee composed of such totally disinterested figures.

The timing of the publication of the report until after the next election of course gives the whole game away. I never met anyone, including those I met in the Army, who believed in the Government’s previous excuse that it would be wrong to hold an inquiry while there were still troops in Iraq. In any event, I am not sure on the basis of what the Government propose how you can be demoralised by a secret inquiry. The Government know perfectly well that this inquiry could and should have been held months ago. They now have the responsibility to find some way, either by an interim report or perhaps by dividing the report into two, of delivering at least some of the results before the public are called on to judge their period of government.

The debate in the other place on the Franks report in January 1983 contained a fundamental point. The terms of reference of the committee of inquiry were agreed by the Opposition—indeed, they were changed because of a request by the Leader of the Opposition—and the membership of the Franks committee was agreed by the Leader of the Opposition and by all the principal parties in the House of Commons. We are entitled to know why there was no serious attempt to do this on this occasion and to find some consensus on the way forward.

An inquiry into the Iraq conflict should have provided the nation with an opportunity to learn the truth and the lessons that could guide future conduct. If we go along the present course, that opportunity will be lost. I hope the Government will recognise that the inquiry that they have set up does not command the confidence of much of the British public, and I very much doubt whether it commands the confidence of Parliament.

2.39 pm

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for once again giving us an opportunity to discuss Iraq, and I join him in expressing his appreciation of the quality and dedication of all our magnificent troops, of whom we are all justifiably proud.

I made many speeches in this House before, during and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I argued consistently then, as I believe now, that the invasion was legally, politically and morally justified.

It was legally justified because Saddam Hussein failed to comply with 23 separate obligations under a series of resolutions—including Resolution 678 in 1990, through Resolution 687 in 1991, which contained the detailed terms for a final ceasefire, to Resolution 1441 in 2003—under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which uniquely provides for the use of coercive force and authorises collective military action. After Resolution 678, there were in all some 16 Chapter 7 resolutions. Twelve years after the UN had given him 15 days to disarm, Resolution 1441 gave him a final opportunity, which he did not take. Resolution 1441 may have been necessary for political reasons but surely not for legal ones.

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It was politically justified because this rogue regime was a huge threat in its volatile region and, through that, to us all. Moral justification is a matter of judgment open to different personal views. As the result of a very close professional involvement with Iraq in 1990 and 1991, I have kept a very close interest in that unhappy country. Even those with reservations about military action acknowledge the terrible nature of that regime, where the merest suspicion of dissidence brought horrible deaths to individuals and their extended families. I consider it a moral action to have relieved the Iraqi people, the region and the rest of the world from the threat of this regime.

There are various lessons that we should learn from our experiences with Iraq. I will try briefly to enumerate some of them in the time available. First, decisions about the timing of an interim ceasefire should not be left solely to soldiers, even to those as distinguished as Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, because they got it very wrong, with tragic consequences not least for the Shia and the Marsh Arabs, who suffered so terribly at the hands of the vengeful Saddam.

Secondly, a very long Chapter 7 UN Security Council resolution, containing detailed terms for a final ceasefire—as did Resolution 687—should not remain flouted for some 12 years before taking decisive military action to enforce it. Thirdly, the State Department, where detailed plans had been meticulously prepared, described at the time by one insider as “the greatest detailed plans for civil reconstruction since the rebuilding of post-war Germany”, should have controlled the post-conflict situation, not the Pentagon. It was a tragedy that these were never put into effect. To be brutally frank, Secretary Rumsfeld triumphed in Washington over Secretary Powell. Many other mistakes flowed from this, such as dissolving the army and going too far with de-Ba’athification.

Fourthly, not enough recognition was given in advance to how the horrors of Saddam’s regime had brutalised and exacerbated tensions between the Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Fifthly, I argued in April 2003 that it was a mistake not to take action against Moqtada al-Sadr then, when he was clearly responsible for the murder of another Shia cleric. To have dealt with Moqtada then could have avoided many subsequent problems.

I end by saying that I am delighted that the committee of inquiry, chaired by the excellent Sir John Chilcot, will soon begin its work. Although there are calls for a public inquiry, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, has outlined today, I think it is right that this committee should follow the pattern of the Franks inquiry, which is the nearest parallel for this kind of exercise. However, it is my understanding from the Statement on the committee and its terms of reference that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made in the Commons that Sir John Chilcot could take some evidence in public, if and when he judged that appropriate and desirable.

It is reported that the Prime Minister has now made this explicit, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, indicated. Would my noble friend the Minister confirm that my understanding of the original situation is correct

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and that Sir John Chilcot has the discretion and the competence to hear evidence in public when he judges it right to do so?

2.45 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, join in the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for introducing this debate, which is of such great importance and has been made of even more importance by the Statement of the Prime Minister about an inquiry into the Iraq war.

The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, put the case very strongly for this particular inquiry being held in public. He made a very powerful point in saying that the assumption must be that, wherever possible, the inquiry should be in the open and that, only in circumstances where the material is so sensitive that it could risk the interests of national security, should there be a willingness by the panel to accept in camera discussions rather than those which are open to the public.

We live in a world today that is dominated by the internet and by bloggers, bleaters and tweeters. We have a very large young generation that will not trust anything that is not made as open as possible. We have to carry credibility with this inquiry. Frankly, in our society today, a secret inquiry will carry virtually no credibility at all. I powerfully and strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, has said.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, who knows a great deal about these matters, talked about the various resolutions that she believes made the war legal. In that case, it is extraordinary that the Prime Minister went to such lengths to try to get a second resolution at the United Nations, which he obviously believed was crucial to making sure that the war was perceived internationally and globally to be a legal war.

Those who will be most affected by this inquiry are the families of the service men and women who, in their brave and devoted service, lost their lives. It is their families, relatives and friends who need to be satisfied by this inquiry. That means that we owe them nothing less than an inquiry that is as open as it possibly can be. In that context, it is not only about the losses of life. It is not only about whether the war was legal. It is highly relevant that no lesser person than the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in 2004 gave his considered view that the war was not legal or legitimate.

Having said that, many of us also have a deep sense of sadness that our country, one of the beacon countries of democracy in the world, the mother of parliaments, should have engaged in an illegal and illegitimate war. It is crucial therefore that this inquiry demonstrates whether that judgment is right, because it affects all of us.

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