Examination of Witnesses (Questions 857-859)|
JAY KCMG AND
24 JUNE 2003
Chairman: Sir Michael, may I welcome
you and Mr Ricketts for the first part, which effectively is the
spill-over of the proceedings from this morning, a matter which
is particularly within your own sphere of knowledge and responsibility.
I shall call a number of colleagues in respect of that. Then we
will have a short break, when the proceedings there in respect
of our Iraq inquiry will then be in abeyance until we meet the
Foreign Secretary again on Friday morning, briefly, in public
session, then in private session. We will move on then to the
normal meeting with you and your colleagues in respect of the
FCO administration, the Annual Report. So first then on to the
Iraq inquiry. Mr Maples.
Q857 Mr Maples: Sir Michael, I wonder
if you can help us with something that came up this morning, which
I do not quite understand now. In answer to the different questions,
the Foreign Secretary said that the Defence and Overseas Policy
Committee last met on June 28, 2001, just after the election,
and therefore it has not met since, in what is now two years,
which included September 11, the Afghanistan war and the Iraq
war, and the War Cabinet, which had a slightly different membership,
met on 29 occasions, all apparently between 19 March and 28 April,
in other words, when the war was actually on, which was what one
would expect. So what I do not think I understand is, and, I think,
several other members of the Committee, we used to understand
the process by which foreign policy decisions were arrived at,
through a Cabinet sub-committee meeting, with detailed papers,
making a decision, reporting to the Cabinet and that being accountable
to Parliament; how does that process work now, if OPD, or DOP,
or whatever it is called now, effectively does not exist?
Sir Michael Jay: The main ministerial
discussion which takes place on foreign policy issues is in Cabinet,
and there is a Cabinet meeting, there are always foreign affairs
on the agenda, and I think I am right in saying that Iraq was
on the agenda of each Cabinet meeting, or virtually every Cabinet
meeting, in the nine months, or so, up until the conflict broke
out, in April. The main, formal ministerial forum for discussing
foreign policy issues is in Cabinet.
Q858 Mr Maples: But those cannot
be a meeting of 23 people, all with detailed papers, setting out
military options and strategic options; presumably, there is some
pre-meeting which brings to Cabinet, as OPD would have done, a
Sir Michael Jay: There are informal
meetings of ministers, which will be chaired either by the Prime
Minister or by the Foreign Secretary, to discuss whatever the
issues of the day might be, which will meet as necessary.
Q859 Mr Maples: So there is no formal
structure, as there used to be with OPD, there is no formal channel
by which matters reach the Cabinet, after having been considered
in detail, as I say, with papers and options, and so on?
Sir Michael Jay: As the Foreign
Secretary said this morning, OPD itself did not meet in that period.