Oral evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 17 June 2003

Members present:

Donald Anderson, in the Chair
Mr David Chidgey
Mr Fabian Hamilton
Mr Eric Illsley
Andrew Mackinlay
Mr John Maples
Mr Bill Olner
Mr Greg Pope
Sir John Stanley
Ms Gisela Stuart


Memorandum submitted by Mr Robin Cook, MP

Examination of Witness

Witness: MR ROBIN COOK, a Member of the House, examined.

Q1  Chairman: Mr Cook, may I on behalf of the Committee welcome you to start of our inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. You had a pretty unequalled position from your background in seeing the evolution. I understand that the opening statement which you have given to the Committee of course is now part of the proceedings and is available in the event; but perhaps you could give a brief synopsis of the main points that you make.

Mr Cook: I shall be very brief, Chairman. Can I just say what a pleasure it is to be appearing before this Committee no longer as Foreign Secretary, a much easier position.

Q2  Chairman: With one bound he was free!

Mr Cook: The full paper has been circulated to the Committee. I set out in that paper the cluster of five questions which I think it would be helpful for the Committee to address. Firstly, why is there such a difference between the claims made before the war and the reality established after the war? Much of that is not going to change with any more period of time. We have found no chemical production plants. We have found no facilities for a nuclear weapon programme. We have found no weapons within 45 minutes of artillery positions. Those are not going to change however much more time is now given. Secondly, did the Government come to doubt these claims before the war? It is very well known that the State Department came to have doubts in February. Did they share those doubts with us? It is interesting that those key claims in the September dossier were not actually repeated in the March debate. Had the Government itself come to lose confidence in them? If so, should it not have corrected the record before the House voted? Thirdly, could biological or chemical agents have fallen into the hands of terrorists since the war? One of the points that was made very strongly, particularly in the March 18 debate, was the danger that such material would pass to terrorist organisations? If they existed in Iraq at the time of the war, they have existed for the past two months unguarded and unsecured, which is very alarming. Is there any clarity that that material has now not passed into the hands of terrorists? Fourthly, why do we not allow the UN Weapon Inspectors back into Iraq? I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion the reason we do not is because they would confirm Saddam did not have an immediate threatening capability. Lastly, does the absence of weapons of mass destruction undermine the legal basis of the war? The opinion of the Attorney General is entirely on the justification for war being the need to carry out the disarmament of Saddam Hussein. If he can find no weapons to disarm does that legal opinion still have basis? Finally can I just say, Chairman, reading the record it is striking that the Foreign Office and Mr Straw were more cautious in the statements that they made in the run-up to the war. I understand that your inquiry is looking at the Foreign Office in the context of the Government as a whole but, in fairness to the Foreign Office, I hope it will be acknowledged that they did exercise care in what they said.

Q3  Chairman: Concise as you promised? Two questions arise: firstly, the quality of the original intelligence; and, secondly, the use made of that intelligence by the Government of the September 24 dossier and thereafter? From what must be a privileged position in the Cabinet, what conclusion do you now draw generally on the quality of the intelligence material which came from the agencies?

Mr Cook: I had no access on a privileged basis to secret material after I had ceased to be Foreign Secretary. I saw the published dossiers and I took part in the Cabinet discussions on them, and I also had a briefing from the SIS in the way that all members of the Cabinet had in the closing stages. If I could just say something about the intelligence available to us up until the time when I left Office in the 2001 General Election. At that time we were fairly confident that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapons capability, did not have a long-range missile capability and indeed, at one point in the late 1990s, we were willing to consider closing those files and moving from inspection on to monitoring and verification. We never actually got to the point of reaching agreement on that, but we were fairly confident they had been closed down; which is one of the reasons why I was surprised to see allegations of a nuclear programme resurfacing. It was very difficult to achieve any precision about the chemical and biological portfolios because they were much more easy to hide and to disperse. Nevertheless, we did make a number of moves in the late 1990s to try and make programmes. For instance, we did negotiate a new text at the Security Council in which the removal of sanctions would be dependent upon progress towards disarmament, not on the completion of disarmament. I was a bit startled that the general tendency of Western policy up until 2001 was sharply thrown into reverse thereafter.

Q4  Chairman: Come back to the intelligence, given the disclaimer you have made that you were aware of the intelligence which was going to Government?

Mr Cook: I did not see secret material after I ceased to be Foreign Secretary.

Q5  Chairman: But you were briefed?

Mr Cook: Yes, I was briefed.

Q6  Chairman: Was there any difference between the briefing which you received and that which appeared in the dossier to give credence, or not, to the allegation that the evidence was hyped, sexed up, exaggerated for political purposes?

Mr Cook: I have always been very careful in how I have expressed myself and have become practised in evading questions from broadcasters seeking to draw me further than I wish to go. I actually have no doubt about the good faith of the Prime Minister and others engaged in this exercise. If anything, I think perhaps the problem was the burning sincerity and conviction of those who were involved in the exercise. Intelligence, one should understand, comes in an enormous broad range. It is a bit like alphabet soup - you get all the letters of the alphabet. You can study it carefully to try and come up with a coherent statement. I fear on this occasion what happened was that those bits of the alphabet that supported the case were selected. That is not deceit, it is not invention, it is not coming up with intelligence that did not exist, but it was not presenting the whole picture. I fear the fundamental problem is that instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base the conclusion of a policy, we used intelligence as the basis on which we could justify a policy on which we had already settled.

Q7  Chairman: So the burning conviction led to a distortion of the evidence?

Mr Cook: I think it would probably be fair to say there was a selection of evidence to support the conclusion, rather than a conclusion that arose from a full consideration of the evidence.

Q8  Sir John Stanley: Mr Cook, from what you have said, would the Committee be right to conclude that as Leader of the House you did not have access to Joint Intelligence Committee papers?

Mr Cook: No, and I would not have expected to necessarily. That circulation is very tight. On ceasing to be Foreign Secretary you sign off your clearance under the Official Secrets Act. That is perfectly proper. I have no objection to that. I would say that all of us in the Cabinet had briefing in groups and, in my case, individually with SIS. I heard nothing in their briefing that was inconsistent with the statement I made in my resignation speech that Iraq probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the normally understood sense of that term, and that is plainly now the case.

Q9  Sir John Stanley: I was going to refer to that particular statement you made in your resignation speech which clearly was very much at variance with what the Government was saying publicly in the assessment which was produced in September and then what became known later as the "dodgy dossier". Can you tell the Committee at what point you came to have serious anxieties as to the accuracies of the intelligence material that was being put into the public domain in those two documents?

Mr Cook: My anxiety about the drift to military confrontation goes back a very long way to the spring of 2002. I assumed during that summer period it may be that intelligence had appeared since I had left of which I had not been aware; but I must say I was disappointed at the quality of intelligence laid out in the September dossier. If you read the September dossier very carefully there is a striking absence of any recent and alarming and confirmed intelligence. The great majority of the paper is derivative. That is, it starts out from what we know we had in 1991, what we know he has disposed of since 1991 and, therefore, there is a leap of assumption that the balance is therefore still around. It is also a highly suggestible document, in that there are a lot of boxes there telling you how you go about producing a nuclear weapon, or what sarin does; but there is no evidence actually that he did have that capacity to produce a nuclear weapon, nor indeed a capacity to produce sarin. Stripped down, there was very little in that document that actually represented intelligence of a new, alarming, urgent and compelling threat. I remember in the Cabinet discussion saying at the time I was disappointed just how derivative the document actually was.

Q10  Sir John Stanley: Could I just ask you about the second document, the one known as the "dodgy dossier" entitled Iraq - its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation. I want to ask you this in the context of your previous appointment as Foreign Secretary. One of the questions that we have put to the Foreign Office is to ask them, in connection with the second document, at what dates were drafts of the second document put to Ministers in the Foreign Office. The answer we have now received from the Foreign Secretary is that no Ministers were consulted in the preparation for the document. How do you react, as a former Foreign Secretary, to the production of this document, laid before Parliament, subject to major national, international and parliamentary attention and one that would not have been at any point put to Foreign Office Ministers?

Mr Cook: I remember these questions being put to me when I was Leader of the House. One of the considerations that impelled me towards resignation was the impossibility of answering these questions at the time, and I am not sure I am in any better position to answer them now. The dossier plainly was a glorious, spectacular own goal. I personally do not think there is anything wrong whatsoever in re-printing an academic study of Saddam Hussein's security apparatus, but it ought to have been labelled as precisely that and taken from an academic study. Certainly we should not have tampered with the language in it. I think the most outrageous error, and one that is impossible to defend, was the decision to remove the words "opposition groups" and replace them with the phrase "terrorist organisations", which was not in the original academic study. What I find interesting about that document is that actually it does not add an iota to the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In the entire document in all three parts of it there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that he does have a capacity for weapons of mass destruction. I do find it extraordinary that after the September claims nothing subsequently happened either to advance those claims, in the sense of taking them forward, or to defend them, or even to repeat them; which does beg the question of whether the authors of the September dossier themselves had come to doubt it before they printed the second one.

Q11  Sir John Stanley: Finally, one of the additional papers we have received is one from a WMD expert of Cambridge University, Dr Glen Rangwala, which made a very interesting, detailed textual analysis of the second dossier, the so-called dodgy dossier. He has said to the Committee that of the 19 pages of this document 11 of the pages, 6-16, were directly copied without acknowledgement of three different sources that are on the internet. I would like to ask you, if you had been Foreign Secretary at the time I wonder how you would have reacted to the Government, of which you were a member, publishing what purported to be directly from intelligence sources a document, the great body of which was apparently made up from plagiarised sources on the internet?

Mr Cook: As I remember, the foreword actually said "from intelligence sources, among others". The answer to your question is that I would be livid. Frankly, I have no reasons to suspect that the present Foreign Secretary was not equally livid.

Q12  Mr Illsley: Just following on from Sir John Stanley's point, one of the key issues before us is the fact that no Minister saw that dodgy dossier. I would like to ask you some background questions to help the Committee in relation to the Joint Intelligence Process. Obviously these relate to a time when you were Foreign Secretary. I would like to ask whether you as Foreign Secretary did see all the JIC Reports?

Mr Cook: It would be a very large question to say I saw them all. I am familiar that if I answer yes to that question somebody will produce a document that somehow missed me. All such reports were, as a matter of routine, sent to my Private Office who would, in turn, draw my attention to all of those they felt it was important for me to see or be relevant to the current policy issues. I do not think there is any difficult of the Foreign Office, as it were, being plugged into that circulation. I would also add the point that, during the time I was Foreign Secretary, we did take care to make sure that the Chairman of JIC was actually a serving member of the Foreign Office staff, which made sure that we were firmly linked into it; and also perhaps gave the Chairman a departmental strength on which he could draw and make sure that he could maintain the independence of the Committee.

Q13  Mr Illsley: What you have just said links in to my next couple of questions. Were you able to contribute to the process? Were your comments taken on board by the JIC if you questioned anything in the report?

Mr Cook: I would never have dreamt of trying to influence their assessment of the Report, which was a technical matter for them on which they draw from a much, much larger volume of intelligence than I would see. Remember that the advantage of the JIC assessment is that you are perhaps seeing one per cent of the total volume of intelligence that went into that assessment - and probably much less than one per cent in terms of total paperwork. However sometimes, yes, we would ask the JIC to carry out an assessment if it would be helpful to policy formulation. There were occasion when I would not necessarily share the assessment they came to. For all I know, quite properly, my Private Office would have fed that back.

Q14  Mr Illsley: It would be fair to assume that the same principle would have occurred after you left the Foreign Office? It would have been the assessment which Ministers would have seen rather than the raw intelligence?

Mr Cook: No, you receive both. If the intelligence community and the Private Office believe there are specific items of intelligence that it would be worthwhile your seeing and important for you to see it can be passed to you. Sometimes that can be extremely helpful; also because JIC assessments often do come with a summary of intelligence.

Q15  Mr Illsley: Are those reports and assessment provided to special advisers in the Foreign Office or in Number Ten? Do special advisers to Ministers have the opportunity or an input into those assessments

Mr Cook: Not an input but they would see it. They do have security clearance and, indeed, could not do the job if they did not. I repeat the point I made earlier - the point of that assessment, of course, is in order to inform policy and to enable you to draw up a policy that is more soundly based. I fear that in Iraq we got into a reverse process, in which the intelligence was not being used to inform and shape policy, but to support policy that had already been settled.

Q16  Mr Illsley: How would your comments on any intelligence assessment or intelligence report have been accepted? Were the JIC obliged to take account of any comments you made? I think you just mentioned you would not have attempted to try to alter the actual intelligence report. If you are seriously questioning an assessment how would the JIC respond to that? Would they take that on board?

Mr Cook: At the end of the day decisions on policy were a matter for me as Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole. If I chose to take the view that I felt this assessment was unsound that was entirely my prerogative. I was under no pressure to act upon their assessment. It was a rare occasion when you ended up in that kind of black and white situation, to put it in those terms. A JIC assessment is rather more like an academic research paper than a speech in the House of Commons. In other words, it canvasses all the evidence; it may well contain contrary pieces of evidence; it does not necessarily point to one clear conclusion at the end. It is often very helpful to have the whole package, even if it does not necessarily lead you to one clear conclusion. I notice that one of my Special Advisers at the time has since written of his frustration in reading JIC documents, in that he was not quite clear what we were supposed to do at the end of it because it often would have contradictory information.

Q17  Mr Illsley: Finally, was there any role played by Number Ten in intelligence? I heard you say that the Chairman of JIC was within the Foreign Office, and was within your chain of command presumably. Did Number Ten have a role in this? If it did, did Alastair Campbell have a role in intelligence reports during the time you were Foreign Secretary?

Mr Cook: First of all, could I say I have a high regard for the individual who is currently the chair of JIC, who I know to be a first-class intelligence officer. The point I made I would not want to be seen in any way as an ad hominem point, but I think there is a structural point there which I think is worth reflecting upon. Number Ten of course would receive all the reports I saw and, indeed, may well themselves also request particular assessments; but they would not themselves have any influence on what the assessment was. Certainly I would not imagine that Alastair Campbell would have any input to an assessment, although he may well have had access to the assessment.

Q18  Mr Maples: Mr Cook, what I am interested in is when it is decided to use intelligence in a public document, as happened in this case, and the roles which various people play. If we go back to 1998 when the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence did publish a short paper which was sent to all Members of Parliament over the signature of one of your Ministers of State at that time about Iraq, there was a three-page note attached to that about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that is clearly based on intelligence. I wonder how that went from the point of being a JIC assessment, looked at by you and the Prime Ministers, into being a published document? Who had input into that? Who drafted it? Whose hands did it go through?

Mr Cook: I would have to be quite frank and say that, after five years, I would need to refresh my memory and go through the papers before I could hope to give you an authoritative reply to that. 1998 was a time when the inspectors were being removed from Iraq and when we had a substantial confrontation over the operation of inspectors. If I am blunt, there was at the time a lot of frustration, particularly in Washington, with the repeated political controversy when Saddam had refused to allow inspectors to go into one building or another. There was also a sense that we could successfully contain Saddam without inspectors by making sure we maintained a tight cage of sanctions around him. That was effectively the policy the West then adopted. Actually, from what we have learned in Iraq since we went in, containment worked even better than we had hoped at the time.

Q19  Mr Maples: Coming back to production of the published document, I understand how the process works if things are not going to be published, and intelligence is simply informing policy. Can you remember whether that document was prepared in the Foreign Office or in Number Ten

Mr Cook: Sadly, as I say, after five years I have no recollection at the back of my mind. I can certainly ask to see papers and see what I can find out.

Q20  Mr Maples: It is possible that in the production of a document which is going to be published like that maybe somebody on Number Ten staff, government information service people, would have had a hand in how that was presented?

Mr Cook: Quite possibly. Can you remind me which Minister signed it?

Mr Maples: Derek Fatchett. This was Desert Fox, I think. 10 November 1998.

Chairman: Perhaps, Mr Cook, on that you could refresh your memory and give a supplementary note to the Committee.

Andrew Mackinlay: As a matter of procedure, when I come in with my questions I want to take Mr Cook through that. I would ask that Mr Cook could have a copy in front of him. It is not to preempt you from going away and having a look at it, but there are some things which would be helpful if he could have a copy in front of him.

Q21  Mr Maples: This was, as you say, when the inspectors were being denied access. I think they went back and they were thrown out. I forget the exact sequence of events, but there were two or three installments of it. The document which was then published on Foreign Office writing paper did say, for instance, "Iraq's declarations to the UN on its WMD programmes have been deliberately false ... He has under-reported his materials and weapons at every stage, and used an increasingly sophisticated concealment and deception system". "31 ,000 [tonnes of] CW munitions and 4,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals ... still have to be properly accounted for". It goes on building a reasonably substantial case, known as conclusions, saying that "Some CW agents and munitions remain hidden. The Iraqi chemical industry could produce mustard gas almost immediately, and limited amounts of nerve gas within months ... Saddam almost certainly retains BW production equipment, stocks of agents and weapons. In any case, Iraq has the expertise and equipment to regenerate an offensive BW capability within weeks. If Iraq's nuclear programme had not been halted by the Gulf conflict, Saddam might have had a nuclear weapon by 1993. If Iraq could procure the necessary machinery and materials abroad, it could build a crude air-delivered nuclear device in about five years. Iraq could design a viable nuclear weapon now". What we were told in the assessment that came out in September last year obviously was much more elaborate than that but basically the same case. That document was presumably produced with your full knowledge and endorsement. I just wonder if the intelligence you thought you were seeing in the run-up to Desert Fox - for which we did authorise military action and Iraq was bombed by American and UK planes as a result of this - presumably at that time the Government was confident that this intelligence was correct and this WMD capability or threat existed and you shared that confidence?

Mr Cook: We were certainly quite clear that we had not come to the bottom of the chemical and the biological portfolios - the different portfolios that UNSCOM, as it then was, was pursuing. Indeed it was the case that Saddam was extremely obstructionist in trying to enable us to get to the bottom of it. You mention a number of phases. There was a crisis early in the year round about February when we drew back from military action following a visit by Kofi Annan which resulted in an agreement. That agreement was to provide for wider access for the UNSCOM inspectors and it was constantly frustrated by Saddam over the next six months. That is what brought us to Desert Fox. We had managed to avoid military action at the previous time. Frankly, I do not think either the British or American governments had any alternative but to proceed to military action in the autumn of that year, given that we had entered into an agreement that we would not act if Saddam honoured his side of the bargain, and he did not. Having said that, I would just point out that, with the extreme difference of quantity and quality of military that was taken then and the action that followed in March and April of this year, we did not attempt to invade Iraq or to take over Iraq. Indeed, the bombing campaign itself was aimed very strictly at what we thought might be part of any weapons programme. Can I repeat what I said earlier. Whilst at the time, and it is perfectly fairly set out here, we had anxieties about his chemical and biological weapons capability, we did not believe he had a nuclear weapons programme; nor did he have a satisfactory long-range missiles programme. I cheerfully say, frankly I am rather surprised we have not discovered some biological toxins or some chemical agents. Indeed, in my resignation speech I said they probably are there. The position actually has turned out to be even less threatening than I anticipated at the time I resigned.

Q22  Mr Maples: You apparently thought at the end of 1998 with Desert Fox that the intelligence we held on WMD justified military action, admittedly more limited than has been taken more recently but, nevertheless, the bombing of another person's country. Yet here we are four years later and you feel either the situation has changed or the intelligence does not any longer justify the same action?

Mr Cook: The case being made four years later was a very different case. I was not arguing in 1998, none of us were, that Saddam represented an urgent and compelling threat that required preemptive action, which is what was taken in 2003. We carried out a limited number of bombing runs in order to destroy what we believed was the remaining chemical and biological capacity; but we did not attempt to invade the country.

Q23  Mr Chidgey: In your earlier statements and in some of the follow-ups you have made it very clear that intelligence assessment is an imperfect art. I recall you making a comment that it was rather like alphabet soup and the right letters had been chosen to form the desired word, if I can put it that way. What I want to suggest with you is whether it is not normally the case that in any intelligence assessment there can be two or three explanations of what has been going on and what the raw intelligence is showing. In that scenario it is often the case that there is a best case scenario, a worst case scenario and there are bits in the middle. What I want to ask is whether in this particular scenario, where the Government chose to present information to the House justifying their policy, there was a process where the most supportive case was chosen to back that, and the other options were not recognised or accounted for?

Mr Cook: Intelligence is not a perfect science. I expressed the difficulties slightly differently from the way you did, in that often when you are told a piece of information you are left with very real doubts over why you are being told that information. Are you being told it to mislead you? Are you being told it by somebody who actually wants to be paid but may not actually turn out to be reliable; or is not somebody - as I think was the case with some of the Iraqi exiles pursuing their own political agenda - who wants you to hear what suits them? All these questions and motivation form very great difficulty over making your assessment of intelligence. I hope I have made it clear throughout all of this I do not criticise the intelligence services whom I think have tried very hard to do their best in extremely difficult circumstances. In fairness to the intelligence community one should recognise that Iraq was an appallingly difficult intelligence target to break. We had very little access to human intelligence on the ground and no hope whatsoever of putting in Western agents.

Q24  Mr Chidgey: Did the intelligence services actually present to Government different options of what might be happening on the basis of intelligence they were getting?

Mr Cook: The point of a JIC assessment is to lead up to a conclusion, and the conclusion will express on the balance of evidence what their view is; but the assessment will usually include the balance of evidence which may point in different directions to the conclusion. As I said earlier, the intelligence community do not see themselves there to lobby you to a particular point of view. Their papers much more reflect an academic approach to gathering the evidence and trying to make an intelligence appraisal of that evidence, rather than arguing for a specific course of action.

Q25  Mr Chidgey: Can I then turn to the chemical and biological programme which you have already said was the area, as far as you were concerned, where there were questions. In a previous stage of our reporting on weapons of mass destruction, we were advised by one key witness that a thousand litres of anthrax or less would be almost impossible to discover in a place like Iraq. I would like you in a moment to ask me whether that was the intelligence services' view as well. Presumably that information would have been passed to Government. The real key to this for me is, if it is impossible to discover a thousand litres or less of anthrax, which clearly has a potential to do incredible damage to many people, would the advice have been that if it was impossible to remove the threat of a chemical or biological weapon the only sensible policy to pursue would be to remove the organisation that would use that threat? At what stage was an assessment made that the only safe way to go forward in terms of our interest would be pursue a policy regime change rather than suppression or destruction of chemical weapons that were so difficult to find?

Mr Cook: I think you reflect more of the United States' debate than the British debate. For the period that I was Foreign Secretary we did not have anxiety that anthrax, to which you refer, was on the verge of being turned into a weaponised capability. As I said earlier, we were frustrated by the fact, as you rightly say, that these things are difficult to find, easy to conceal and, therefore, we were not able to make the progress that we had hoped up until 1998. On the other hand, after 1998 we did not have any compelling, urgent reason to believe that containment was not working in the sense of keeping Saddam in his cage. I would also make the point that biological agents such as anthrax are extremely toxic and a menace to anybody near them, but they were not weaponised then, and if not weaponised cannot be used for military purpose. We are fortunate in that it is not particularly easy to weaponise biological agents because weapons do tend either to explode or incinerate, which tends to have the effect of destroying the biological agent that they are carrying. This is fortunate for humanity because it is actually quite easy to get hold of biological agents; it is fortunate it is not particularly easy to turn them into weapons. I never actually saw any intelligence to suggest that Saddam had successfully weaponised that material. The one other point I would make is that, whilst it is certainly true that 10,000 litres is a small volume and not terribly easy to find if you are searching for it, we now actually have under interrogation all the senior figures from the Iraqi weapons programme. It makes it particularly odd, if these exist, that we have not been led to them. Their existence must be known to scores if not hundreds of people who were involved in the transport, storage and protection of such material. It is curious that none of them have come forward, since the reward would be immense. They could have their own ranch in Texas if they were to lead us to such a thing at the present time. That does also leave the very real anxiety, if they have not come forward to us and if these things exist, have they come forward to a terrorist organisation? If priceless works of art can be smuggled out of Iraq could 10,000 litres of anthrax?

Q26  Mr Chidgey: Just to slightly change the focus, in your view just to make this absolutely clear for the record, was the case for military action against Iraq more compelling in December 1998 than it was in March 2003? Was the intelligence on Iraq more compelling in 1998 than it was in 2002-03?

Mr Cook: It was adequate for the action that was carried out, but it was a very limited action. Nobody, either in Washington or in London, was imagining that we should pursue this to an invasion and regime change. The bombing campaign, despite the pyrotechnics on television, was actually relatively limited. To be truthful, the military action in 1998 suited the then agenda of the West, which was to move to a system of trying to contain Saddam, rather than go through the repeated frustration of having the inspectors on the ground being blocked. One thing that was much better in 2003 than in 1998 was that the terms on which UNMOVIC went back in were much better than UNSCOM. Indeed, Hans Blix's reports make it plain that they did get better cooperation, process and access than we were receiving in 1998.

Q27  Ms Stuart: So far I get a sense the main charge is that the Government was not very Cartesian in its approach to policy development, which is a very British approach I am told. Just because something remains true for a number of years does not make it untrue. If something was correct in, say, 2001 unless there is evidence to undermine that assessment there is still every reason to believe it is still true in 2003. I particularly ask this because I make reference to an article which I believe you wrote in The Telegraph on 20 February 2001 where it says, "UN measures remain in place because of Saddam's determination to retain and rebuild his weapons of mass destruction and threaten the region. His use of chemical weapons against his own people and his neighbours make him unique amongst modern dictators". I am wondering has anything happened within that period which would lead you to believe that either the assessment or the evidence itself was no longer viable?

Mr Cook: I was alerted to this article by Mr Straw in debate the other week and I did take the precaution of refreshing my memory. I am delighted to see in that article I said, "Too many commentators overlook the fact that Britain's robust approach has contained the threat that Saddam poses. Since the UN imposed a policy of containment Iraq has not used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Northern Iraq, or against Iran, and it has not invaded its neighbours. UN efforts and our vigilance have ensured that Saddam does not have a long-range missile capacity. He has had to dismantle his programme, and we actually carried out some destruction of facilities. As a result there is no current high risk of his being able to attack us". That was the view I came to in 2001. It would seem to me, with everything we have learnt since we went in in 2003, that was right.

Q28  Ms Stuart: What I am really trying to get at is do we have a structural weakness in the use of the way intelligence information is used? As I understand it, in the light of Kosovo and Bosnia, there was a review of how intelligence information is used. As you yourself said, it is always an alphabet soup but the letters are actually there; it is question of how you assess them. There was a clear sense, even two years ago, that there were chemical weapons there and he is retaining them. Has something structural happened which would give you reason to reassess that evidence?

Mr Cook: No, the conclusion I came to in that article, and repeatedly throughout my period as Foreign Secretary, was that we could contain the threat of Saddam Hussein by the policy of containment. Indeed, we did do so. The onus is on those who argued that containment should be abandoned and replaced with a policy of invasion and regime change to justify that, not on me.

Q29  Ms Stuart: I come back to that review on the use of intelligence. Is there a structural problem in the way we use and assess that intelligence, or is it just the conclusions we have drawn? I therefore come back to my opening point, that we could be accused of not having been Cartesian in the way we arrive at the conclusion.

Mr Cook: I think the charge is graver than we have lacked a proper philosophic method. We went to war. 5,000-7,0000 civilians were killed. Some British troops were killed. To go to war you need to have a real compelling justification for breaking that taboo which war should necessarily represent and to embark upon wholesale military action. It is not a matter of simply sitting around debating whether we had a Cartesian approach to intelligence reports. It is a question of whether you really did have compelling, convincing evidence posing, as the Prime Minister expressed it, a current and serious threat. It is plain from what we now know he did not pose a current and serious threat. It is therefore a grievous error of policy to have gone to war on the assumption he was.

Q30  Mr Hamilton: Mr Cook, on 3 September last year the Prime Minister announced that the Government's assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities would be published. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office led the drafting of Parts 2 and 3 of the final dossier and began this work in spring 2002.. I want to move on to the September dossier, and this is obviously after the time you ceased to be Foreign Secretary and became Leader of the House of Commons. Can I ask you whether you saw the Cabinet Office assessments staff paper on weapons of mass destruction in March 2002, which it was eventually decided not to publish?

Mr Cook: No.

Q31  Mr Hamilton: What papers did you see that related to the dossier finally published in September 2002?

Mr Cook: I saw the dossier. As I said earlier, I did not have access, and would not have expected to have access, to secret material after I ceased to be Foreign Secretary. Frankly, I was rather taken aback by how thin the dossier was. If you strip out the boxes on fax which are not faxes related to Iraq, and if you strip out the historic material you are actually not left with very much there. I notice that on three or four occasions, when referring to an existing capability, it says that Iraq has retained the scientists who worked on the programmes. I am not quite sure what Iraq could have done other than allow them to continue, other than possibly assassinate them. There is not much there that represents evidence that there is a new and compelling threat. Although I did not see the March document, I suspect that is possibly why the March document was not published.

Q32  Mr Hamilton: Were there any other documents submitted to the Cabinet which you would have been able to see as a member of the Cabinet before the September dossier was finally presented to you?

Mr Cook: Not that I can recall. I would have thought it would be unwise to circulate documents that were not intended for publication; because by the time they had been through everybody's office and department they might as well be published.

Q33  Mr Hamilton: That is interesting. Can I ask you whether you recall how much of the intelligence that was used in the September dossier was there as a result of the intelligence sharing between the United Kingdom and other countries?

Mr Cook: I cannot speak at first hand because I was not involved in the process, but I would be astonished if it was not immense. The United States and the United Kingdom have a unique intelligence relationship which has probably never existed in any period of history, in which on our side we have full transparency and we strive to secure full transparency on their side. Therefore, it is often difficult when you look at intelligence assessments to spot which raw data was originally gathered by the United Kingdom and which was originally gathered by the United States. As a rough rule of thumb, and it is very rough, we tend to be rather better at gathering human intelligence; and, although we have an excellent GCHQ station, the Americans are even more formidable in technological ways of gathering intelligence. That said, neither of us really had much human intelligence inside Iraq. The Americans were drawing heavily on exiles who were inside America.

Q34  Mr Hamilton: You referred earlier in your opening statement to the fact that much of the evidence presented in the run-up to the war was evidence that supported a policy that had been decided, if I am not misinterpreting that. Can I ask you, in your view do you think the September dossier was an accurate reflection of intelligence available, or was it simply one more example of trying to confirm a policy which had already been decided?

Mr Cook: First of all, as I have said, I would not make the allegation that anything in the document was invented. I think in some ways that is a blind alley. I think the debate has run far too impetuously down the argument - were matters invented; were they sexed up? The plain fact is a lot of the intelligence in the September dossier has turned out in practice to be wrong. I think it is important that we fasten on how wrong it was, why it was wrong, and were there other parts of intelligence around which might have suggested more caution? That I cannot answer because I did not have access to the material; but from all I know from previous experience, it would be surprising if in a large intelligence haul there were not bits of intelligence that cast doubt on the other parts of it. I noticed that the September dossier had a number of very large claims, which I detail in my statement, which were actually not subsequently repeated, which does prompt me to wonder if somebody somewhere spotted that they were not entirely reliable.

Q35  Mr Hamilton: Do you think there was a deliberate attempt to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq to the United Kingdom?

Mr Cook: "Exaggerate" is a loaded term. I think those who produced the dossier did not imagine they were exaggerating it, because they were convinced that Saddam and Iraq posed an urgent and compelling threat of a kind that would require military action. One should not forget the political context in which that is produced, which was one in which there was deep scepticism within Parliament and much more marked scepticism among the public.

Q36  Mr Olner: Could I bring you back to Operation Desert Fox. I am still struggling to understand now in your mind that it was okay to do that operation, to bomb, and obviously thousands of civilians got killed in Operation Desert Fox. That was without a United Nations resolution and without international support, and it was right to do that but not the original Gulf War?

Mr Cook: I am not sure I would say "okay". With great reluctance and a heavy heart we undertook the military action because we had arrived at a situation in which the agreement entered into in February had been broken. That was, of course, an agreement with the Secretary General of the United Nations. Throughout all this process we had a solid degree of support within the United Nations for what we were doing. To remind you again, Operation Desert Fox was strictly a bombing campaign of a rather limited character. I would be sceptical whether thousands actually were killed on the ground, but it is very difficult to tell given the capacity of Saddam to produce figures of his own. We did not have direct access on the ground at the time. It was quite deliberately undertaken by us in the knowledge this would mean that the inspections regime would come to an end and would have to be replaced by a policy of containment. It was that policy of containment I think which was very successful. I have seen nothing to suggest it was right to replace that policy of containment with a major arms invasion of the territory of another state.

Q37  Mr Olner: Coming back to the dodgy dossier, you did say earlier to a question you did think that the February dossier was a mistake?

Mr Cook: Yes. I do not think anybody does not now.

Q38  Mr Olner: At the time did you think it was a mistake; did you say so; and did others say so?

Mr Cook: As I recall it the dodgy dossier was not discussed in Cabinet, and I took part in every Cabinet discussion over four months on Iraq and it was almost weekly. I do not recall us discussing this. I do remember hearing it from the radio when I was in the north-west at the time and being pretty appalled by what I heard. It was not a command paper, of course. It was not issued as a White Paper and, therefore, probably did not have the departmental clearance of the kind that would have been appropriate. Hence the fact that you are now advised that the Foreign Secretary and Ministers of the Foreign Office did not hear it.

Q39  Mr Olner: How many members of the Cabinet shared your horror wherever they heard it?

Mr Cook: It would be a mere guess, but I should imagine pretty well everybody recognised that this was a significant own goal. In terms of the broad picture, no, members of the Cabinet did not express anxiety about the drift to military action. I would regularly comment on it. Clare would sometimes join in those discussions. I would quite often join the discussions. Other than that I do not recall anybody consistently questioning the drift to military action.

Q40  Mr Pope: I am just interested as to how you arrived at a different conclusion from that of the Joint Intelligence Committee. In the dossier of 24 September JIC concluded that there had been a step change in Iraq's missile programme and they were in the early stages of developing a missile with a range of over 1,000 kilometres. In your resignation statement to the House on 17 March you concluded that: "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target". Perhaps you could share with the Committee how you came to such a widely different conclusion?

Mr Cook: I am not sure it is so widely different. If you read the September dossier with a sceptical eye you will find that it does not actually produce evidence that there is a weaponised capability for a weapon of mass destruction capable of long-range delivery. As I say, I did have the briefing with SIS before I came to the point of resignation. I took the precaution before today of checking the notes I made at the time and I was rather relieved to see that the note I made at the end of the discussion was almost word for word what I said in my resignation speech.

Q41  Mr Pope: I think there is a difference here between a capability which Iraq had or has and one which is developing. I do not think the charge against Iraq was that it had a weapon capable of doing this but that it was developing one. I think the danger here or the difficulty is that the JIC concluded that Iraq was developing a weapon which was capable of reaching our sovereign bases in Cyprus. That seems to me an extraordinarily serious concern for our intelligence services to raise with Ministers, that a hostile nation is developing a system capable of reaching one of our most sensitive bases in Cyprus; and it is therefore reasonable for the Government to take action against that hostile nation. Yet you concluded something completely different after meeting with the SIS.

Mr Cook: I can only offer the view that it does appear what I concluded appears to be more consistent with the facts on the ground.

Q42  Mr Pope: You would accept that absence of evidence is not in itself evidence of absence?

Mr Cook: No, but the absence of evidence is a bloody thin ground on which to build a war.

Q43  Mr Pope: Do you think Ministers misled the House intentionally or otherwise?

Mr Cook: I think it is quite clear that some of the facts put to the House, both in the September dossier and some of the speeches to the House, cannot be reconciled with the facts as we know them on the ground. That does not mean to say that the Ministers at the time did not genuinely believe what they were saying, even if they have turned out since to have been in error. I think what is important is that Ministers do not compound that original error by denying the fact that it was wrong at the time.

Q44  Andrew Mackinlay: Mr Cook, what I do not understand is what was the case for military action? Why was it less compelling in 2003 as compared with 1998?

Mr Cook: We did not invade in 1998.

Q45  Andrew Mackinlay: No, but there was military action. We are agreed there is a difference in the nature of the war.

Mr Cook: A very, very substantial difference.

Q46  Andrew Mackinlay: But if you are on the receiving end of a bomb it spoils the rest of your day, does it not?

Mr Cook: Unquestionably that is true and we, therefore, sought to minimise the civilian targets that were identified in that campaign. What we sought to do in 1998 was to destroy what we knew or believed we knew of the capacity for Saddam to develop chemical and biological weaponry, and thereafter we changed our whole gear in terms of policy. The basic thing which happened in 1998 was we moved from inspection on the ground to containment by sanctions and they worked.

Q47  Andrew Mackinlay: How do you know containment was working? What is the proof that containment was working?

Mr Cook: During the time I was there as Foreign Secretary I saw no evidence to suggest that containment was not succeeding. All we have learnt since we went into Iraq is actually it worked rather better than we had hoped.

Q48  Andrew Mackinlay: The Fatchett document, who was your Minister of State, indicates throughout the continuing theme and vein that this continued concealment, the skill in concealment both in chemical and biological, could soon mean a capacity of missiles. I think 650 kilometres is quite long-range and a substantial threat to the peace of the region. Also that there was clearly the capacity to pursue, if not to frustrate, the threat of nuclear weapons?

Mr Cook: As I have said, as I recall the evidence of the time we were not actually concerned about Saddam's missile programme. Indeed part of the process of negotiation in 1998 before the end of inspections was to close down the missile and the nuclear portfolios. That was not an area of live concern at the time. Yes, he did conceal. Yes, he did give inspectors the run-around. Indeed, it was precisely because of that we ended up with a stand-off in February which then produced an agreement that he would cooperate better which he failed to honour.

Q49  Andrew Mackinlay: Which he abrogated?

Mr Cook: Yes, he failed to keep it. "Honour" is probably not the right word to use in any sentence that includes Saddam Hussein. He did not keep to that agreement, and that is what resulted in the bombing campaign of 1998.

Q50  Andrew Mackinlay: What I do not understand, he then over succeeding years continued to abrogate agreements. He abrogated agreements really in the past 12 months. I think you have reported to the House of Commons when you were Leader of the House, he was playing cat and mouse with the weapons inspector. He never complied with the armistice terms and subsequent resolutions which required him to give unimpeded access?

Mr Cook: That is perfectly true, he never did and that goes back to 1991. That never explained, which is one of the questions I kept asking in the months up until March 2003, why having lived in that situation for a decade, and during that time successfully containing any threat from Saddam Hussein, suddenly in the spring of 2003 it was urgent and compelling that we launched a major invasion.

Q51  Andrew Mackinlay: You have never produced any evidence to show that containment was working?

Mr Cook: I think that the evidence is already there on the ground in the absence of any evidence that he either had chemical or biological weapons, or long-range missiles, or a nuclear weapon, or weapons capable of being fired 45 minutes, or a rebuilt chemical factory, none of which have been found. That, to me, does suggest that containment was working quite well.

Q52  Andrew Mackinlay: I think you criticise, both in your resignation speech this morning, some of the documentation, the "spin" (not your word) in the period leading up to the war.

Mr Cook: I have never used the word "spin".

Q53  Andrew Mackinlay: You criticise the nature of the things which were put in the public domain and into Parliament persuading us to go to war?

Mr Cook: They have turned out plainly to be wrong and, to that extent, Parliament did not receive, and indeed perhaps Ministers did not, advice on which they could base a sensible decision.

Q54  Andrew Mackinlay: The Fatchett memorandum of 1998, you would have signed that off in red pen, would you not, because I remember from the Sierra Leone inquiry it was made quite clear that you as Foreign Secretary would have signed off documents such as this. Would you have signed off that document which was presented to Parliament?

Mr Cook: I could not offhand respond. I would need to check that.

Q55  Andrew Mackinlay: Would you?

Mr Cook: Possibly. I can check it. I had complete confidence in Derek Fatchett and I would not necessarily see everything that Derek would sign off.

Q56  Andrew Mackinlay: No, but apart from the dodgy document, which we are all agreed was crass, stupid and deceived no-one from day one, and we just fell about laughing, but putting that aside, why should the voracity of the Fatchett document, which I think we will find has your imperator on it, be any less valid than subsequent information which was put to Parliament and the public?

Mr Cook: I find the dodgy dossier an immense red herring. There is nothing whatsoever in the supposed dodgy dossier which is actually about a weapons capability, which I find in its own way quite interesting. Secondly, I would need to study this paper first. At first glance I think the great bulk of what I see here was well in the public domain and was not necessarily drafted by intelligent services, but I can look that up.

Q57  Andrew Mackinlay: None of us, apart from yourself, have been privy to being in Cabinet, how are decisions taken? Can you give us a fly on the wall? Does the Cabinet go through the rubrics and ritual of consultation? There must have been a critical day when the chips were down when either you or your colleagues could have said, "Dear Prime Minister, we're not persuaded", or whatever. How does it work? There is, as you know, lots of suspicion that Cabinet government does not exist today?

Mr Cook: I think on the question of Iraq you could not have hoped for fuller opportunities to discuss in Cabinet the matter. We discussed it in Cabinet more than any other issues, probably more than the other issues added together in the six months between September 2002 and March 2003. It was a very unusual Cabinet meeting in which we did not discuss Iraq certainly from the turn of the year onwards. The Prime Minister commendably left it open to any member to express any view that they wished to on the subject. It did resolve quite often into a standard procedure in which, perfectly properly, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary would start the discussion. I would then express intelligent points of dissent and questioning. Clare Short might well express points from the humanitarian front, but there was no great debate in the sense of people disagreeing with the Prime Minister's perspective. I would entirely concur that on this occasion it would be perfectly reasonable for the Prime Minister to conclude that the sense of the Cabinet was with him because, apart from myself and occasionally Clare, nobody disagreed with that.

Q58  Andrew Mackinlay: Was there a particular date where conclusion would have been reached when he would have said words to the effect, "I sense the mood of the Cabinet shared my view about the threat and the way to resolve this matter". He might not use those terms, but rather than reportage and discussion, was there a point when ------

Mr Cook: For most of the time, although you could replay the discussion in terms of where do we stand in the event of military action taking place, it was plain I stood in one corner and the majority of the Cabinet stood in the other, but actually that was not for much of the time what was under discussion. What was under discussion was the particular state of the diplomatic process at that moment, and on that there was a broad degree of agreement. I was entirely with the rest of the Cabinet that we should try and secure a second resolution. Those conclusions you are looking for were more of the interim character, "Yes, we're agreed we should try and proceed and secure the United Nations approval", rather than, "Well, let's go to war".

Q59  Andrew Mackinlay: Can I ask a last question, a machinery government question. The impression one has got is that over successive months, particularly under this one, and after you left in particular, there was a drift from the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary (and I do not mean this to disparage the present holder) is really the Deputy Foreign Secretary. The portfolio of the Foreign Secretary is de facto in the Prime Minister, that things have shifted to Number Ten. Clearly there have been occasions, even when you had the stewardship of this, where shots were being called from Number Ten. I want to put to you that here the Foreign Office would have a slightly different read on the situation to that of Number Ten. Is that your feeling or observation?

Mr Cook: You mean in terms of the last few months.

Q60  Andrew Mackinlay: Yes. It is a general issue that we are concerned about the future decision-making of government in these critical areas, and precisely in relation to the conflict in Iraq.

Mr Cook: The Foreign Office, by its very nature, is responsible for conducting international relations around the globe, not just in Washington. Undoubtedly many of those diplomats and career Foreign Office civil servants who work in these other fronts would have shared my concern about the consequence of us being involved in unilateral action with Americans. I address a number of those in the last paragraph of my paper, the extent to which it has set us at odds with our major partners within the European Union; the extent to which it has undermined the authority of the United Nations; the extent to which it has undermined our own status with the Third World countries who were universally against the war; and also, in terms of the narrow focus where the specific immediate question of terrorism is the most relevant, the breakup of that global coalition against world terrorism which came into being after the attack on the Twin Towers. Those are very heavy prices to pay in international relations. I hope the Committee at some future date may be able to look at the overall impact on Britain's standing as a result of our participation in the war.

Andrew Mackinlay: Chairman, before the Foreign Secretary does conclude, can we give him an opportunity to put anything else?

Q61  Chairman: Are there any matter which has not been covered which you think should be? You have the opportunity to do that now?

Mr Cook: I put in a fairly full paper to the Committee and would encourage it to address the range of those questions there. If I can just highlight one of those. I am deeply perplexed as to why we persist in denying access to the UNMOVIC inspectors. It seems to me if we want to establish any capability on the part of Saddam which the rest of the world can respect we do need to have the UN inspectors there to validate it. I can understand the Americans are probably not going to admit it because they have a long-standing hostility under the administration at the United Nations, but there is presumably no reason, and it is a perfectly fair question I would have thought to put to the Foreign Secretary, why we could not admit the UN inspectors to that sector of Iraq that we ourselves control.

Q62  Ms Stuart: I am just trying to draw conclusions which take us forward. Is it in your assessment that the problem is we all operate under 20:20 hindsight which is a great privilege, or is it wrong evidence in which case we must look at the quality of our intelligence services, or missing evidence in which case we need to look at the evidence gathered by our intelligence services?

Mr Cook: I think would equip myself with 20:20 hindsight. I did resign before and not after the war. On the question you pose, I am not sure it quite matches the gravity of the situation. War should always be a last resort. Before you go to war you need to be convinced that this is a matter of dire necessity. I do not see what is funny about that. It must be the case that war should only be a matter of dire necessity. It is not as if what we have discovered since the war was over should have come as a surprise to us. Hans Blix himself at the time pointed to the failure of Western intelligence to provide any leaps to weapons on the ground. The rest of the world, famously, was not convinced by the case and did not agree on the case for war. I, therefore, think those who took the decision for war have the obligation to justify it in terms of producing that compelling evidence it said was there.

Chairman: Mr Cook, a very helpful platform on which the Committee will build. Thank you very much.


Witness: CLARE SHORT, a Member of the House, examined.

Q63  Chairman: Can I say first, my apologies for the short delay in starting. There is a lot of ground to cover and we hope that you will be able to help the Committee in our inquiry on the decision to go to war in Iraq. You have been quite trenchant in your criticism since, I notice, for example, the conclusion of your article to the New Statesman on 9 June where you say in terms, "My conclusion is that our Prime Minister deceived us". Do you still labour under that sense of deception?

Clare Short: I am afraid I do very sadly and I think it is a series of half-truths, exaggerations and reassurances that were not the case to get us into conflict by the spring and I think that commitment had been made by the previous summer. I think nothing else explains the failure to allow Blix to complete his process and the way in which certainly I personally was deceived and I think the country was deceived about what the French decision was, the claim that the French said, "No second Resolution of any kind", when it is absolutely clear now that President Chirac said, "Blix must be given enough time to complete his inspection process, but if disarmament is not achieved through the Blix process, then the matter will have to come back to the Security Council", and then war would be inevitable.

Q64  Chairman: I am sure colleagues will take up some of those other points, but you mentioned that the decision had been made in the summer. That is the decision between the Prime Minister and the President on going to war?

Clare Short: Yes. The reason I say that is that three extremely senior people in the Whitehall system, whom I will not name, said that to me very clearly and specifically, that the target date was mid-February and later extended to March because of a difficulty with the Turks and so on and to give our Prime Minister a little more time, but at that time we were being assured, and I personally was being assured by the Prime Minister, that we were committed to a second Resolution.

Q65  Chairman: So you think that come what may, following that decision in the summer, war would inevitably have followed?

Clare Short: I think short of Saddam Hussein coming out with his hands up or going to Saudi Arabia or something, they were committed to war. The question is and everyone must ask themselves this question: why Blix achieved to get 64 ballistic missiles out of some, say, 70 dismantled? That was a considerable amount of disarmament and yet his process was truncated, so he was succeeding, yet he was not given the time he asked for and the question is why. Now, we were told that you have to threaten war in order to avoid war and I accepted that. That is how we got Resolution 1441. Therefore, you have to deploy some troops to threaten war and then we are told that the troops cannot sit in the desert because they have been deployed and we have to go to conflict, and the Blix process was truncated. Why were we all working to a target date which did not permit enough time for the Blix process to be completed?

Q66  Chairman: Well, I am not totally following you. Let's say, for example, after 1441, which gives "a final opportunity", without which there would have been serious consequences, if Saddam Hussein had recognised that this was indeed the final opportunity, the troops were massing at his frontier, if he had then published a dossier on 8 December which was followed and he had co-operated with Blix, do you think the coalition would still have gone to war?

Clare Short: When 1441 was passed, because of course that was a resolution that was put together in the normal way that takes place in New York with a long process of negotiation and amendment so you get buy-in and you build consensus and indeed get unanimity, we and others assured the Security Council, because there was some dispute and the French wanted to make sure that the matter would have to come back to the Security Council if there was to be an authorisation of military action, and verbal assurances were given that the matter would have to come back to the Security Council, and then Blix achieved considerable disarmament and made it clear himself that he needed more time. After all, it was not until November that it was passed and you have to get the weapons inspectors into Iraq and get them there with all their equipment, and there was the question of sharing intelligence. I was seeing our intelligence agencies at that time and they were saying that the scientists' records and laboratory equipment and so on were hidden and being hidden across the country and they knew where it was, and I was arguing with them, "Why don't we give the information to Blix then and facilitate Blix going to the houses where things are hidden?", so there was not very much time between 1441 being passed, Blix getting in, getting started and getting going. If you remember, he complained that he was not getting much help with intelligence information and that the UK was more helpful. Then he was making progress in achieving a destruction of ballistic missiles and he made it clear that he needed more time and then suddenly the Resolution or the draft saying that 1441 had not been fulfilled was tabled and the whole process was brought to an end. We were misled about the French position and everything was blamed on the French, but I happened to talk to Kofi Annan on the telephone around that time about the situation in the Congo and he said, "It is absolutely clear that the majority of the Security Council think that Blix needs more time". Now, this is a very serious matter and I understand how serious a matter it is, but I am afraid, I am very sorry that this is my conclusion.

Chairman: We hear that.

Q67  Mr Hamilton: Clare, to what extent were you aware of the threat posed by Iraq prior to the events of 11 September 2001?

Clare Short: I have been very troubled by sanctions and the suffering of the people of Iraq for a very long time and certainly since I took office in the Government in 1997, and we have attempted to improve the humanitarian programmes and the effectiveness of UN actions and to get some relief in the way in which sanctions worked, so I have been absolutely clear that the situation was unsatisfactory. I do not believe it could have just been left and I did not believe in containment both because Saddam Hussein was defying the UN, but also because the people of Iraq were suffering so badly.

Q68  Mr Hamilton: Did you believe that there was a threat to British interests posed by Iraq prior to 11 September 2001?

Clare Short: No, I did not believe that. I believed that the people of Iraq were suffering badly and that Saddam Hussein was in defiance of the UN over the question of working to try to achieve chemical and biological weapons. I believed and I still believe that he did try nuclear, but the previous inspection regime dismantled that, so I still do not think he was an imminent threat. I think that is where one of the exaggerations came, but I think he was, and I believe still, that he was committed to having laboratories and scientists and doing work and trying to develop chemical and biological weapons, and we know that he had ballistic missiles of a range beyond that permitted in the Security Council Resolution. My view was that the problem needed attending to, but that there was not an imminent threat and, therefore, we should do it right. The new urgency which came into the US was because of September 11, and this false suggestion that there was any link to al-Qaeda is another of the falsities to try to get an urgency for that, so I think the right way would have been to say, "We are going to attend to this and we are going to attend to the Middle East". The Road Map had already been negotiated, so we should have started off with publishing that and started implementation and showing a commitment to move to justice in the Middle East and then we should have turned to Iraq, trying to keep the support of Arab governments, and we should have tried for disarmament and we could have even had the UN authorised military action to support the inspectors, it seems to me. We should have tried indicting Saddam Hussein and we should have lifted sanctions. If you take the Kosovo parallel, and I was one who believed that we should have acted on Milosevic earlier with all the ethnic cleansing from Bosnia and so on, but it was absolutely right to act and the Kosovars being pushed out of their country was reversed and then the military action stopped, but he was indicted and other action was taken and we got him to The Hague without a full-scale invasion of Serbia. I hope that is not too long an answer, but the point is that I was very aware of it. My deepest concern was the suffering of the people of Iraq and the anger that was causing in the Middle East and I think it should have been attended to, but we had time to attend to it right. Let me make it clear that from the beginning of this crisis, and indeed before, I have always thought that we had to be willing to use military force to back up the authority of the UN, so I was not saying, "No military force at all at any price", but I was saying that we should avoid it if at all possible and that is the teaching on the just wall and you have to make sure that there is no other way, and we should have tried that. I thought for a long time in this crisis that the UK was playing the role of trying to restrain the US and trying to examine all other means, and I now think that we were not and that we pre-committed.

Q69  Mr Hamilton: Well, that leads me to a second question. Throughout 2002 there was a renewed focus on Iraq being discussed in the media. How often was it discussed in the Cabinet and how far do you think that the renewed focus on Iraq was being pressed by Washington?

Clare Short: Well, I am certain it was being pressed by Washington, and I presume you will get the clerks to go back over the media story because it kept breaking into our media and we kept getting an echo of the arguments in Washington from our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary. I know that I asked. Occasionally pre-Cabinet you are asked if you want to raise anything, not every week, some weeks, interestingly, and I asked to raise certain situations in Africa departmentally and then personally Iraq in September time and the Prime Minister at that time said that he did not want it raised in the Cabinet and he would see me personally. I saw him when I was in Mozambique. We went to Mozambique before we went to the World Conference on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and that dates it in my mind. The Prime Minister came back from that trip and, if you remember, in one of his press conferences that he did from his constituency, if you check the press reports, he was quite belligerent, and he had been to the US just before that. In his Guardian book, which I do not know if any of you have seen, which was clearly written, the part in the run-up to the war, with collaboration from the Prime Minister's entourage, close entourage, because it was only the close entourage which were really part of this or part of the detailed day-to-day, week-to-week activity, it says very clearly that by September 9 they were both committed to military action, if you just examine the record in the book.

Q70  Mr Hamilton: So you think that by September 9 war became inevitable and that was the date?

Clare Short: I think the Prime Minister had said to President Bush, "We will be with you", and he had not laid down the conditions that were needed to bring Britain's influence to bear to temper the position of the US and to try and keep the unity of the international community and the Security Council. I think he had committed us and he did not say, "We will be with you on a series of conditions", trying to operate through the UN and so on. Then I think that is why he lost weight on the rest, that he had given policies in Washington and there was a feeling in Britain, in the Cabinet, in Parliament, in the Party and the country that he gave the assurances on the second Resolution and the two were rather contradictory and it conflated over truncating the Blix process and then the big fig-leaf became, "Blame France" and misleading us about France's position to get through that crisis of contradictory policies.

Q71  Mr Hamilton: Finally, if I can just add this, what did you believe were the real reasons for the war in Iraq?

Clare Short: I think if you read, and I have since, some of the publications of the Republican, neo-conservatives, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and some of the others, they were writing from 1997 on, or that is the earliest material I have read, and there was some sensitivity about this, that there had been a failure to complete the first Gulf War and leave Saddam Hussein in Iraq and that action had to be taken. Now, I understand that, it was an evil regime and it was in defiance of the UN, but they were very committed to it. Then if you read the Bob Woodward book, Bush at War, I think it is called, that was written with full White House co-operation and it is about the run-up to Afghanistan, and you have got Rumsfeld arguing straight after September 11 that we have to go for Iraq and, as we all know, there was no link to al-Qaeda. Yes, it was an unresolved crisis, but they were not politically committed. In the Guardian book, you have got President Bush saying, and he is saying this in September 2002, "A year ago I was discussing with my officials the possibility of dealing with Saddam Hussein by tightened sanctions and more containment, but now everything has changed and it has to be war".

Q72  Mr Chidgey: Can I take you back to some of the opening remarks that you made, particularly in connection with the step change in policy within the Cabinet of moving to war. I want to look at the intelligence perspective of this and the influence that had on you and the Cabinet in coming to that conclusion. I think everyone would agree that intelligence is an inexact art, let alone a science. Can you tell us what intelligence assessments were made of what was happening inside the Saddam regime? Were you presented with a range of options, best-case, worst-case scenarios, explanations of what was happening in Iraq, or did it just come to you as a focused, "This is what is happening, this is the way forward and this is what we should be doing"?

Clare Short: Well, the first thing you should know is that the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee never met. There was never a paper. There was never an analysis of options and there was never an analysis on paper before any Cabinet committee or any meeting and it was all done only verbally. That is quite a collapse of normal British procedures for decision-making and I think some of the poor quality goes with the collapse in the proper decision-making processes, I really do, and I think that these are extremely serious matters for our government system. I think if there had been papers and analysis, we probably would have got ----

Q73  Mr Chidgey: Well, if I can lead you on, and I think actually you have answered the question, but I will just ask it: do you feel the Government's policies on Iraq in the period leading up to the war were soundly based on good intelligence?

Clare Short: Well, let me just say a word about intelligence because most members of the Cabinet do not see the raw intelligence, the day-to-day bits that come through, the reports from individuals or telephone notes.

Q74  Mr Chidgey: But you did see it?

Clare Short: I did see it all for months because I saw it over Africa, Nepal, Pakistan and so on and, therefore, I normally dealt with that kind of material. Of course the raw intelligence is just droplets of information and I think someone once said that it is like cornflakes. It is bits and pieces and it did not say anything devastatingly clear. It does not. It says, "Scientists from the regime say yes, the experiments are going on", and that type of thing, and then the Joint Intelligence Committee every so often pulls it together and makes an assessment. Could I say to the Committee that I think you should press to see the material. The reason for secrecy is to protect sources in Iraq. The whole situation in Iraq has changed and I think most of the material you could now safely see in terms of there is no one who would be threatened by your seeing it given all the changes. I did ask, and this is relevant, defence intelligence for an assessment because I knew they must be making an assessment in terms of the threat to our troops, the chemical suits and what kind of drugs they had to take and so on, and obviously my responsibility was thinking about the people of Iraq, so if there was a risk of chemical and biological weapons being used so that our troops had to be protected, what about Iraqi civilians, so I was asking for the best possible assessment that defence intelligence could make, and all the other stuff was coming from SIS, of that risk. A paper was prepared, saying, and I am speaking from memory of course, that there is a risk, and it was thought not to be very high, but it was definitely there, which I thought was a very serious matter. Then I had a number of individual briefings from SIS which the Prime Minister authorised partly because I was so troubled by the whole process and he was trying to keep me inside the tent at that stage. The view that was taken by the person that briefed me after Blix started his inspection was that the scientists, their work and whatever they had was being hidden and the risks of use were less. That is my summary.

Q75  Mr Chidgey: That is very helpful. If I can stick on that point, one of the issues which certainly troubles me from the evidence we have taken over a long period of time on this issue is the difficulty of actually locating and finding stocks of chemical weapons, particularly anthrax, of less than 1,000 litres, impossible to find. I have been wanting to try to find out whether the Government was actually briefed on this particular issue of how difficult it was to find these weapons and, therefore, it was clearly very difficult to remove the threat and whether then the policy formulation process moved on so that the only way to remove the threat is in fact to remove the perpetrator of the action and, therefore, the regime. Was that part of the step change or not?

Clare Short: No, it was not like that. The first proper open discussion was in October some time when members of the Cabinet just gave their opinions about the whole situation in the Middle East. After that, most weeks there was a discussion and indeed I often instigated it, but it was what I call "guided discussion". It was, "So what's the latest?" and by then there was a compliant atmosphere in the Cabinet and it was clearer and clearer where things were going and there was a kind of loyalty, so it was arranged at one point that small groupings of the Cabinet would go for briefings with the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and we went in groups of two or three. I think for most members of the Committee, but you would have to check with them, they did not see even the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments, all of them.

Q76  Mr Chidgey: So you were never advised from the intelligence reports that it was impossible for them to give you an assessment which told you that the Government could successfully remove or could not successfully remove the threat from chemical and biological weapons through the inspections process?

Clare Short: There was never a discussion in Cabinet at that kind of level of detail.

Q77  Mr Illsley: You have just covered some of the issues that I want to raise actually, but I will try and press you a little bit more on this. In particular, you have just told us that you saw Joint Intelligence Committee reports, the raw intelligence material and the assessments because you asked for them, particularly in relation to Africa.

Clare Short: Well, I had a relationship with that material and I saw it regularly. I made a point of seeing everything on Iraq.

Q78  Mr Illsley: So you actually saw the assessments. You have also said there that you were putting in comments along the lines of, "Why aren't they putting this to Blix to tell him where to go?", so was anybody taking any notice of that? Were your comments accepted?

Clare Short: Well, this is why I reached this sad judgment that I reached. I also saw the Prime Minister personally quite frequently and this question of when Blix asked for more help, if you remember, and again I am speaking from memory, but I am sure this is a matter of record in the media at that time, Blix asked for more help with the intelligence, and the UK said, "Yes, we're going to give him more intelligence", and I know I had a personal briefing from SIS at that time. They told me that the UK had got better intelligence than the US because of our links into Iraq and that there were brave Iraqi scientists and so on who were giving us information and we knew about books, records and equipment being moved to people's houses. I tell you this because it is an important exchange. I said to him, "Well, in that case, let's give Blix the information. Let's give him the helicopters or whatever he needs. Let's get that house raided. Let's go there, let's fund it", and I had that conversation with the Prime Minister also, and he said, "Yes, yes", but it did not happen, did it?

Q79  Mr Illsley: Do you think they were stopped from giving that information to Blix?

Clare Short: I think it is a matter of record that Blix said, but again I am speaking from memory, that in one of his reporting sessions to the Security Council he had started to have more co-operation from the UK, but still not from the US. Again I am speaking from memory, but he has said more recently that it all led nowhere and they chased it and there was nothing there when they got there.

Q80  Mr Illsley: The quality of intelligence was not good enough when Blix acted on it, when he had been given it. You just mentioned earlier that Cabinet members were allowed to go in twos and threes to joint briefings from the intelligence staff.

Clare Short: That is from the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee who is a former member of the security service and then he takes on a different role when he assesses the raw intelligence in order to make reports.

Q81  Mr Illsley: Just before, you said that the PM authorised you to see this intelligence, so was the Prime Minister or Ten Downing Street controlling exactly what members of the Cabinet could see or could be briefed on?

Clare Short: Earlier on, after September/October, I asked to see SIS, which I often did over Africa or different situations in the world, so I knew them quite well and I often asked to see them or whoever the expert was for a briefing on Iraq, and they came back and said, "No, Number Ten says no", and I made a fuss and it had to go to the Prime Minister individually and then I did see them. Then I saw them throughout, myself, when I asked, as well as seeing the material, but I think there are a lot of ministers who do not deal with intelligence material because they are in domestic departments or whatever and would not be in that relationship, and I presume they did not see it, and Defence and Overseas Policy, where normally the senior figures in the Cabinet come together, was not meeting, never met, never had any papers before it, so there was this one occasion when it was suggested by the Prime Minister at Cabinet that Cabinet members should be given a briefing by the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee and that happened, so people went in twos and threes and had an hour or so and he gave his assessment of where things were.

Q82  Mr Illsley: In that sort of control of access by Number Ten, but of you in particular because you knew the system and the individuals, do you think that was coming from the Prime Minister himself or from his advisers?

Clare Short: Unquestionably coming from the Prime Minister himself and when I pressed Sir David Manning, he made it clear that he had to ask the Prime Minister to get me permission to see the security services over Iraq in the same way when I saw them normally over other situations in the world.

Q83  Sir John Stanley: Were you suggesting to the Committee a moment ago that there was some deliberate policy by the US and the UK Government not to co-operate fully with Mr Blix's inspectors?

Clare Short: I think that they wanted to make an effort through the UN for the sake of international public opinion and probably United States' public opinion, so they wanted 1441 and, therefore, wanted the return of weapons inspectors. Well, you can remember the dissident voices, and I think Vice President Cheney said publicly that he did not want weapons inspectors, so there were different views in the Administration and you will know that the US Administration does have different views always and it is usually quite a fractured system, and particularly so through the state departments and the Pentagon through the early stages of this crisis. Certainly President Bush and our Prime Minister wanted 1441, wanted the weapons inspectors back in, but then I think in the US they were worried about getting entangled in the weapons inspection process and it taking longer than they would have liked, maybe trapping them into that way forward, and there was some of this briefing against Blix which again was in the media and I see he is talked about publicly. So I think they wanted to try through the UN, but they did not want to get entangled in the UN and they wanted to be free to act, having tried the UN, when they wanted to act.

Q84  Sir John Stanley: So are you saying that there was a policy of only giving partial assistance to Mr Blix and thereby ensuring that perhaps weapons of mass destruction were not found as rapidly as might be the case, assuming they are still there, in order to keep the military option open?

Clare Short: Well, my understanding is, and I think Blix asked for more help publicly in one of his sessions at the Security Council, that the UK determined to give him more help and I think it is a matter of record him saying that the US were less helpful, but it is a fractured Administration. You cannot assume coherence in that decision like a conspiracy to make Blix fail. You have got different parts of the US Administration, some of them never wanting to go back to the Security Council and never wanting Blix in anyway, so this controlling the decision not to give him full help on the intelligence, I do not know.

Q85  Sir John Stanley: You have made the, to my mind, extraordinary statement that the Defence and Overseas Policy Sub-Committee of the Cabinet never met on Iraq.

Clare Short: Never met.

Andrew Mackinlay: At all.

Q86  Sir John Stanley: That is exactly what Ms Short said.

Clare Short: It is a long time since it has met.

Q87  Sir John Stanley: Did you make a formal or informal request to the Prime Minister that that very, very important Cabinet sub-committee should meet?

Clare Short: No, I did not. The way I pursued matters was both by bringing everything up in Cabinet, reading all the intelligence, seeing and getting regular briefings from SIS and seeing the Prime Minister quite frequently myself individually. I was working absolutely on the assumption that the UK could see its role as being to use our relationship with the US to try and keep the US with the UN and with the international community if we could possibly do it, and I operated in the way that I have described, and I think I was working on a false premise, but that is what I decided to do. This is happening actually in our government system, a breakdown of normal decision-making procedures and decision-making getting very individualised in Number Ten, and that is happening in general.

Q88  Sir John Stanley: You have made two references to areas where you thought the intelligence picture was exaggerated in the sense that the threat was exaggerated, and you referred to the issue of imminence and you referred also to links with al-Qaeda. Were there any other areas where you believed the intelligence position was exaggerated?

Clare Short: No. I think our intelligence service absolutely believed, as I do, that Saddam Hussein was going on with the science and going on with trying to get chemical and biological weapons. They were absolutely clear that he was a long way from nuclear, that he did not have any capacity and it would take years, though he had tried it before. The conversations of their briefing and the conversations with them were like that, but I think it is this phrase "weapons of mass destruction", when that is used, people think of bombs full of chemical and biological weapons that are going to rain down out of the sky and drop on people or whatever. They did not think of scientists in laboratories doing experiments, and I think that is where the falsity lies. Yes, he was dedicated to having scientists doing the work to try and create chemical and biological capacity, but the suggestion made to the public was that it was all weaponised and could be used imminently and was a dangerous threat to us and other neighbouring countries, and I think there was talk of Cyprus being reachable and so on.

Q89  Sir John Stanley: So you are suggesting that it was the use of the intelligence material by members of the Government and politicians which was responsible for the exaggeration?

Clare Short: That is my suggestion, yes.

Q90  Chairman: Was there any complaint at the time that you met the JIC and the DIS people that their raw material was going to be misused by the Government?

Clare Short: They never said that to me, but we discussed the desirability of the second Resolution, which they thought highly desirable. My understanding of their judgment was that this should not be left, but that we should try and keep the world together. I have read the media, as have you, and my own reading of the analysis is that when there were no WMD found, and now so much information you get through off-the-record briefings to the press, it started to be suggested that maybe the intelligence was defective and that made the intelligence community so angry that they started to brief about the way in which their material had been exaggerated politically. That is my reading of it.

Q91  Mr Hamilton: Clare, can I move on to the September dossier which I think on 3 December the Prime Minister announced would be published with the Government's assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability. Can I ask you whether you saw any related papers to that dossier before it was published in September?

Clare Short: Well, I just said that I saw the raw intelligence as it comes in, which is telephone reports and reports of conversations with individuals, and it does not say who they are, but it says, "a reliable source" or "a new source", but that kind of material all the time, and then the dossier, or I saw all the Joint Intelligence Committee reports and then the dossier which was threatened once, then held back and then it came again. I have to say that there were three dossiers, were there not, and they were all pretty shoddy pieces of work, even the human rights one. There is no doubt that even the human rights piece was very old material, a lot of it preceding the first Gulf War, so I am afraid I was not surprised that it was not a kind of forensic, highly accurate document because I think that is the house style.

Q92  Mr Hamilton: Do you recall how much of the information which was included in the September dossier came through shared intelligence arrangements with other countries? Were you ever told?

Clare Short: No. My understanding is that we share with the US, but I have been informed that our intelligence is better. I understand that we share with France and theirs is good and that was uninterrupted right through the crisis, funnily enough, or that is my understanding, or France shares with us.

Q93  Mr Hamilton: That is interesting. I do not think I have heard that before. Can I ask you whether it was an accurate reflection of Iraq's threat at the time or was it, how shall I put it, exaggerated?

Clare Short: I have not reread it, so now this is quite a long time, but my sense is that lots of it was accurate and the exaggeration and the suggestion of immediate threat and the suggestion, which is not in the dossier, but was made in press briefings and maybe in the House of the potential link to al-Qaeda, that is where the falsity lay. Of course when you see the picture of what happened, the exaggeration of immediacy means you cannot do things properly and action has to be urgent.

Q94  Mr Hamilton: So you think there was a deliberate attempt to emphasise certain aspects of the intelligence to make the threat more credible, real and immediate?

Clare Short: To make it more immediate, more imminent, requiring urgent action, yes.

Q95  Mr Hamilton: Did you try and oppose that in any way in Cabinet? Did you try and challenge it?

Clare Short: I think I was seen as pretty awkward throughout. I raised the question of Iraq repeatedly in the Cabinet and kept questioning, but you cannot fire on all sides on all issues all the time. I was still dedicated to the second Resolution as the way of restraint and, therefore, I did not fight harder over the dossier.

Mr Hamilton: I cannot believe you would have been awkward, Clare.

Q96  Mr Maples: I wonder if we can just pursue this question of the dossier. What was, as far as you are aware, the process by which the September dossier, the weapons of mass destruction one, was produced? Did a draft come to the Cabinet? Were you involved in the raft of comments in the process of it being drafted since you were seeing the Chief of Staff?

Clare Short: No, a draft did not come and I did not comment on a draft. Again speaking from memory, there was talk of a dossier earlier, the publication of intelligence material, and then I think that went quiet for a bit and then it was brought back. Alastair Campbell and co. were involved, so I left it to them. That is not my speciality, that side of things.

Q97  Mr Maples: I was going to ask you about that because when you said that the Prime Minister's close entourage was involved, you were including the Head of Government Information Service in that category ----

Clare Short: Well, Alastair Campbell individually, Jonathan Powell, Baroness Morgan, Sir David Manning, that close entourage.

Q98  Mr Maples: And what do you know of their involvement in producing this dossier? Do you think they were involved in that?

Clare Short: I do not know in any direct way. That was the team, they were the ones who moved together all the time. They attended the daily 'War Cabinet'. That was the in group, that was the group that was in charge of policy.

Q99  Mr Maples: Campbell, Manning, Morgan, and you mentioned somebody else.

Clare Short: Jonathan Powell.

Q100  Mr Maples: You also said in relation actually to all of the dossiers that you think they were a bit shoddy, but then you said that that did not surprise you because it was the house style.

Clare Short: Well, that is a bit harsh, is it not, but I think I mean it. I am really shocked by the way these decisions were made. This is of such profound importance to human rights, to the record of our country that I think one has to go to a sort of higher level of commitment to truth and accuracy and proper decision-making, and we should do it all the time, but particularly in a question like this when you are going to war and when people lose their lives and the future of a country is at stake, but things were not decided properly. There were no records, no papers, in the Prime Minister's study all informal, this small in group of people and obviously Alastair Campbell is responsible for the presentation of government policy, and that soon becomes propaganda and there is a place for that. Once proper decisions have been made, then the Government should put forward what it is trying to do as well as it can and communicate to the public, but the two often conflate and they were conflated there.

Q101  Mr Maples: One of the allegations about this document is that into the foreword had been pulled two or three of the bits which might scare people more than others, one of which of course was the 45 minutes allegation. Are these the sort of things that you think that that inner group would decide on?

Clare Short: I do not know about the writing of the foreword, but in every government publication that I have been involved in when I have written a foreword, I do my own foreword, and that is the nature of it. With four ministers who take personal responsibility for what they do, you would expect that to be very personal in a document of that kind.

Q102  Mr Maples: But you do not know if it happened?

Clare Short: No.

Q103  Mr Maples: Just on this 45 minutes allegation, in the formal briefings that you had and the SIS briefings that you had and the JIC stuff that you saw, was that a feature of that?

Clare Short: No, not ever. Do not forget, because of my focus, and I do not know what arrangements you have made to see material, but I do hope you press to see this defence intelligence assessment because of course they made an assessment about our troops and that is relevant to the Iraqi people's risk, so I was very, very fixated on what was the risk of the use of this material on unprotected Iraqi people, so I attended to all of that in some considerable detail and I never missed the 45-minute threat. It was not ----

Q104  Mr Maples: That was never a feature of the personal briefings to you?

Clare Short: No.

Q105  Mr Maples: And that this was something you really ought to worry about?

Clare Short: No, but it is there as a risk, and the risk of use is probably not high, but a danger, was kind of the tone of it.

Q106  Mr Maples: On the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, other than on Iraq, does it meet regularly?

Clare Short: No. It has met. At the beginning, in 1997, my Department was not a member of it and we became a member of it and there were some early meetings. I can remember the Ministry of Defence giving, they always give those wonderful overhead projections, they are terribly good at that because they like all that equipment, those type of presentations, but we never had a presentation on military options or the military strategy, though I did personally, but there was never a presentation of that either and it has not met for years, I think.

Q107  Mr Maples: On the big other issues you were involved in, big humanitarian efforts in Africa and things like that, the DOP did not meet to consider those issues?

Clare Short: No, but the others would have been Afghanistan, Kosovo.

Q108  Mr Maples: West Africa?

Clare Short: Sierra Leone had a special committee chaired by the Foreign Secretary which met a number of times, not Defence and Overseas Policy.

Q109  Mr Maples: So it did not meet on Afghanistan or Kosovo?

Clare Short: I do not think it did. Maybe, I cannot remember now, it is a long time since it met and I have only been to one or two meetings of it and they were only on, it may have been Kosovo, but I do not think they met on Afghanistan, but there was a ministerial committee on Afghanistan that started to meet after military action. Similarly, on Iraq, when the military action started, then we had the daily Cabinet and it took reports of what was going on.

Q110  Mr Maples: So what we are getting a picture of here is that the relevant Cabinet committee did not consider this in detail which is what one would have expected?

Clare Short: There was no paper or analysis of the risks, the dangers, the military options, the political and diplomatic options, the strategy for the UK, there was never that.

Q111  Mr Maples: But not just at that level, but full Cabinet level either?

Clare Short: No.

Q112  Mr Maples: And decisions were being taken by a very small group of people close to the Prime Minister, none of whom, apart from him, are elected?

Clare Short: Yes.

Q113  Mr Maples: So there were no ministers involved in that part of it?

Clare Short: That is right.

Q114  Chairman: Did you know about the role of the Foreign Secretary at this time?

Clare Short: Well, the Foreign Secretary would have a close relationship with the Prime Minister and the entourage, but I think the decisions were being made by the Prime Minister and the entourage and the Foreign Secretary was helpful. He went along with those decisions, but I think the decision-making was sucked out of the Foreign Office which I think is a great pity because there is enormous expertise about the Middle East in the Foreign Office and certainly the Foreign Office has the expertise to understand what is necessary to achieve the second Resolution.

Q115  Chairman: You are saying that the Foreign Secretary was helpful. Are you suggesting that he was ancillary and the decision was elsewhere?

Clare Short: I am suggesting that he was extremely loyal to the Prime Minister and his decisions.

Q116  Mr Olner: Can I ask you, Clare, whether you think that was the decision in 1998 when we actually had a military conflict with Iraq in Desert Fox? What was different then to what happened recently?

Clare Short: Well, of course it was more restrained. It was not full-scale war in1998. It was a much more limited military action which was taken.

Q117  Mr Olner: Somebody said yes to that military action.

Clare Short: Yes, indeed, but it was relatively short. I do not remember a lot of fuss about the decision-making about it. I think the limited action was agreed on and it was taken.

Q118  Mr Olner: Could I refresh your memory to the fact that the United Nations did not support that action, the international community did not support that action and President Bush was not even elected then. I am just wondering why there was no fuss made by certain members of the Cabinet then to what is happening now. The only constant thing is Saddam Hussein.

Clare Short: I am sorry, but I think that is a rhetorical and inaccurate question. Limited military action was taken, and I am now speaking from very old memory, Kofi Annan was involved and went to Iraq to try and restrain that from escalating, and I know some of the neo-cons are critical of the actions he took at that time, but it was not a full-scale conflict of anything comparable to the conflict that has just taken place, and I do not think your comparison is accurate, and on the length of it, it was not long either and nothing like the same scale.

Q119  Mr Olner: There were an awful lot of civilians killed in that particular military action.

Clare Short: Were there? I would have to check the record. I do not think that is so.

Q120  Mr Olner: Could I bring you just quickly to the February dossier. You have made it crystal clear that if you were a literary critic, you would not be giving any of the dossiers any sort of -----

Clare Short: No, it is not literary; it is attachment to accuracy.

Q121  Mr Olner: So the grammar was right?

Clare Short: Well, I have not checked the grammar. I could go back and do that, but I was not pretending to do the literary style.

Q122  Mr Olner: Could I just ask whether the February dossier in particular, these are not your words, but certainly in most people's words, now termed the 'dodgy' dossier, did any members of the Cabinet see that before its publication?

Clare Short: I do not think so. I certainly did not read it. This is a shameful piece of work. To think that in the run-up to a declaration of war when people's lives are at stake, to lift a PhD thesis off the Internet and distort it because you know that the young man concerned has complained that even the words of his PhD thesis were distorted?

Q123  Chairman: He will be appearing before us.

Clare Short: Is he? Okay. I think it is shocking. I just am shocked that our government system can come to this. I do not think we should permit this. Obviously what has happened in Iraq has happened, but let us learn the lessons in trying to help the people of Iraq rebuild their country, but I hope that some lessons will be learned about our government system and we will not make decisions like this again.

Q124  Ms Stuart: Your final sentence moved into a question I want to raise with you. After 1441, which was passed unanimously and countries like Syria did not have to vote yes, this was seen as a clear indication by the then international community as a desire to have a second Resolution, and I seem to recall that even after the final vote, the feeling was they would not get a final Resolution, so Jeremy Greenstock, in an article, said that this was a kind of failure of diplomacy because only 15 countries signed up. They knew in their own minds that they had not actually signed up to the same thing and we did not have a dialogue which made it quite clear where do we go after 1441. Do you think that all of that confusion in the mind of the international community added to a process where the policy essentially was decided and governments were just looking for evidence to support it?

Clare Short: No, I do not think there was any confusion in the mind of the international community. I think there were two different strategies. I think that the willingness to use force and the determination of the US to do so helped to get us 1441. That was a difference and I personally think that we needed to resolve the Iraq crisis, so I am with those who say that it was a good to bring it to a head, but that got us to 1441 and unanimity was remarkable, including Syria. Of course Syria was pressed by a lot of Arab countries, and being there as a rotating member it was representing the Arab world, to co-operate because the Arab world was very keen for the thing to be resolved by the international community without all-out war if at all possible, and I think most members of the Security Council really hoped that inspection and Blix would work. I think the US wanted to go to war in the spring and the UK, I now think, had pre-committed to that timetable. I thought then that we were trying to use our friendship with the US to hold the international community together and see post-1441, which was a great achievement, if we could move forward with full international co-operation, and 64 ballistic missiles were destroyed. That is no small thing. This is the delivery mechanism for the chemical and biological weapons, so I think we were getting a lot of success and then it was truncated, and that is the tragedy. We never found out whether Blix could have been more successful, and we could have looked at a sanctions lift, we could have looked at indicting Saddam Hussein, and I thought that was the route Britain was on, but now I think Britain was never on that route and that was the difference. We have to remember with Jeremy Greenstock, who is a very, very, very fine diplomat, he receives telegrams giving him instructions and that is the process with the UN, so even a guy of his seniority all the time, over every country in Africa and so on, instructions are issued from London, so where he says that we could not get agreement because one country would not agree, he has got instructions. You know, he has been appointed today to be the UK representative in Baghdad. I wonder whether he has volunteered for his penance. He was going into retirement. He is taking over from John Sawers.

Q125  Ms Stuart: I think you repeatedly said that the Prime Minister deceived you, the Cabinet and Parliament - deceived you deliberately or deceived you on the basis of wrong information?

Clare Short: I believe that the Prime Minister must have concluded that it was honourable and desirable to back the US in going for military action in Iraq and that it was, therefore, honourable for him to persuade us through the various ruse and devices he used to get us there, so I presume that he saw it as an honourable deception.

Q126  Mr Pope: Could I just go back to the answers you gave to the questions that John Maples put about the decision-making process in the run-up to the war and during the conflict. You were saying in answer to John that there was a small unelected coterie around the Prime Minister which comprised Sally Morgan, Jonathan Powell, David Manning and Alastair Campbell, and you also said the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee never met in this period. Is it not also the case that these things were discussed in Cabinet at the same time?

Clare Short: As I have said, the first discussion at Cabinet was in October time and thereafter it was discussed at most Cabinets and I often initiated that discussion, but there were no papers and it would be, "Ask the Foreign Secretary how he got on in the last visit to New York", or, "Ask the Defence Secretary this", and then the Prime Minister would speak a number of times and I would usually say something and some others might say something, so it was not a thorough investigation of an options-type discussion, but kind of updates, "Where is everything?", and then often a, "Yes, I'm very hopeful we will get a second Resolution" type of assurance. It is that kind of guided discussion and update, not an analysis of options and a thorough kind of collective decision-making, but it is kind of giving consent, I suppose, by not objecting. The Prime Minister would ask the Foreign Secretary and others to update on what is going on and then he gives his own conclusion as to where things are.

Q127  Mr Pope: We seem to be getting conflicting messages really. You said in your resignation statement, "the Cabinet has become, in Bagehot's phrase, a dignified part of the Constitution", and it does not really seriously decide things. It clearly did discuss Iraq probably at every meeting between the beginning of this year and when you left the Cabinet. Would it be fair to say that it meets weekly and it cropped up at every meeting? The reason I ask is that we were told earlier on today by Robin when he was giving evidence, and I jotted it down because I thought it was interesting, "You could not have hoped for a fuller discussion in Cabinet. It was a rare meeting which did not discuss Iraq", so that seems to me different from what you said, that there was a collapse in the decision-making process.

Clare Short: Well, the collapse in the decision-making process, not having Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, not having any papers, not considering options, diplomatic and military options, I think is very, very poor and shoddy work and is a deterioration in the quality of British administration which is shocking and this deterioration has been taking place for some time. There were discussions in the Cabinet, I often instigated them, but I do not agree with whatever the words about "you could not have had more thorough discussion". It was the same kind of discussion we have at Prime Minister's Question Time in Parliament with people raising their concerns and the Prime Minister saying, "Yes, I think we will get a second Resolution", whatever the concern of that week was. It was not what I consider a thorough decision-making discussion and there was no kind of collective decision-making. I really mean what I said and it is not just in relation to Iraq, but it is more generally, on foundation hospitals, top-up fees. These things have not been discussed in a way that says, "What can we do to decentralise the Health Service?" or, "What can we do to get more money into higher education?" and so on, and then you get sort of at the last minute the appropriate Secretary of State saying what the position is and people toe the line. That was how it operates now and this is not what I think collective Cabinet decision-making should be like.

Q128  Mr Pope: I am just trying to get a feel of how this operates, so there is a brief discussion in Cabinet and presumably votes are not taken, but people are able to dissent or to put an alternative view and that would be listened to?

Clare Short: Well, people do not. Famously we did on the Dome at, I think, the first Cabinet and the dissent was completely ignored. People do not now. This is our political system. Yes, this is Iraq and yes, this our Party in power, but this is our political system, this is our country's decision-making system and it is not good enough. That is what I am saying to you and I think your Committee has to take this seriously for the sake of our country's good governance.

Q129  Mr Pope: Let's move on to what I think is perhaps the more serious allegation which you made. In the article that you wrote in the New Statesman in which you were saying that the Prime Minister deceived us, it seems to me that the most grave choice one could make against a Member of Parliament and especially against a minister is that they have misled the House of Commons. You appear to be concluding that the Prime Minister has misled us on at least two occasions, first, by exaggerating the threat posed by the weapons and, secondly, you were saying that he agreed with President Bush a timetable for war as early as 9 September of last year. First of all, can you confirm that those are the allegations because I think those are incredibly serious allegations to make against a minister? Secondly, you were telling us earlier on that you had access to pretty much all the bits of the intelligence data, so I was wondering if you could tell us how you tried to use that intelligence data to restrain what you must have seen at the time was the Prime Minister deceiving Parliament?

Clare Short: It is an incredibly serious thing to conclude that your Prime Minister has been misleading you and Parliament, so when the Prime Minister kept assuring me personally and saying to the House and Cabinet that he was going for a second Resolution, if you remember, he said quite often, "And I am sure we will get one unless one fickle country might veto", but I believed in that strategy and I believed in that role for the UK, so despite people saying to me that a date had been fixed, which very senior people did say, I still was going along with believing in the strategy. However, examining everything that happened and what happened to the Blix process and the views of all of the other countries involved and the people who work in the UN system, my conclusion is the sad conclusion that I have reached and it is even worse than that because I think that this way of making the decision led to the lack of proper preparation for afterwards and I think that a lot of the chaos, disorder and mess in Iraq flowed from not having made the decision properly and made the preparations properly. However, let me say because my former Department were getting clearer and clearer about Geneva Convention obligations and at first we were the only one with the military there, our military took very seriously and started ordering food and preparing for their Geneva Convention obligations and did a lot better in Basra than US troops did in Baghdad, but this unit, which was set up in the Pentagon to govern Iraq after the conflict, was not properly prepared for its duties, so I think this way of making the decision on top of the allegations about misleading us all are a large part of the explanation of the very bad situation in Iraq now and that is what I am saying.

Q130  Mr Pope: Could I briefly ask you about the intent here. I can see what you are saying, but it seems to me that there is a different way of looking at this, that the Prime Minister genuinely believed that Iraq posed a threat, that he desperately wanted the second Resolution not just in terms of the wider international community, but in terms of domestic politics, and he must have been devastated when he failed to secure a second Resolution and it made life much more difficult for him and actually he has acted honourably in all of this. If he has misled the House of Commons or the public, it was not his intention.

Clare Short: You have to ask if you reach that conclusion, and I agree that is a possible conclusion, why Blix could not have more time. The only thing we were told on that was that we could not leave the troops in the desert, but you can rotate troops and you can bring some home, so you can do that. A lot was at stake here, and the Prime Minister did try very hard after the failure of the first Resolution that they tabled at US/UK/Spain simply saying 1441 was not fulfilled and they could not get support for that and despite ministers going to Africa and so on and the US trying to press Chile and Mexico, they just could not get the majority for that, so the Prime Minister tried for this Chilean so-called compromise with the six points that would be required to be fulfilled if Blix was to be successful, including Saddam Hussein going on television, if you remember that discussion, but he was saying then, "I could get the US to give us a few more days", and it was still March, so this is the thing which drives me to my conclusion, that there had to be military action by March at the latest. Now, that, I think, closed down any prospect of a second Resolution and then we were misled about what France was saying. I do not like this conclusion, but I think the facts lead you here when you scrutinise it all and, as I say, I can only assume that the Prime Minister thought, "Saddam Hussein needs to be dealt with. This is an honourable thing to do and I've got to use my influence and my persuasive powers to get us there". There is a legal problem then.

Q131  Mr Pope: Should he consider his position?

Clare Short: I think we should, as a country, get to the bottom of it and the lessons of it. That question is a separate issue.

Q132  Andrew Mackinlay: Am I correct in saying that the Cabinet did not meet from the time of the start of the summer parliamentary recess round beyond the Labour or Conservative Party Conferences? Is that right?

Clare Short: Yes. The Cabinet does not meet when Parliament is not meeting. This business of being asked if I wanted to raise anything and I said Iraq and the Prime Minister said not and then he said he would talk to me in Mozambique was all in the summer recess period.

Q133  Andrew Mackinlay: So in terms of arguing there is Cabinet collective responsibility, it goes into deep freeze between the end of July and the third week in October?

Clare Short: Well, it does not meet.

Q134  Andrew Mackinlay: Just a ballpark figure, how long did the average Cabinet meeting last in your experience of six years of Government?

Clare Short: Something under an hour.

Q135  Andrew Mackinlay: And there are various subjects to discuss?

Clare Short: You start off with next week's business and there are other areas.

Q136  Andrew Mackinlay: Are Cabinet minutes - I was a town councillor - done like local authority minutes? Are there minutes circulated with "resolved" and "recommended" on them?

Clare Short: The minutes are very lean, but this is the deep part of the British tradition. They are very limited. They are there but the Head of the Civil Service sits there with a book writing everything down and there are two others, one for home and one for foreign because they change at the end of the table, so a much bigger record is kept which presumably comes out 50 years later or however many years it is.

Q137  Andrew Mackinlay: With the Queen Mother it will be a hundred years, I suspect.

Clare Short: They are lean.

Q138  Andrew Mackinlay: You have revealed some interesting things about the machinery of government, you have shown us some of the flaws in the thinking in some of the intelligence, but where I think there is agreement is that you actually said you did not think containment was working?

Clare Short: Containment was hurting the people of Iraq too much. We could not go on with sanctions.

Q139  Andrew Mackinlay: So you were frustrated by this. I did not want to interrupt you, you said it could not go on like this. You also recognised he posed a threat or would develop the weapons of mass destruction if he had not got them, though I take the point on that terminology. It really comes down to whether or not there should have been more time for Blix, in which case you seem to think the French and others would have fallen into line if there had been continued frustration by Saddam Hussein. Would that be correct?

Clare Short: I think we had to deal with it and we should have done our very best to keep the international community acting together, but we had to be willing to contemplate military action to resolve it. That was my position throughout and I still think that is right, we should not have just left it indefinitely with the nature of the regime and the nature of the suffering of the people. But I think the prize of having unanimity at the Security Council and getting 1441 and getting the dismantling of 60 ballistic missiles was very considerable, and we should have gone on for a bit longer to see how much more we could get.

Q140  Andrew Mackinlay: Can I be devil's advocate. It seems to me at some stage you have to blow the whistle and say, "The game is over, the time has run out". Are you not slightly confusing the decision to go war, which was taken in the late summer/autumn, as the deadline? Either we have unimpeded access for UN inspectors, full compliance or, in a sense, Saddam triggers the tripwire?

Clare Short: There was a sleight of hand over 1441. As I have said, assurances were given to the Security Council that there was not automaticity, the thing the French objected to, and if Saddam Hussein did not co-operate with 1441, it would come back to the Security Council and of course Blix came back with his reports. Our Prime Minister had got himself committed to the second resolution. I do not agree, 1441 was not in terms which said, "Comply now or there is military action."

Q141  Andrew Mackinlay: No.

Clare Short: Therefore the second resolution, therefore you are back to why not more time to do it right but with an absolute determination to take action. You have to take this point, if the real objective was to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime rather than the WMD, then there are legal questions.

Q142  Andrew Mackinlay: Yes. But supposing there had been more time but still no second resolution mandating, where would you have stood then?

Clare Short: Then we would have had to have the advice of the Attorney General and we got that advice, very strangely, very late. By then there was agitation in the Ministry of Defence that they would not go if it was not legal. The published Attorney's advice - and the day Robin Cook resigned from the Cabinet was the day we got it and he came and sat in Robin's seat - and I saw everything but that was all I ever saw and I did not see any longer papers from the Attorney General. He said there was legal authority for conflict without a second resolution. That caused surprise to some but I accept that. This is our system. If our Attorney General says that, that is the legal position. I still think we should have gone on to see if Blix could work, but once we had that advice we knew we could legally take military action even if it was impossible to get a second resolution in the Security Council. We did not know it until that date but from then on we knew it.

Q143  Andrew Mackinlay: It seems to me, although you were not Foreign Minister you were in foreign affairs in the broad sense, and it seems to me there would have been cataclysmic consequences for the Atlantic Alliance, for perhaps even the relationship of the United States with Europe, commitment to NATO, many other things, if the United Kingdom had at the eleventh hour said, "We are not going to play ball." The die was cast.

Clare Short: No, I am sorry, this is really important. That implies we had given our word earlier. I am absolutely clear we had to mean resolving it this time but it was not the eleventh hour and we had all worked together to get 1441 and to get Blix in, and we should have had more time and the UK could have been a really helpful player and helped to try to get the international community together and try to see if it could have been resolved together and if that had failed then it would have come to military action as we took, and that would have been a deeply honourable role. That is not what we did. So I do not agree that all those things were at stake. I think enormous harm has come out of what has been done. I think probably very large numbers of recruits to al-Qaeda have come out of what has been done.

Q144  Andrew Mackinlay: You raised the question of the moral justification for war, proportionality and last resort and so on, and the legal advice and so on, but surely the kernel of this matter is that Saddam at the end of the first Gulf War sought an armistice, it was granted subject to conditions, he never complied, so surely the legal and the moral basis is there, taking Thomas Aquinas on board. He abrogated the armistice terms and basically there was a search warrant. If a policeman turns up at your door and my door, you do not negotiate with him, you either give him unimpeded access and full disclosure or he has to force his way in.

Clare Short: The trouble with that argument is that he is a monstrous dictator who has inflicted enormous suffering on the people of Iraq and indeed endangered neighbouring countries and defied the UN, and the people of Iraq have suffered terrible and are suffering terribly. The teaching on the just war and the law on the just war says, "no other means". I think you could say it was a just cause, you can argue proportionality because of the nature of the regime and so on, but we did not exhaust "no other means" and in the teaching on the just war and politically that was a very big mistake. The determination to take the route you are on, "We are fed up, time is up, we are going to do it anyway" means our country was deceived about what the plan really was.

Q145  Chairman: Roughly how many meetings did you have with the chairman of the JIC or someone else briefing you on the Iraq situation?

Clare Short: With the chairman of the JIC I only went to that meeting when the groupings in the Cabinet were being briefed, until the War Cabinet was set up and he attended that daily. I saw representatives of SIC five or six times, something like that.

Andrew Mackinlay: Chairman, does that square with what we were told by the Security Intelligence Committee?

Chairman: That is one thing for the Committee to discuss.

Andrew Mackinlay: Can you put that to Clare because she might be unaware that the Annual Report says that the Intelligence and Security Committee says that, "Ministers confirm they were given the JIC papers which their private offices believed they needed to see. Officials in the Department drew papers to the ministers' department and reflected their ministers' views at JIC meetings."

Q146  Chairman: Do you dissent from that?

Clare Short: I saw the JIC papers, and they became more frequent. That is the assessment then of the intelligence. I was never asked to comment on them or feed into meetings of the Joint Intelligence Committee but I read all those papers.

Q147  Chairman: You read them?

Clare Short: I did not meet the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee when I read those papers.

Q148  Chairman: When you met him, that was before the dossier of 24 September?

Clare Short: No, I do not think it was, I think it was afterwards. It was quite late on, the meetings of the Cabinet. They must have given you the date of that.

Q149  Chairman: What briefing did you get before the 24 September dossier?

Clare Short: As I said, personally I was reading all the raw intelligence and the JIC reports regularly. And I had had individual briefings.

Q150  Chairman: Did you conclude there was any discrepancy between what you had heard and what you had read and what appeared in that document?

Clare Short: As I said earlier, it is spin, it is exaggeration of imminent threat. There is no dispute on the fact the regime is resisting the UN, committed to chemical and biological weapons and had ballistic missiles with too great a range, it is how you present how imminent the danger is as a result of that. That is where I think the exaggeration took place.

Q151  Chairman: From your contacts with members of the agencies, did you have any indication of any dissent, any concern about exaggeration?

Clare Short: You have asked me that already. This dispute came later. Once the conflict started I attended the daily Cabinet but I ceased to have - well, I had a couple of personal chats in the margin, I suppose - those individual briefings. It was too late then.

Q152  Chairman: But the imminent threat appeared on the 24 September dossier. There were a number of occasions when you met these people, when you would have had the opportunity to express your views.

Clare Short: Indeed. As I said to you, senior people in the system said to me that a date had been fixed sometime ago.

Q153  Chairman: Did they express their concern about any exaggeration in the document?

Clare Short: No, we did not have that conversation. There was concern about whether a date had been fixed and there were people who were very keen on a second resolution.

Q154  Chairman: A very final question, are there any matters which you want to raise which we have asked you which you would like to leave with the Committee?

Clare Short: I would like to mention - and I have just mentioned it in the exchange here - the incompetence of ORHA and the failure to take seriously the Attorney General's advice prior to the passing of the Security Council Resolution which then authorised the coalition to act in ways that have not previously been seen as the powers of an occupying power. I think that is a very serious question which helps to explain the disorder we have in Iraq. There is also the very serious constitutional issue of how important is the Attorney's advice. I thought it was sacrosanct, yet it was brushed to one side. He wanted to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the US so British people who were put into ORHA, British public servants, would be protected and given legality, but they would not do it. I think that is another extremely serious question. The question of the Attorney's advice and what is his power and what is supposed to happen in our system when it has been given, needs further examination.

Q155  Chairman: The advice you are referring to is the limits of the occupying powers?

Clare Short: Absolutely, which was later leaked. I would like to draw your attention to it. I think it is another very serious set of issues.

Q156  Chairman: It is your judgment that those concerns have been overridden by the subsequent UN Security Council Resolution?

Clare Short: I am sure they have legally. Once the Security Council has passed a resolution, it has authorised the coalition to behave in ways which the advice said it could not. So there was an interim period when that advice was ignored. It seems to me this is extremely serious - systems of government, powers of the Attorney General, how are you supposed to operate as an occupying power - which I ask you to look at.

Chairman: You have been very helpful. I am sure the Committee will ponder and reflect on your concerns. Many thanks.