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Question put and agreed to.
Mr. Kerry Pollard accordingly presented a Bill to make provision about pension clawbacks: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 15 October, and to be printed [Bill 145].
[Relevant documents: Third Report from the Defence Committee, Session 200304, HC 57, Lessons of Iraq, and the Government's response thereto, First Special Report of that Session, HC 635. Minutes of Evidence taken before the International Development Committee on 14th July, HC 918-i, on Iraq: the role of humanitarian agencies in post-conflict situations.]
I said at the outset last week that I fully accepted Lord Butler's conclusions, and there are now four things that I would like to announce as a result. First, there is an urgent need to fill the post of Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and I have therefore asked Mr. William Ehrman, currently acting as a deputy chair, to take over the chairmanship of the JIC on an interim basis. He is currently director general for defence and intelligence in the Foreign Office, but he is expected to take up a further ambassadorial appointment next year. Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office will set about the task of making a permanent appointment, to take effect during 2005. That will be done fully in accordance with Lord Butler's criteria.
Secondly, prior to the war, meetings were held with an informal group, including the Foreign and Defence Secretaries, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, the chairman of the JIC and my foreign policy adviser. In any future situation, such a group, which brought together the key players required to work on operational military planning and developing the diplomatic strategy, will operate formally as an ad hoc Cabinet Committee.
Thirdly, the SIS has appointed a senior officer to work through the findings and recommendations of the Butler review, who will focus on the resourcing and organisation of the SIS's validation process, the relationship between the SIS and the JIC and its relationship with the Defence Intelligence Staff. We welcome the fact that the Intelligence and Security Committee will monitor progress in those areas.
Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab):
Before my right hon. Friend moves on, will he pick up the points made by Brian Jones, the senior defence analyst, who said that he was not given the opportunity to see what was described as "compelling new evidence", which turned out to be extremely important? Presumably, as a result of that, my right hon. Friend was not given the chance to see Mr. Jones's objections. The responsibility for not showing the new evidence falls to the head of Defence Intelligence Staff and his deputy,
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who presumably did see it. That information has since been withdrawn from the dossier, so should not the head of those services and his deputy now resign?
The Prime Minister: For the reasons that Lord Butler gives in his report, my hon. Friend is right in saying that the Defence Intelligence Staff should show such documents in futureand this may well be one of the changes that takes place. I would say to my hon. Friend that none of the disagreements that Dr. Jones had with specific items in the dossier actually came to the JIC or the Government. That is not to say that they were not important, but the fact is that they did not come before the Government. As a result of the changes that we intend to make, such a thing will not happen again in future.
The Prime Minister: I shall come to the right hon. Gentleman in a moment. Let me make one other point to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen), which I will elaborate in greater detail later.
The intelligenceI will take the House to the JIC assessments in a momentreally left little doubt about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction. That was the issue[Interruption.] I am going to read the JIC assessments to the House. The intelligence left little doubt about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction and made it absolutely clear that we were entirely entitled to go back to the UN and say that there was a continuing threat from Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Beith: Dr. Jones minuted his concern on the matter that has just been referred to. The Intelligence and Security Committee recommended that there should be a clear and formal procedure to ensure that such a minute reached the Joint Intelligence Committee, which it did not do in this case. Will the Prime Minister go a little further than he did when he responded to the ISC by making it clear that there is such a procedure, that staff know what it is and that important notes of dissent must be seen by the JIC?
The Prime Minister: Without presuming exactly what the SIS and DIS will come to as an understanding of what should go to the JIC, I would have thought that what the right hon. Gentleman said follows naturally from the Butler report. In those circumstances, it would be sensible for such notes of questioningit is important to remember that the whole of the dossier was not questioned by any means; only a particular part of itto go to the JIC.
Much has been made of the fact that one JIC assessment said that intelligence was "sporadic and patchy". Let me just take the House to the JIC assessment on page 163 onwards of the Butler report. Let me say first of all that this was the JIC assessment
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of March 2002in other words, six months before the dossier was actually produced, and there was, of course, more intelligence produced in the meantime. Let me quote the paragraph more fully. It states:
"Intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction . . . and ballistic missile programmes is sporadic and patchy."
"Iraq is also well practised in the art of deception such as concealment and exaggeration. A complete picture of the various programmes is therefore difficult."
"But it is clear that Iraq continues to pursue a policy of acquiring WMD and their delivery means."
The key judgments on the following pages can be read. I shall not list them all. Some of the judgments were that Iraq retained up to 20 Al Hussein ballistic missiles, that it had begun development of medium-range ballistic missiles over 1,000 km, that it was pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, and so on and so forth in relation to chemical and biological weapons. Those are the key judgments that I received.
If we move on to the 9 September JIC assessment, we see precisely the same. Again, criticism was made of the fact that I said that it was "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein had WMD and that the intelligence picture in the dossier was "extensive, detailed and authoritative". I simply refer people again to those key judgments. The first judgment was:
"Iraq has a . . . chemical and biological weapons capability",
The point that I want to make is this. That was the assessment that we were getting from the JIC. To hear much of the talk now, we might think that it was a startling assessment which people found odd at the time. One might have thought that people would say that it was curious, that they did not know about Saddam and that type of thing. Actually, that was the view of the entire international community, then expressed in resolution 1441. It followed 12 years of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, defiance of the UN, concealment, discovery and military actionin 1998, for example. No one doubted that he had intent, programmes and actual weapons and was therefore in breach of UN resolutions.
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