Thirdly, are the public wrong to suspect that this generous severance payment for Stephen Hester is just a foretaste of the wider loss that will be made for the taxpayer if they rush headlong into a pre-election fire sale? Given that Stephen Hester said yesterday that he was confident that RBS was capable of being worth more than the £45 billion the taxpayer originally paid, why is the Chancellor rushing to prove him wrong? Stephen Hester told the BBC last night that RBS was

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capable of being worth more than what the Government paid for the shares. Does the Minister agree? If not, why not?

Fourthly, can the Minister explain why it is sensible to intervene in the executive management of RBS rather than have an orderly process of repairing the bank and thoroughly considering the full range of future options for this institution—a process that has incredible ramifications for our whole economy? We look forward to the report from the cross-party Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards and any views it might have on this, but rather than this shambolic and uncertain approach, surely we need a clear, methodical process and a detailed exploration of how the shape and structure of RBS can best serve our economy in the longer term.

Finally, why has the Chancellor not come to Parliament to set out what is obviously a change of policy? No disrespect to the Minister, but it is his boss we need to hear from today. Should not the Chancellor set out his plans first to this House and not to the Mansion House?

Sajid Javid: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I will start with his final question, if I may. He asked why the Chancellor is not here. That is because I am here; I thought the hon. Gentleman would be pleased to see me. I could well ask him where his boss, the shadow Chancellor, is. If this is such an important issue for the Opposition, the shadow Chancellor might have turned up.

I was also hoping that I might get an apology from the hon. Gentleman and some recognition that the only reason we are here discussing this topic today is the previous Government’s failure to regulate our banking system, which led to more than £45 billion of taxpayers’ money being injected into bailing out a bank—the world’s largest banking bail-out.

Let me turn to the hon. Gentleman’s four questions. First, he asked about the sequence or the terms of Stephen Hester’s departure. I am pleased to confirm to him that the Chancellor has not been directly involved in meeting with Stephen Hester prior to the announcement —[Interruption.] He has not met with Stephen Hester prior to the announcement of his departure on this issue. This is a decision for RBS and its board. They have made the decision jointly with Stephen Hester and come to a voluntary agreement. The chairman of RBS, Sir Philip Hampton, asked to meet the Chancellor last week—at Philip Hampton’s request—to inform the Chancellor of the board’s decision, and that is what I would expect, given that the shareholder is the majority owner of the bank.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the succession plans and asked whether it would have been better to find a successor in the first place. If he has looked carefully at the plans, he will note that Stephen Hester has agreed to stay on until a successor has been found or, at the very latest, until the end of this year. RBS has already begun its search process. I am confident that it will find a successor in time, but it is reassuring, as I said in my statement, that Stephen Hester is staying on in the meantime to help to smooth the process of finding his successor.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the share price of RBS this morning. He will note that—I think I am right in saying—almost every major bank’s share price

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is down this morning. The stock market is down in general this morning. I suggest that the change in the RBS share price might also be a reflection of global stock markets, particularly Asian stock markets and markets in Tokyo, which, as it happens, also fell by 6% overnight.

Next the hon. Gentleman asked about the eventual sale of the bank and RBS’s comments about preparing the bank for its future return to the private sector. There should be nothing surprising about RBS having an ambition that the bank should be returned to the private sector. That is perfectly reasonable and perfectly normal. As for the Government’s plans, we have always made it absolutely clear that we have no target price when we are thinking about the return of RBS. We have no fixed timetable, and that includes the general election. Our major concern is to ensure, as the hon. Gentleman said himself, that when RBS is returned to the private sector, that is done with due regard to getting the best value possible for the taxpayer.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the value of the shares had been destroyed. I thought that was a bit rich, coming from him. He forces me to remind the House that when the previous Government carried out their bail-out following their failed policies and paid more than £45 billion for a stake in RBS, they overpaid by £12 billion above the share price. That amount was written off by the taxpayer at that moment, but that is something else for which we have not had an apology.

If I understood the hon. Gentleman’s last question correctly, he asked whether the Government had intervened in the decision-making process of the executive management. As I have said, those decisions are rightly made by RBS’s board. The Government’s shareholding is held through UKFI on an arm’s length basis. UKFI represents the interests of the taxpayer on RBS’s board. I remind the House that that arm’s length arrangement was deliberately set up by the previous Government; we have rightly kept it in place. UKFI reports periodically to the Treasury and provides advice, and we always take that into account when making our own decisions.

Mr Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): The early work on RBS’s recovery needed an investment banker, and Stephen Hester has done a difficult job extremely well. He deserves all our thanks, and I hope that the whole House agrees with that. Does the Minister agree that, whatever further reforms of RBS are now implemented, arguing about the past—about the past price or about party politics—is not what the country wants to hear or what the economy needs in the months ahead? What we now need, as soon as possible, is an RBS that can fully support the hundreds of thousands of people who are trying to make a living in small businesses up and down the country but who cannot get the support that they need. They need an RBS that is fully functioning for the first time in many years.

Sajid Javid: I thank my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee and of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, for his comments. He is absolutely right to praise the work of Stephen Hester and I agree wholeheartedly with his views on what Stephen Hester has achieved in his five years at the bank. Perhaps my hon. Friend had his work with the Parliamentary Commission in mind when he asked his

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second question. The approach must be bipartisan and we must keep the interests of RBS and the economy as a whole uppermost in our minds.

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): I agree that Stephen Hester did a good job in reducing the size of the bank’s balance sheet and beginning to turn the bank around, but that job was not complete at the time of his enforced departure. Will the Minister tell us more about the implications of this timing and strategy for returning the bank to the private sector? May I also tell him that, whatever else the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has to say about this, if he was looking for a permission slip for a quick sale at a knock-down price, he will be disappointed?

Sajid Javid: It might help the right hon. Gentleman if I tell him that Stephen Hester himself has said in the past 24 hours that, for him, privatisation was the “end of a journey”, and that the board was looking for someone who would see it as the beginning of a journey. He has said that, for that reason, he understands the board’s decision. This is a voluntary agreement and a mutual decision between Stephen Hester and the board. The RBS board has said in its statement that it is looking forward to having a bank that is more focused on UK business and on the inevitable privatisation process.

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): A substantial proportion of the Minister’s statement dealt with setting out the generous remuneration and exit package that Mr Hester will receive. I am rather more interested in the package that British citizens will receive when the bank is returned to the private sector in order to recompense them for the different ways in which they have paid for the £45 billion bail-out. Will the Minister confirm that UKFI and the Treasury are seriously examining the idea, which I first promoted in March 2011, that all British citizens should be able to profit from the uplift in the share price when the bank is returned to the private sector?

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the absolute importance of getting the best value for the taxpayer when RBS is eventually returned to the private sector. There are many ways of doing that, and there is an open public debate on the ideas. At this point, however, it is right for me to say that while I welcome open debate, the Government are looking at the options very carefully, and we will set out a way forward after the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has issued its final report.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I thank the Minister for his statement and for early sight of it, and add my thanks to those of others for what Stephen Hester has done so far for the bank. RBS is planning a £175 million investment in the retail bank in Scotland and it also plans to maintain it as a global centre for mobile banking and a global payments hub. When Stephen Hester is replaced and the bank is finally returned to the private sector, will the Minister use whatever influence the Government have to ensure that those investments and those plans are maintained for the sake of jobs both in the bank and in those businesses that depend on the bank for support?

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Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman will be aware from the RBS statement yesterday that one reason why it has taken this step is that it believes, as do the Government, that RBS should become more focused on British business and British jobs. If the hon. Gentleman agrees with me that Scotland should vote next year to stay in Britain, that will certainly help the situation, making sure that when RBS talks about Britain, it is talking about the Britain we know today.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that Stephen Hester, who happens to be one of my constituents, was given a pretty poisoned chalice by the last Labour Chancellor when Fred Goodwin stepped down and that he has actually done an extremely good job in rescuing RBS and bringing it back from the brink? What I think most of my constituents are concerned about now is whether RBS is going to be a bank for small and medium-sized businesses, a bank for middle England and a bank for market towns such as Banbury and Bicester, helping to get SMEs and the economy moving and going forward.

Sajid Javid: I share the concerns that my hon. Friend has articulated. He will have noticed from my speech that I said RBS under Stephen Hester has made huge progress in becoming focused on lending to British businesses. I am confident that, because of the plans that have been set in place, that will become even more prominent in RBS’s strategy.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister has said quite a bit about the end of the rescue phase, but absolutely nothing about the strategy for selling RBS back into the private sector. I remind him that the Government own 82% of the shares. There have been persistent rumours in the press about the creation of a good bank/bad bank. Will the Minister confirm or deny whether that is actively being considered, and if it is, how in those circumstances will he continue, as he stated in his statement, to protect the taxpayers’ interests?

Sajid Javid: The Chancellor has made it clear in very recent statements that he wants to wait for the report from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. It is a very important report, and we as a Government want to listen and take it seriously. After the report is completed, we will set out our plans for how we see the state banking sector going forward.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): As someone who has worked in ABN AMRO and RBS, I pay real tribute to Stephen Hester, who I think was an outstanding chief executive who took the helm and leadership of RBS at the most difficult time in banking history. I am disappointed that he is leaving and I wish him every success in the future. I want to pay tribute, too, as should the House, to the staff of RBS. As we move towards privatisation, let us focus on looking at competition in the banking sector, which will deliver a much better customer service for us all.

Sajid Javid: That is exactly what I was talking about when I touched on the issue of choice in my statement. The introduction of seven-day switching, which will come into force in September, will help to engender the kind of competition that we want to see.

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Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): The Minister’s statement underlined what a shambles this is, and also made it clear that there might not be a new appointment for some time. My specific question is this, however. When my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) asked about the Chancellor’s involvement, the Minister said that the Chancellor had had no direct involvement. May I ask whether he had any indirect involvement? Let me help the Minister to answer that question. Was the Chancellor asked by any member of the ministerial team or by civil servants in Whitehall, or by people in the Royal Bank of Scotland, for his view on whether this was the right decision?

Sajid Javid: As I have said, such decisions are for the board of RBS, which is a commercial organisation. As we all know, however, because it is a commercial organisation in which the state is the majority shareholder, with the state’s interests represented through UKFI, when RBS makes a major decision it will inform the Government.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): May I pursue the question asked by the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg)? I am not entirely sure why the Minister made his statement. If this was a completely independent decision, what new Government policy has been announced today?

Sajid Javid: The Government decided that a statement should be made today because the issue is important to the population at large. Given the Government’s stake of over 80% in RBS, and given that the last Government pumped in £45 billion, I think it important for the Government to set out their strategy on RBS.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): This time last year, RBS was subject to a major technical problem. As a result, one of its constituent parts, Ulster bank in Northern Ireland, lost some customers, and many customers did not benefit from full transparency. Only recently, I was told by the Financial Conduct Authority that it could not obtain answers. Will privatisation be the next stage in the rescue package?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Lady has made a good point overall about the importance of RBS’s operations in Northern Ireland and also in the Republic, which involve lending to both small businesses and consumers. RBS takes those operations seriously, and I know that it has been thinking carefully about how it can improve them further.

Richard Harrington (Watford) (Con): Given Stephen Hester’s excellent career—he had previously spent two years at Abbey National and four years at British Land—and given that he has remained in such an important and high-pressure job for five years, it seems to me entirely reasonable for him to leave after completing the first phase of a major restructuring process, and to hand the business on to a chief executive who is more experienced in long-term matters.

Sajid Javid: As always, my hon. Friend has made a very good point. I agree with him that Stephen Hester has done a commendable job. Five years is a perfectly normal period for anyone to remain as chief executive

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of a major corporation, and that sentiment was reflected in Stephen Hester’s own comments since the announcement of his departure.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister answer one really important question about this very major change? Two banks ran into difficulties, RBS and HBOS—many of my constituents worked for HBOS—but those two banks were not run into the buffers by politicians; they were run into ruin by the group of unscrupulous, immoral bankers who ran the companies, and it was not politicians but auditors and those in the accountancy profession who never flagged that up. Let us get the record straight. Let us be honest with the British people. Let us also be honest and say “You have just sacked this banker for your own purposes.”

Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman is right about being honest, of course, and in the interests of honesty, it is important to point something out. Since he seems to have suggested that the previous Government played no role in the failure of RBS and that it was just a failure of poor banking, let me remind him of what the then shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), said in 1997 when the then Government planned to change the regulatory system. He said:

“The process of setting up the FSA may cause regulators to take their eye off the ball, while spivs and crooks have a field day.”—[Official Report, 11 November 1997; Vol. 300, c. 732.]

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): While RBS has clearly had a turbulent past and taxpayers rightly want their money back, is not the really important point that RBS has gone from a bust bank under the last Government to a normal bank now, and that it has actually made a profit of over £800 million in the first three months of this year, and that business lending is up in the first quarter to over £13 billion, almost £8 billion of which was to small businesses?

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. RBS has ended what I referred to as the rescue phase. Stephen Hester successfully brought the bank back from the brink and has started to refocus it, and the new strategy that RBS has set out will focus it even more on lending to UK businesses and households?

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): The decisions made about RBS’s future represent a huge impact on the public finances, so where is the Chancellor?

Sajid Javid: I answered that question earlier.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): May I add to the tributes to Stephen Hester? He was very responsive to MPs’ letters and he was also very good at briefing Members of Parliament. May I also pay tribute to RBS staff, however, who across the country and worldwide have been working in very difficult circumstances, and may I urge the Minister to make sure that in this transition period towards privatisation a lot of focus is put on them?

Sajid Javid: I agree. We have talked about Stephen Hester and the role he has played in bringing the bank back from the brink, but that would not have been

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possible without the dedicated staff that RBS has had, and we must never forget the contribution they have made in repairing the bank.

Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): It is clear from the Minister’s statement that the Chancellor has sacked the chief executive. Can the Minister assure the House that there is no gagging clause in the chief executive’s contract when he leaves with his package of £5 million that will stop him setting out his own views on when RBS should be sold?

Sajid Javid: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was listening to the statement I made. If he was, he would realise that the RBS board made this decision.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): As the Minister knows, I think the sooner the Government get out of the banking business, the better. There has been a lot of discussion today about the price at which they should do that. What has the Minister been able to discover about the due diligence that was done on the price the Government paid to buy RBS shares in the first place?

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend raises a good point, and it is actually quite easy to find out—although I do not think the previous Government wanted to advertise it, and nor do I think the current Opposition want us to continue highlighting it—that when RBS was bailed out, the then Government overpaid by over £12 billion and wrote that off at that time. They did the same in the interventions in Lloyds bank and Northern Rock, and, as we know, all this was a direct result of the previous Government’s failure to regulate our banking and financial system properly.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): The Minister referred in his statement to the regulatory role of the new Prudential Regulation Authority. What mechanisms have the Government and the Bank of England put in place to ensure that the PRA does not suffer from the “revolving door” disease, which afflicted its predecessor, the FSA?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. That was a problem at the previous regulator, the FSA. When the PRA was set up, its head, Andrew Bailey, prioritised the issue, making sure that he hires the best people and that they are rewarded accordingly, to make sure they can do a good job in looking after the interests of the taxpayer.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): Given that the taxpayer had to buy the bank and, shamefully, was forced to overpay by £12 billion, may I urge the Minister not only to privatise it as soon as possible, but to consider people’s shares, so that the taxpayers who paid for it have something to show for it?

Sajid Javid: I remind my hon. Friend of something I said earlier, which is that we are looking at future plans for the state-owned banking sector but think it prudent to wait for the report from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards; however, I will take his representation on board.

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Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): One can tell when this Government have something to hide: the Chancellor runs for cover and a junior Minister is sent out to make a statement and deny absolutely everything—rather unconvincingly, if I may say so. Does the Economic Secretary not understand that my constituents are still spitting with fury about the fact that they are paying the price for the mistakes made by bankers? If the dash for cash, which he has been touting around the Committee Rooms and the City of London for the past few weeks, goes ahead, yet again, bankers will make more money, brokers will make more money, and the taxpayer will lose out.

Sajid Javid: If I remember correctly, the hon. Gentleman was a member of the previous Government, not just a Government Back Bencher, so he was involved in decision making and presumably supported the action that the then Government took on banking regulation. I wonder whether he held those views back in 2007, just before the collapse of the British banking system, when the then Chancellor said in his Mansion House speech:

“I congratulate you Lord Mayor and the City of London on these remarkable achievements, an era that history will record as the beginning of a new golden age for the City of London.”

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will the Economic Secretary reconfirm that Stephen Hester’s exit package, while undoubtedly generous, is just one third of the amount that he could have got under the contract signed by the last Labour Government? Also, given that Her Majesty’s Government hold, on behalf of all our constituents, 80% of the bank, will he ensure that the terms of the contract for the new chief executive reflect Stephen Hester’s actual remuneration and not the theoretical remuneration put in place by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown)?

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I can confirm that, under the terms to which the previous Government signed up in 2008, when Stephen Hester was appointed, his exit package could have been three times greater. That again highlights the Labour party’s utter confusion on this issue.

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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The Minister spoke of the importance of RBS becoming a bank that provides greater support to the British economy. I could not agree more, but rather than flog it off, would not a more effective way to achieve that aim be to maintain the bank in the public sector and to direct investment into projects that will genuinely benefit the public and the economy—into small businesses, affordable housing and home insulation—which will also create hundreds of thousands of local jobs?

Sajid Javid: Respectfully, I have to disagree with the hon. Lady. I think the Government have no long-term role in owning any part of the banking sector.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Last but not least, I call Geraint Davies.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): This announcement has already helped to wipe £2 billion off taxpayer-held share value, so will the Economic Secretary consider a staged sale of RBS, in chunks, to maximise the return? Will he also consider keeping a residual shareholding, to maintain influence so that the ambition we all share can be met that RBS continues to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, rather than runs off, as it has before, in ways that are not in the interests of the British economy?

Sajid Javid: First, the hon. Gentleman should know that share prices go up and down, often with the general direction of the market. If he is really concerned about shareholder value, presumably he was against all the changes that the Government he supported made during their time in office, which led to the true destruction of taxpayers’ money. The Government believe that the strategy RBS has set out and made clear yesterday—a bank that is more focused on the UK economy and working with British business, with a smaller investment bank—is the right one, as is the strategy of getting a CEO who can see that process through for the next few years. We think that that will lead to value creation.

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Point of Order

12.9 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for taking this short point of order; I do not want to delay the main debate. It is a question of the accuracy of the record for the public and for Parliament, and I am indebted to Brian Simpson MEP, an agriculture spokesman, for unearthing the facts. On a matter as vital and sensitive as bovine TB, and related issues, it is important that we deal with the evidence and the facts.

The UK Government’s position has been that field trials for the cattle vaccination in the UK are prohibited under EU law, thus preventing the development of a cattle vaccine in the UK. However, recent statements from the Commission for the Environment and Rural Affairs Committee report published on 5 June show that clearly this is not the case. Field trials can be allowed without a need to amend existing EU legislation if certain criteria are put in place. Moreover, according to the Government’s statements, the Government were told last year to come forward with a programme for the field trials. However, nothing has yet been published. Finally, even though the Secretary of State has made clear that this will take 10 years, the Commission has said that that is indicative only and that the timetable could be compressed.

Madam Deputy Speaker, can you give me advice as to how we can set the record straight and get clarity on such an important issue for farmers and the rural community?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): I agree that this is an important issue but I must tell the hon. Gentleman something that I think he already knows: that is not really a point of order but a point of debate. He has got his points clearly on the record today and I am sure that he will find other parliamentary opportunities to explore them. It is not a matter for the Chair and it does not require a ruling.

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Backbench Business

Iraq War (10th Anniversary)

12.11 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War.

I would like to thank the Backbench Business Committee for enabling me to secure this debate, which has the support of colleagues across the House. It gives us a chance to reflect not only on the Iraq war but on Parliament’s role in that war. It is a debate that I believe our constituents would expect us to hold as we pass the 10th( )anniversary of the US-led invasion.

All of us will have in mind today the 179 members of our armed forces who have lost their lives in this conflict. I pay tribute to them and to their bravery, and my sympathy goes out to their families for their terrible loss. Other service personnel have suffered physical and mental trauma as a result of the war which, for many, will be with them for the rest of their lives. We also have in mind the many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children who were killed during the war or who have died since in military operations, bombings, acts of terrorism or through sickness and disease.

Possible estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary wildly. A Lancet survey between March 2003 and June 2006 pointed to over 650,000 excess deaths, while an Opinion Research Business survey put deaths as a result of the conflict at over 1 million up to 2007. The Iraq Body Count, or IBC—an independent US-UK group—reports 112,976 documented civilian casualties and points out that further analysis of the WikiLeaks Iraq war logs may add 12,000 civilian deaths to that the number. The IBC has always said that its number is an undercount because proper records have not been kept by the coalition forces, a fact that tells its own story.

Whatever the true number, there is no dispute that there has been a grave civilian price, one that continues to be paid and threatens to get worse. For most of us today, this 10th anniversary of the invasion is largely history, but for the people of Iraq it is a state of continuing war. Iraqis are being hit by almost daily attacks, with tensions growing between the Shi’a Muslim majority and the minority Sunnis, raising fears of a return to the worst level of sectarian violence. Just this week we have seen harrowing reports of at least seven people killed in a single day in a wave of bombings and attacks in central and northern Iraq. Last month was the bloodiest since June 2008, with over 1,000 Iraqi civilians and security officials killed, according to the UN.

It is a grim understatement to say that the Iraqi people do not have security. There are deep concerns about human rights, massive corruption, unemployment and miserable basic services, such as electricity and water supplies. But even if Iraq finds a way out of its current difficulties, as we all fervently hope it will, there is the legacy of the last 10 years of warfare and terrorism as well. Part of that legacy is the deeply disturbing cases being taken to our High Court, involving more than

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1,000 killings and acts of torture committed in Iraq by UK forces. We must have public scrutiny of the systemic issues arising from these cases and look to reform the training and oversight of our armed forces.

What of our own country? Do we feel more secure? Is the terrorist threat diminished because of those 10 years of bloodshed and chaos? In fact, the contrary is true. According to the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Iraqi invasion increased the terror threat in Britain, radicalising a generation of young British Muslims and substantially increasing the risk of a terrorist atrocity on UK soil. A major unprovoked attack without UN authorisation took place with dire consequences. These terrible and deeply troubling outcomes add real substance to the argument that this was the biggest foreign policy failure of recent times.

As an individual, I opposed the war in Iraq because it was my view that the burden of justification for undertaking a major unprovoked attack had not been met. I joined the anti-war protest in February 2003, which saw between 1 million and 2 million people marching in London, the biggest political demonstration in history. In successive polls by different and reputable agencies, around two thirds of British citizens say the Iraq war was a mistake.

Ultimately, Parliament was responsible for that decision to go to war. It was MPs in this House who questioned, debated and voted on the decision, both on 26 February and 18 March 2003. But if this war was a mistake, what should Parliament do now? If it were a public body—a school, perhaps, or a hospital or local authority—we would expect an admission that things had gone wrong and a pledge to learn the lessons so that it could not happen again. That, I believe, is at the heart of today’s debate. Not a blame game or resignations; not heads on platters or humble pie; not a chorus of “I told you so.” What I want to focus on specifically is the role of Parliament. How was it that, with some very honourable exceptions, parliamentary scrutiny failed? How was it that the intelligence could be so misinterpreted and misused? How was it that facts clearly in the public domain were ignored or dismissed?

These are not academic questions. Their relevance and consequences are all too real today. We cannot simply leave them to others to answer. The Hutton inquiry and the Butler inquiry had their own terms of reference. Hutton’s remit was the death of Dr David Kelly; Butler’s was a panel, handpicked by Tony Blair, that was insufficiently independent and held far too many hearings in private. Shamefully, we still await the results of the Chilcot panel fully five years after it was established, while battles continue over declassifying material. I know of at least one freedom of information battle that is still being had with the Foreign Office; the sticking point is not national security, but national embarrassment.

All of these processes can play a useful part in revealing some of the truth of what happened in the lead-up to the war and beyond. But it is not the job of these men, however eminent or well intentioned, to stand in judgment on Parliament. Parliament is sovereign, and must remain sovereign even when it comes to considering its own failures and necessary reforms. As parliamentarians in 2013, we can and must ask, and answer, whether sufficient evidence was available in the

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public domain to allow Government Back Benchers and Opposition MPs to both question and oppose the Government’s case for war in 2003.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I have always found that hindsight in politics is a great thing and makes things a lot easier. The hon. Lady should look at the evidence that came not from the Government or the security services, but from Hans Blix in his final report. I had the honour of meeting him in New York the night before his final report was published and he clearly said to me and to Bruce George—a right hon. Gentleman at the time—not that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, but that he needed more time, with full co-operation, to determine whether Saddam did.

Caroline Lucas: I can only ask why, then, did we not give Hans Blix more time? I, too, have met Hans Blix and I, too, have heard him say that were the weapons inspectors given more time, they could have established the answer without the bloody war that happened.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Does the hon. Lady recall that the weapons inspectors were not allowed to go back to Iraq because of the decision of the British and US Governments in January 2003?

Caroline Lucas: I absolutely recall that and I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It was in the interests of this country for the weapons inspectors not to go back into Iraq so that the Government could make that case.

Mr Kevan Jones: Last night, I looked at the notebook that I had at the time. [Interruption.] No, it is in my own handwriting. What it said is not that Hans Blix needed more time, but that he needed more time if he was going to get full co-operation from Saddam, and at that time he clearly was not.

Caroline Lucas: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman and I will come to other quotes from Hans Blix, who made it clear that to a great extent Saddam Hussein was co-operating and that with more time we could have avoided the war.

We as parliamentarians have the role and the job of scrutinising the available evidence that was in the public domain. I entirely take the point that hindsight is a wonderful thing. The point I want to make is that plenty of information was in the public domain.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Lady not only on securing this debate, but on the manner in which she is presenting the case. Following on from what the former loyal Minister of the previous Government in the Ministry of Defence said, it is not a question of the benefit of hindsight. Many Members of the House, both on the Opposition Benches and, in some honourable cases, on the Government Benches, scrutinised the evidence at that time and came to the conclusion that it was unwise in those circumstances to proceed with engaging in military action in Iraq.

Caroline Lucas: I am particularly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention because I will shortly pay tribute to those hon. Members who did stand up in

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this place, who did scrutinise and who did ask the right questions. The fact that they came to the conclusions that they did demonstrates that the evidence was there. Unfortunately, there was a will not to look at some of it.

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): Before the hon. Lady goes on, may I say in respect of Mr Hans Blix—I have made this point outside the House—that there is a profound disconnection between what he is saying now and what he said at the time? What he said at the time, and he repeated it in a book in 2004, was that he thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat. I know of no provenance whatsoever for the claim that the inspectors were prevented from continuing their work in Iraq by either the US or the UK in January 2003.

Moreover, the final reports from Hans Blix complained about a lack of co-operation, the inability of inspectors to interview scientists from Iraq inside or outside Iraq, and the continuing intimidation. The final report that he made, which I had to force him to publish, on 7 March 2003, catalogued in 29 chapters of 170 pages the unanswered questions that Mr Blix thought Saddam had to answer, even at that stage, about all the chemical and biological weaponry that had been known about in the past and which Saddam had failed to explain. That is where Blix was at the time. My last point is this—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): No. Will the right hon. Gentleman please sit down? I am trying to be very tolerant to facilitate the debate but there are lots of Members who want to participate, and making a speech on an intervention, however important the point, is not acceptable. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman will have to wait to make the rest of his points.

Caroline Lucas: I thank the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) for his intervention. Obviously, he has a great deal of information from that time.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Does the hon. Lady also acknowledge that there was a huge amount of foresight on the part of people who were opposed to the war, not entirely on the existence of weapons? Many nations have weapons of mass destruction. What was totally implausible was the suggestion that Saddam Hussein would use those weapons against America and against the United Kingdom in a way that would be suicidal and guarantee own defeat. We know what the reasons for the war were, and they were in the mind of George Bush.

Caroline Lucas: I welcome that intervention. We need to recognise that a threat is made up of the capability to use weapons and also the intention to use them. What Hans Blix made very clear at that point was that there was not, as far as he could see, any intention to use them. What he wanted to find out was what else there was.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Lucas: I will give way shortly. Let me make a little more progress.

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I keep coming back to the importance of MPs—ourselves—scrutinising the decision-making process that took place at the time. In that context, I was surprised and disappointed when, back in March this year, the Foreign Secretary, for whom I have a great deal of respect, wrote what was intended, I think, to be a confidential letter to members of his party, telling senior members of the Government that they should not be drawn on the controversial issues that drew the UK into the Iraq war. They should, he suggested, wait until Chilcot had reported, but that of course might not be until the next election—who knows? We are still waiting after five years, and in any case, Chilcot does not have a monopoly on the issue, and I doubt whether he or his team would want one.

I turn now to what went wrong. There is plenty of evidence that shows that the case for war set out by the Blair Administration in 2003 was deeply flawed. Intelligence was misused, concerns expressed by experts were suppressed, and the legal and political position was misrepresented. From this arises the belief among many journalists and members of the public as well as Members of this House that they were misled into supporting the war in Iraq. In fact, when one reads the documents and listens to the testimony, it is hardly far-fetched to call it a conspiracy.

In brief, Tony Blair decided to join the US in invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. He knew that the British people and their representatives were dubious about the wisdom of this, to say the least, so he used every opportunity to twist the evidence to isolate his critics and encourage his supporters. Britain was indeed spun into war. This is the foundation of the familiar position that many former war supporters now take. Often they will say, “If I had known then what I know now, I would not have supported the war”, but is that enough? Does that really explain what happened?

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): In 2005 I went out to Iraq. Then, even senior military officers were questioning the legality of their being there and having gone in. So it is not simply a matter of us doubting it. They were unsure of the legal position as well.

Caroline Lucas rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. It would really help me to chair the debate if Members made brief interventions and stayed on their feet while they were doing so. I know the hon. Lady is being very generous in giving way under some considerable pressure, but I am sure she will bear in mind the length of time that she is speaking and the others wishing to participate.

Caroline Lucas: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I was saying that many people will say that if they had known then what they know now, they would not have supported the war, and I said that that was not an adequate justification, precisely because of those Members of Parliament who were not taken in by the spin. Members of Parliament could have known then much of what they know now. A vast amount of the evidence available now was in the public domain then. We know this because of those hon. Members who did see through the lies and the deceptions, who asked the right questions,

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who trawled through the documents, who stood up in Parliament and said that the war was based on a false prospectus, and many of those hon. Members are in the Chamber today.

Let me give an example of three others, starting with an hon. Member who is no longer in the Chamber, the former Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, Lynne Jones. She saw that Tony Blair and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) made the misrepresentation of the French position a centrepiece of their efforts to win the vote on 18 March 2003. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, France had the power to veto a second UN resolution. In an interview on 10 March 2003 President Chirac indicated that, as things stood, France would use its veto in the unlikely event that a second resolution authorising military action got the necessary majority of nine members of the Security Council.

I quote from the transcript of the interview. Chirac says:

“My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote ‘no’ because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves, i.e. to disarm Iraq.”

But by selectively quoting the words “regardless of the circumstances” when describing the French position on authorisation of the use of force, proponents of the war blamed France for blocking military action against Iraq, no matter what evidence emerged of a breach of resolution 1441. Tony Blair even included the selective and misleading quote in the motion in support of military action that was put to the House on 18 March 2003. [Interruption.] I want to finish this section. The importance of the inclusion of this misrepresentation in the motion was huge. Some MPs have stated that it alone changed their minds on whether or not to vote to go to war.

Giving evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, the right hon. Member for Blackburn suggested that President Chirac’s use of the phrase “this evening” did not describe the French position on the evening of the interview, thereby indicating that this could change in the future, but was simply an introduction to what he was going to say that evening. He put that argument to the panel by specifically stating the order of Chirac’s phrasing, down to where a comma is used. However, the transcript shows that he did not give the phrasing in the right order. The phrase “this evening” came after “regardless of the circumstances”, but he said that it came first, changing the meaning of Chirac’s words to suit the argument. The right hon. Gentleman said:

‘I know there has been some textual analysis of the use by President Chirac of the word “Le soir”, but I watched him say this and I took this as no more than saying, “This evening”, comma, and then he announces, “France will, whatever the circumstances”, he says, right?’

Well, that was not right. In fact, the transcript shows that Chirac explicitly ruled in the possibility that military action might be needed, stating in the same interview that if the weapons inspector reported after more time that they were unable to do their job, war would be inevitable. To quote directly, he said:

“But in that case, of course, regrettably, the war would become inevitable. It isn’t today.”

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The French position, then, was that progress was being made on the weapons inspections and that France was therefore opposed to replacing the existing inspections process with an ultimatum that would lead to war in a few days’ time. The phrase “regardless of the circumstances” was not helpful, and it was unfortunate that Chirac used those words, as they were easily taken out of context. However, that does not detract from the responsibility of those, including Tony Blair and the right hon. Member for Blackburn, who—I argue—misinterpreted, and continued to misinterpret, President Chirac’s interview of 10 March in order to blame France for the failure to obtain a second UN resolution. The reason that it was not possible to obtain UN authorisation for the use of force is that there was no evidence showing Iraq to be an active and growing threat; it was not because of French intransigence, as UK Ministers said.

Hansard shows that Lynne Jones was ridiculed when she tried to raise the misrepresentation of Chirac’s interview in the House, but the fact that she raised it shows that there were hon. Members who bothered to get the transcript of what was actually said before the vote and that it was not necessary to accept the interpretation being given by the Government at face value. It was not a detail; President Chirac’s words were placed at the heart of the motion that Parliament debated and voted on.

Mr Kevan Jones: I got on well with the former Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, who was a very good Member of Parliament, but I think that the hon. Lady is reading far too much into this in order to support her conspiracy theory speech. On the same visit to New York, I also met the French ambassador to the UN, and it was quite clear that there was no way the French would vote for a resolution that endorsed action, and they were working with the Germans, who took the same position. It is not the case that the French were somehow up for negotiation.

Caroline Lucas: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but the point is the issue of when they were going to accept intervention—

Mr Jones: They never were.

Caroline Lucas: Well, I have seen the evidence from Chirac and the way it was treated when it came to the Chilcot inquiry, and I think that it is perfectly plain that Chirac’s intervention was deliberate misinterpreted. The words were taken in the wrong order and made to mean something different. [Interruption.] We can trade our beliefs across the Chamber, but the bottom line is that there was evidence out there that would have led Members to suspect that what they were being told at that point was not necessarily the case.

Mr Straw: First, the transcript, and indeed the video, were available to all Members on both sides of the House, so they could make their own judgments on it, and the vast majority made the judgment that we made about what had happened. Secondly, what we were seeking in the second UN resolution was not war, but peace—I was desperate for it—by an ultimatum that included six tests, which were drafted by Hans Blix, by the way, and they were tests that Saddam could easily have passed had he wished to do so.

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Caroline Lucas: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I will move on.

I want to talk about the former Member for Livingston, Robin Cook. Reading his resignation speech makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, because it is all there: the reasons why the war was unnecessary and unjustified, the critique of the Government’s position and the exposure of the misinformation and deceit. It was delivered with eloquence and with the authority and credibility of a former Foreign Secretary and member of the 2003 Cabinet. Yet his warnings were heeded only by the 23% of MPs who voted to oppose the war. How could that happen?

The right hon. Member for Blackburn said earlier that the transcript of what Chirac had said was in the public domain, and that is precisely my point. Given that the evidence was there, how is it that more MPs did not come to a different conclusion? The answer, which I will make in greater detail later in my speech, is that they were whipped massively through a system in this House that means they give up their responsibility to make their own decisions. My point is that that kind of whipping on a vote of such importance and conscience is not the right way forward.

There are many potential explanations for why Robin Cook’s warnings were heeded by so few, but most come down to the idea that Members perhaps trusted the view that there was a subplot to the invasion that the Government could not be open about, that perhaps the Government knew much more about the risk Saddam posed to the UK than they were able to say, and that perhaps the conditions were right for establishing Iraq as a democratic, pro-western state. In some cases, Members were taken to one side and given off-the-record briefings.

But I think that the answer is much more simple: too many Members put loyalty to their leader and to their party above their own judgment. They swallowed their private doubts, accepted what they were told and voted accordingly. That misplaced trust crossed party lines. It is deeply regrettable that the tradition of loyalty meant that hon. Members such as Robin Cook were not heard. It is also regrettable that the Tory leadership supported the war so unquestioningly. Perhaps there was a feeling that that level of deceit was simply inconceivable when it came to an issue as serious as war. Yet now we know that it was not.

Returning to the “If I had known then what I know now” defence and looking to the future, we can perhaps conclude thus: no Member of this House should ever take on trust the case for war. They must listen to all sides with open minds, even to the refuseniks and the usual suspects in case this time they might just be on to something. They must look at the sources themselves and ask themselves and their leaders the tough questions: is there an alternative, and what if it goes wrong? There is plenty more evidence of the fact that there was material in the public domain that should have enabled more hon. Members to make a more informed decision.

Jeremy Corbyn: Does the hon. Lady not agree, then, that one lesson we can learn, and perhaps agree on in this debate, is the need for a war powers Act that would mean Parliament must be consulted and must vote specifically on any military action undertaken on our behalf?

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Caroline Lucas: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because that is exactly the point I want to make. There should a mandatory vote of this House on issues as important as going to war. Moreover, and critically—this is the burden of what I am saying today—that vote must be a free vote based on conscience. We cannot allow ourselves to be taken along by the rhetoric of party leaders or to be bullied by party whipping and therefore, in a sense, to abrogate our responsibility to make our own decisions.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The hon. Lady mentioned the Conservative party. I was there and know what was going on in the party. The atmosphere was very relaxed. Although there was whipping, we were allowed to vote against it. Someone resigned from the Whips Office but immediately rejoined. I voted against it. We formed a judgment. I am afraid that most of my colleagues believed the Prime Minister and took the view that Iraq was a threat, but no pressure was put on Conservative MPs.

Caroline Lucas: Clearly I do not have the inside information that the hon. Gentleman has, but I have heard many a different story told elsewhere.

In conclusion, I said at the start of my speech that the justification for the debate is that Parliament must accept that it made a mistake in 2003 and set out how it will prevent such a mistake from happening again. I believe that it comes down to the acceptance of one principle: there must be a limit to party loyalty, and even of loyalty to the leader of a party. Loyalty is in some way an admirable quality. There are times when it is right to bite one’s tongue, go along with the majority, set aside one’s opinions and accept the judgment and experience of others. But there are also limits. Committing our country to war, asking our young men and women to fight and accepting that men, women and children will die in our name must be beyond the sway of party loyalty.

I would like to see the end of the royal prerogative on war and the establishment of a constitutional convention that votes on war are not subject to party whipping. I know that some Members might dismiss that suggestion, but it is a serious one and I urge hon. Members to consider it carefully. Of course informal whipping would have taken place anyway, but it would have been different. Taking away the formal obligation to vote according to the party line would have pushed more hon. Members to look at the evidence for themselves and vote accordingly. It would have given their constituents more power and leverage and put more responsibility on the shoulders of each Member. Scrutiny would not have been dulled by loyalty in the same way.

Like the issues of capital punishment and abortion, committing troops to war is a matter of conscience, and MPs should be, at least formally, free from the heavy hand of the Whips. This principle is relevant now as we grapple with the terrible situation that is unfolding in Syria. Members should demand not just a vote on whether we arm the rebels but a genuinely free vote. If Iraq teaches us one thing, it is that if MPs are to vote on grave matters of conflict, for that vote to be meaningful it must be the view of their own conscience, not their party’s line. As individual constituency MPs, many of us have constituents who have died in Iraq—who have

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lost relatives there. It is no answer to them to say that on a serious matter like this we did not challenge the case and satisfy ourselves that war was justified and unavoidable.

In future, when we are faced with a decision about whether to go to war, we simply cannot have a situation where the Government of the day tell the story and we take what they say on trust. MPs have to do the work themselves. In any future vote, we and our successors must establish, to our own satisfaction and on evidence that we have seen and heard ourselves, that the case for war has been made. Three lines on a Whips sheet are not enough.

12.40 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on securing it.

It has been 10 years since we invaded Iraq, yet the experience still casts a long shadow, and lessons from the period are still relevant today. Perhaps the most important lesson is that the war threw into stark relief the importance of basing our foreign policy decisions on firm evidence. The intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s WMD and his links with al-Qaeda, which was used to varying degrees as justification and a pretext for hostilities, was infamously described by Tony Blair as “extensive, detailed and authoritative”. In reality, it was anything but. We now know that we went to war on a false premise; there were no WMD. The British intelligence community failed to approach the Iraqi material with its customary thoroughness and consequently allowed space for the Government to mould the evidence to suit their purposes, with disastrous results. Indeed, sections of the intelligence community became the mouthpiece of Government rather than their ears and eyes, and that must never be allowed to happen again.

We learnt only the after the event the extent to which No. 10 and Foreign and Commonwealth Office spin doctors were on the inside of the drafting process for the September 2002 dossier and strongly influenced it. The then chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, was in regular touch with Alastair Campbell. A unit within the FCO, the communications information centre, promoted the case for war. This resulted in possibilities becoming probabilities and indications becoming judgments. One spin doctor wrote the first full draft of the dossier, at John Scarlett’s invitation, a full day before John Scarlett produced his own first full draft. This evidence has come out only subsequently, often having to be extracted like teeth from the Government through freedom of information requests and other means.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): I agree with the points that the hon. Gentleman is making. Is not the biggest criticism of this whole sorry episode that having made the decision to go to war, the Government spent more time falsifying information to make the case for it than planning for the subsequent occupation, which has been a complete catastrophe?

Mr Baron: I certainly think that the post-war reconstruction was a shambles that led to a serious civil war and many casualties.

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I have highlighted the detail with regard to the role of spin doctors and the FCO in the drafting of the dossier because that detail is important. When Tony Blair recalled Parliament, we were encouraged to believe that the dossier accurately reflected the assessments of the intelligence community. We now know that this was inaccurate. The dossier upgraded or exaggerated assessments made by the JIC, while intellectual ownership of the dossier did not reside with the JIC alone. Indeed, the final dossier was not even approved by the whole JIC. Yet that September we were led to believe that the account was that of the intelligence community, and that was a false impression.

Andrew George: The hon. Gentleman is making a very important point. Parliament needs to be reassured that we can get back to evidence-based policy making rather than policy-based evidence making, which appears to be the direction in which the civil servants went. We need an independent civil service that is capable of independently providing politically neutral evidence on which Parliament can assess these matters.

Mr Baron: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. For many of us, the lesson from all this is that we must be wary of Government spin when we are addressing foreign policy issues, in particular; instead, we must focus on the evidence.

Bringing this up to speed, I suggest that in the case of Iran, for example, no intelligence service, whether American, British, Israeli or any other, has yet been able to publicly produce any hard evidence, as opposed to circumstantial evidence, that the Iranian leadership has decided to build a nuclear weapon or is taking that course. Nevertheless, that has not prevented our policy makers from painting a very different picture, and tensions are running unnecessarily high as a result.

The Iraq war is also a reminder that interventions often produce unintended consequences that can turn out to be counter-productive to our interests. A woefully inadequate post-war reconstruction ushered in a vicious civil war, as other Members have outlined. Studies estimate that many hundreds of thousands died in Iraq as a result of the invasion. In fact, Iraq became a honeypot for extremists worldwide. In a bitter irony, al-Qaeda only gained a foothold in Iraq after Saddam’s downfall and then proved difficult to eradicate. Minorities suffered as well. The Iraqi Christian communities, resident for centuries, have suffered immeasurably in the wake of the invasion.

Mr Leigh: I have since visited the Christian communities and heard the harrowing tales of what has happened to them. Is not what happened in Iraq a lesson for future action in Syria?

Mr Baron: My hon. Friend and I are very like-minded on this. We have a very bad track record of considering the consequences of our actions in relation to minorities within these countries. Syria is a good example, in the case not only of the Christians but of the Alawites.

Today, Iraq looks into the abyss because of economic failure, sectarian violence and political turmoil and corruption. Prime Minister al-Maliki, having centralised power, is a tentative supporter, to say the least, of President Assad, and a new wave of sectarian unrest

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seems imminent. That is one example of how unintended consequences can come back and bite us when we do not think these things through carefully.

Furthermore, there is little doubt that the removal of Saddam Hussein fundamentally altered the regional balance of power. We tend to forget in this House that we supported Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s attack on Iran. At that time, there was an approximate balance of power in the region. In effect, by taking Iraq out of the equation we ourselves created a regional superpower in the shape of Iran, the consequences of which we are still living with today.

I also suggest to the House that the invasion ignored the lessons of history. Interventions have a tendency to support, reinforce or have an embedding effect on the existing regimes. Looking back at history, communism, for example, has survived longest in those countries where the west has intervened militarily, such as China, Vietnam, Cuba and Korea. Meanwhile, the neo-con dream of establishing a sort of liberal democracy in Iraq lies in tatters. Democracy is taking root in north Africa, in regions where the west has put in very little support, not in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the cost to the west, particularly to this country, has been very high in terms of lives and treasure.

Meanwhile, as we have heard, our intervention has radicalised elements of the Muslim world against us, not only in regions of the middle east, but on the streets of this country. Scandals such as Abu Ghraib reinforce this alienation. As has been mentioned, Dame Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, said that the invasion “increased the terrorist threat” and

“spurred some British Muslims to turn to terror.”

We are still living with the consequences of this radicalisation, as very sad recent news has highlighted.

One scratches around for positives from this period. Perhaps there are a few. If al-Qaeda was one of the reasons for the invasion, it is now abundantly clear that the Iraq war was a 19th-century colonial-style solution to a 21st-century terrorist threat. There is no point invading countries if we are chasing extremists and terrorists. Instead, our efforts against international terrorism must be much more nimble and nuanced. They must reflect the flexibility of the terrorist threat itself, focusing on intelligence and operations, supporting friendly Governments in their anti-terrorist endeavours and applying properly resourced special forces. Indeed, there are encouraging signs that we have learned lessons from that period. We must also better focus international aid on the poverty and grievances that al-Qaeda and others have all too readily fastened upon in the past.

Perhaps—I am coming to an end—there is a more general lesson to be learned. We failed at the time to carry the international community with us, and in doing so I would suggest that we lost the moral high ground. The view adopted by the US and the UK at the time was that might is right. This sets a dangerous precedent. The coming decades will see the emergence of at least regional superpowers—or even global superpowers—that might be eager to flex their muscles. Our invasion of Iraq will make condemnation of any future aggression by others less effective. The invasion showed international law to be no guarantee of sovereignty or, indeed, security. This in itself may have encouraged some countries to seek other guarantees.

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If there is a positive, it is perhaps that this war may have served to lay to rest, once and for all, the view that the British electorate would instinctively support politicians advocating intervention or war. I would suggest that Blair was never trusted thereafter. As our Prime Minister considers possible responses to Syria, he would be wise to reflect on that. In conclusion, let us hope that these lessons have been learned, for the sake of future generations.

12.53 pm

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, both Front Benchers and all hon. and right hon. Members that I will not be able to be here for the winding-up speeches.

I begin with a caveat over the word “anniversary.” In my lexicon an anniversary is something to be celebrated. There is nothing to be celebrated about the Iraq war, the most disastrous foreign policy certainly in my lifetime and possibly in the history of this country.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on obtaining this debate and I heartily agree with many things she said. I have another caveat, however, in that I think she is much too harsh on Members of this House and, indeed, the electorate. Whether individuals supported or opposed the Iraq war, it is not the case that it was not a central topic of discussion, not only in this Chamber, but throughout the whole Palace and certainly throughout the whole country. I think she was a little unfair in a similar way to that in which my Government’s spokesman, rather more unfairly, dubbed all those who were opposed to the idea of a war in Iraq —this is just one example—as knee-jerk anti-Americans. There was also enormous pressure from the press that this war should go ahead, but it is not true that we did not examine, read or question the evidence on a cross-party basis. It was the major topic of discussion.

I do not want to rerun the arguments about all the dodgy dossiers and half-truths, which are now well and truly in the public domain, as they should be for what was undoubtedly a most immoral and possibly illegal war that, as the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) has detailed cogently, is still continuing.

I endorse the point made by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion about how important Parliament is in such situations and how totally its powers can be wiped away by the Standing Orders and mores of this place. I agree entirely that that should change. If there is anything positive to be taken out of the morass of the Iraq war, it is surely the lesson that we must never, ever go down that road again.

My current concern is for both the present and, partially, the future. Syria could so easily become yet another disaster for this country’s foreign policy. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister, although I would have liked him to have been more categorical on the possibility of arming one of the sides in what is essentially a civil war, which would be a total and unmitigated disaster. To give President Obama his due, despite his pronouncements about drawing lines in the sand—such statements are all too easily made by politicians, statesmen and powers—and even though the red line that he defined has apparently been crossed, perhaps in a minor way, with the use, we are told, of sarin in Syria, there is clearly no move on the part of the United States to engage its troops and weaponry in Syria, which is to be

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welcomed. It is a scandal and an absolute disgrace that Russia, one of the permanent members of the Security Council, is completely abdicating her responsibilities in relation to this war, but that does not relieve us in this Chamber, in this country, from accepting the realities of the desperate tragedies that we created by going into a benighted war.

I have had occasion to say in this Chamber and will say again that if we are going to spend money on armaments, that would be another complete and unmitigated disaster. There is a desperate, overwhelming need for even more humanitarian aid to support those countries on the borders of Syria that are carrying the biggest burden, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, all of which have a major part to play in that part of the world. We should be supporting them, not opting for sides.

My major concern, in concert with the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay, is what I perceive to be a movement to try at some point to encourage the western powers or other allies to engage in a similar conflict in Iran on the basis, as far as I can see, having read the evidence, of an entirely spurious argument that Iran is not only desperate to make a nuclear weapon, but even more anxious to use it. That is totally off the wall, if one reads the existing evidence.

I have sketched out some of the lessons that we must learn from the gross intrusion that was the Iraq war—that living example of how power can corrupt absolutely. We have learned that if a great power attacks a smaller power, it will win. Desperate and terrible though the results of that are, the true tragedy is that nobody ever sat down and asked seriously, “How are we going to win the peace?” That is the most overwhelming lesson. However, the same thing is happening with regard to Syria. If we arm one side in that civil war, what will we do when the bullets run out—although they never will—and when the bombs stop falling?

We pay lip service to the diplomatic way of solving such problems, but we do not push it to the extent that we should. I remember clearly the news, on the day before the Iraq war turned to shock and awe, that 52 British ambassadors had written a letter to the Government saying, to paraphrase, “Don’t do it.” Not only this country, but all western nations, have a wealth of experience of the middle east. It has always been a tinderbox. At the moment, it is more than a tinderbox. What is happening in Syria to absolutely innocent civilians is utterly untenable. We can surely do better than we are doing.

For me, that is the screaming message that comes out of the disaster of the Iraq war. It is desperately easy to kill, to wound, to maim, to destroy, but how does one rebuild? It is the responsibility of those who take such decisions to have a plan for how peace, prosperity, justice and democracy can be established or restored. I have yet to read a detailed plan anywhere or by anyone as to how western nations that intrude upon other nations, as we did in Iraq, will do that. That is the most important step forward for the 21st century.

Desperate enmities have been created. The Iraq war was not the exclusive cause of those, but it was certainly a major player. As the hon. Members for Basildon and Billericay and for Brighton, Pavilion have said, those enmities are being played out on our streets by a minority

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of people, but we have also unleashed that horror on the world. It is our bound and duty—this House has an important part to play in this—to say that if anybody goes down that ridiculous—no, that is to make it much too banal—that desperate road, there must be a terminus at the end of the road that will produce, without any qualm whatever, the supposed desired result. That has not been brought about in Iraq, even though we were told that that was the main reason why the major power and its little assistant went into that war.

I say again, if any value has come from that disastrous foreign policy, it has to be that we have learned how never, ever to do it again.

1.3 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds): I congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on securing this debate and on her passionate introduction, in which she put on the record her strong views. Clearly, there is still significance and passions are still aroused 10 years on.

I also congratulate the other two hon. Members who have spoken, my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) and the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson). I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay about the importance of removing the fundamentals that give support to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. He will be well aware that the United Kingdom has done that not just in Iraq, but in other conflict states, with a particular focus at the moment on Somalia and Mali.

More broadly, the United Kingdom has contributed directly towards reconstruction in Iraq. We have helped to provide vaccinations for millions of children, improve access to safe water for more than 1 million people in southern Iraq and provide additional electricity equivalent to that used by a city the size of Leeds. We have also trained tens of thousands of teachers and approximately 20,000 policemen and women.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn was right to point out that this matter was a significant part of the lives of those of us who were Members of Parliament in 2003, and that it exercised both ourselves and our constituents. I would suggest that it was almost the only point of debate at the point in time when the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and others were deciding what they should do.

As the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion set out in her opening speech, the decision to go to war in 2003 was one of the key foreign policy decisions of the last decade. As I have said, I and other Members who were in the House at the time will remember it for ever. However, it is important to state at the outset that the policy of this Government is not to comment on the decision to go to war ahead of the report of the Chilcot inquiry. I will therefore not do so here, but will look at the future of Iraq and the UK’s relationship with Iraq.

Caroline Lucas: I am grateful to the Minister for his reference to the Chilcot inquiry. Can he advise us when we might expect to see the report and whether he is aware of machinations in the background on issues of declassification that are holding it up?

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Mark Simmonds: If the hon. Lady will be patient, I will give the House an update on the Chilcot inquiry.

The decision to go to war has had long-lasting implications not only for Iraq, but for the region, the United Kingdom, our allies and international relations more broadly. Those implications are not necessarily yet clear, but they will be debated for many years to come. There were also more immediate implications. One hundred and seventy-nine British armed forces and Ministry of Defence personnel lost their lives in Iraq, as did a number of British civilians. We must also never forget the loss of life suffered by the Iraqi people. It is right that now, 10 years on from the start of the war, we remember all of them. We must also remember those who were wounded in the war and those who lost loved ones.

Mr Leigh: Those of us who opposed the war are often told, “If you’d had your way, Saddam would still be there.” Surely we are entitled to say that so would hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, because they would still be alive.

Mark Simmonds: I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. I say to him that the tragic loss of life, wherever it occurs, needs to be remembered. We must also bear in mind the huge disparities between the estimations of the number of Iraqi civilians who lost their lives. There needs to be better analysis of that. It must also be said that the vast majority of Iraqi civilians who lost their lives did so in terrorist incidents, not in military action.

Jeremy Corbyn: The Minister must be aware of the massive refugee problem that the war created. There are still 450,000 Iraqi refugees living in Jordan. Palestinian refugees who went to Iraq from the Gulf states were expelled from Iraq after the invasion. The refugee crisis in the region is enormous as a result of that war and the Syrian war. Does he have any comment to make on that?

Mark Simmonds: The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the plight of refugees and displaced people. He will be aware of the significant contribution that the Department for International Development makes to support displaced people’s camps. The only long-term solution is to create stability and security in the middle east to enable people to return to the countries from which they originated.

Paul Flynn: Will the Minister give way?

Mark Simmonds: If I may move on, I want to make a few comments about the Chilcot inquiry because it has been one of the consistent themes in the speeches of Members so far and I am sure that other Members will comment on it as well. It is vital that we learn the lessons of the conflict. That, of course, is the fundamental and primary remit of Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry.

Mr Baron: Will the Minister give way?

Mark Simmonds: I want to make a little progress and then I will give way.

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The inquiry is a complex and substantial task and it is considering an eight-year period. When he set up the inquiry, the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), described its scope as “unprecedented”, and Sir John has said that its final report is likely to exceed 1 million words.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion asked when the process will be completed and the report published, and the short answer is that it is up to Sir John and his team. The inquiry is independent of the Government, although I assure the hon. Lady and other hon. Members that the Government are co-operating fully with it. Indeed, the Foreign Office alone has made some 30,000 documents available, which gives a further idea of the scale of the work. Those doing the inquiry have indicated that they intend to begin what is called the “criticism phase” of their work this summer. That will give individuals who may face criticism in the report the chance to make representations to the inquiry. Thereafter, the inquiry and Sir John will have to assimilate those representations into the final report. I do not have a definitive time scale for when that final report will be published, but it is essential that Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues do that work in a thorough and professional way.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): That is absolutely right and it is important that John Chilcot gets all the information required for the report. He will have seen the remarks by David Owen that hint at collusion by Tony Blair and the Prime Minister’s office to ensure that private correspondence between George Bush and Tony Blair will not be available to the inquiry. Can the Minister say that that will now be made available and that we will be able to see the private correspondence between Tony Blair and George Bush?

Mark Simmonds: Let me be clear with the hon. Gentleman. The debate about the private correspondence between Tony Blair and George Bush, and the Cabinet minutes from the time, concerns their public publication. The Chilcot inquiry has seen both sets of documents, which I hope goes some way to assuage the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.

Paul Flynn: The inquiry is already two years late given the date it originally promised to report and, as the Minister says, it is an important report. Had the United Kingdom not joined the war, Saddam would still have been removed and the war would have gone on because our support was not needed. The crucial point— I do not know whether the Minister has confirmed this—seems to be what Bush and Blair cooked up in 2002, because the decision to take the United Kingdom into the war was probably taken then. That is the essential point—not why the war took place, but why the United Kingdom was dragged into it by Tony Blair.

Mark Simmonds: That is part of Sir John Chilcot’s remit, and we must wait for the report to come out before the UK Government will comment on that.

Mr Baron: Is my hon. Friend at least able to accept that we went to war on a false premise and there were no weapons of mass destruction?

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Mark Simmonds: No, I am not prepared to comment on that. As I said, the current Government will not comment on the process that led to participation in the Iraq conflict until after the Chilcot report has been published.

Andrew George: Even if the Government are not prepared to concede that point, does my hon. Friend agree that the issue raises questions about the capacity of Parliament to scrutinise the evidence? Even if we accept the evidence from the time at face value—although a lot of us were very sceptical of it—the only thing it concluded was that Saddam had the ability of potentially reaching UK assets in Cyprus within 45 minutes, and that was all. Was that really sufficient evidence for Parliament to decide that we should go to war?

Mark Simmonds: Those are all matters that Sir John Chilcot will be looking at, and I am sure my hon. Friend would prefer there to be an independent inquiry looking at what happened, rather than a Government inquiry. We have made a conscious decision not to comment on the decision to go to war until the inquiry has reported, but as I have said, I recognise that it was a decision of huge significance.

Mr Baron: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mark Simmonds: I want to make a little progress and I will be happy to give way later. We must not get into a position of prejudging the inquiry’s conclusions, but I am sure that—quite rightly—that will not prevent other Members of the House from having a full and frank debate as they put their views on the record this afternoon. I would also find it helpful to hear the views of Members on where Iraq might be in 10 years’ time, as well as reanalysing events that took place a decade ago. We should look forwards as well as backwards.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion rightly set out some of the enormous challenges that Iraq still faces. Most visible and acute is the terrorist violence that continues to kill all too many people all too regularly, and I discussed that when I visited Baghdad in January—indeed, when I was in Baghdad a series of car bombs went off. In the past three months we have sadly seen an increase in such attacks, and the UN estimates that more than 1,000 people—mostly civilians—lost their lives in May alone. We continue to condemn utterly such acts, and almost all the Iraqi people believe that such violence has no place in their country’s future.

There are other longer term difficulties, and many fundamental political issues remain unresolved with no settled agreement on how power is to be shared. Ethnic and sectarian divisions remain, often exacerbated by those elsewhere in the region—particularly in Syria, as others have mentioned. Over the past six months, those factors have led to protests in west Iraq, and to disputes between Iraq’s political leaders that have prevented them from taking the decisions the country needs. That political deadlock holds back Iraq’s stability, and in turn its development. As has been rightly pointed out, public services and standards of living in much of Iraq remain poor, and corruption and bureaucracy are also problems that must be faced. As we consistently point out, Iraq’s human rights record remains a source of

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concern, from the Government’s increasing use of the death penalty to the recent removal of licences from some media stations.

Mr Baron: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. He is being generous, for which he is to be commended. May I take him back to the Chilcot inquiry? Probably like a lot of other Members, I have submitted evidence to that inquiry and we wait to hear its results. One thing Chilcot cannot do, however, is manufacture WMDs from his report. Given that the main pretext for war was WMDs, will the Minister at least accept the prima facie case that we went to war on a false premise because there were no WMDs?

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend makes the same intervention as five minutes ago. It may be that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) wants to contribute to the debate and address that point, but I am not going to.

Paul Flynn rose—

Mark Simmonds: I will make a little progress but I will be happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman a little later if he still insists.

My point is that the challenges Iraq faces are not the whole story. Although the level of violence is unacceptably high, it is noticeably lower than at its peak during the very dark days of 2006-07. Life across much of Iraq, particularly in the south and the Kurdistan region, is peaceful for most people most of the time. Three democratic national elections have been held since 2005 with another due next year, and in April, 8,000 candidates contested provincial elections across most of the country. Two further provinces will vote next week, and the rest in September.

Iraq’s economy has been transformed. According to the World Bank, its GDP has increased from approximately $19 billion in 2002 to roughly $116 billion in 2011. It is now forecast by the IMF to grow by 8% in each of the next five years. That growth will hopefully turn Iraq into one of the success stories of the next decade, and mean that people no longer see it as a post-conflict state, but as a key emerging economy.

The International Energy Agency world economic outlook predicts that Iraq will be responsible for nearly half the increase in global oil production over the coming decades, and its production could double by 2020. The hydrocarbons potential represents a huge opportunity to drive economic growth for the good of the maximum number of Iraqi people, if used responsibly and properly.

Paul Flynn: We went to Iraq to defend ourselves against non-existent weapons of mass destruction. We are now being prepared to go to war in Iran to protect ourselves against non-existent Iranian long-range missiles carrying non-existent Iranian nuclear bombs. The Minister cannot postpone the Government’s responsibility and say that we must wait for the Chilcot report, which will be produced this year, next year, some time or never. They must take a decision on Iran, possibly in the near future. Should we not be informed of the truth of what we did in 2003?

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Mark Simmonds: The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that he will not tempt me away from the well considered Government line on the Chilcot inquiry. I will not get into the details of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. His point on Iran has been made by other hon. Members. I acknowledge and respect his perspective and views, but the international community has serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme. The Government continue to believe that the twin-track process of pressure and engagement offers the best hope of resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. We are not advocating military action against Iran, but all options should remain on the table.

To return to the positive side of Iraq, the Iraqi Government’s task is to build on that progress and make the most of the opportunities, ensuring that Iraq’s economy is booming, and that that translates into a better life for normal people throughout the country. Improving the country’s security, which has been fully under Iraqi control for 18 months, is vital, but the Iraqi Prime Minister and other political leaders need to find an inclusive political process to resolve the underlying tensions that, I acknowledge, remain, and therefore to reduce the space within which the extremists operate. In that context, I welcome the holding of last Sunday’s Cabinet meeting in Irbil, which I hope sends a signal of serious intent to improve relations between the Federal Government and that of the Kurdistan region.

No doubt many hon. Members will want to raise Iraq’s relations with the region. Increasingly, Iraq has been making progress on rebuilding its relationships with countries that were once adversaries. I was particularly pleased to note that the Kuwaiti Prime Minister met Prime Minister Maliki in Baghdad only yesterday. That is another sign of the increasing warmth of relations in the region.

The UK will continue to support Iraq as it faces those challenges. Indeed, the relationship between our countries is increasingly strong. That is true at the Government level. Four UK Ministers including myself have visited Iraq in the past nine months. We visited not only Baghdad, but Irbil and Basra—my right hon. Friend Lord Green, the Minister for Trade and Investment, visited Basra. We have relationships in the Defence Ministries—a meeting took place in London only this morning. I can assure the House that UK Ministers press the Iraqi Government and Ministers on a range of issues, including their plans to improve security.

Our relationship is strongly increasing on a commercial level. Exports were up significantly, and not only in the hydrocarbon sector. There are opportunities in sectors such as education, health care, infrastructure and financial services. The UK Government are doing what we can to help. For example, when the Foreign Secretary was in Iraq in September, he agreed we should set up a UK-Iraq ministerial trade council, which was launched in February by my colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), who has responsibility for the middle east.

We have opened a new visa application centre in Baghdad, and encouraged Iraqi Airways to schedule direct flights from London to Baghdad for the first time in more than two decades, which it has done. All of that will help to cement the closer ties between the UK and Iraq at individual level. Hon. Members will be aware of

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the large and significant Iraqi diaspora in the UK. Iraqi students are keen to study here, and we are even beginning to see British tourists return to the Kurdistan region.

Many other hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall draw my remarks to a conclusion. I hope those links continue to strengthen. It is right for us to look forward to the future of Iraq even as we look back on the events of 10 years ago. As I have said, the Government have not come to a conclusion and will not comment until we see Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that, to maintain internal security, which is vital to restoring the Iraq economy and keeping civil peace, we need to ensure that external actors in the region do not participate in stirring up ethnic conflict within Iraq?

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to make that point. When I was in Baghdad in January, there was significant concern across the political spectrum and the religious divides in Iraq about Syria, and about the potential spillover into Iraq. It is right that the international community, and the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, focus on using all the levers they have to try to find a lasting political solution to the challenges in Syria.

Iraq is undoubtedly a country of great potential, with an economy that is expanding at 8%, but it has challenges. The UK wants to assist in resolving those challenges for the benefit of the maximum number of Iraqi people in the minimum time scale.

1.25 pm

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) for securing this important debate. She spoke powerfully and with great eloquence and passion. The hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson) have said, essentially, that we need to learn profound lessons from the decisions made at the time of the Iraq vote 10 years ago and what has happened since. It is clear that the events and considerations of the Iraq vote set the context for the House’s current foreign affairs discussions on, for example, Syria and Iran. In that respect, at least one lesson has been learned.

I pay tribute to all those who died in the conflict in Iraq, remembering in particular those 179 British troops, who have been mentioned, who died in the service of their country. They served in profoundly difficult and dangerous circumstances, and we owe them a profound debt of gratitude.

The discussion has touched on the various and profound issues relating to the vote back in March 2003, and hon. Members have referred to the Chilcot inquiry. I am grateful to the Minister for the update he has provided today. We will consider the outcome of the inquiry very closely.

Jeremy Corbyn: My hon. Friend will have heard earlier interventions on the need for a war crimes Act in this country. The vote on Iraq was unprecedented, but the royal prerogative prevails, so the Prime Minister

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could take the country to war without a parliamentary vote. Does my hon. Friend believe it is now time for a war powers Act?

Ian Lucas: One often forgotten point is that the vote was unprecedented. The then Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), who is behind me keeping an eye on me, deserve great credit for that. There was intense debate up to 2003, and the vote was important.

Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman did not vote for the Iraq war. What part of the case for war did he not agree with? Several people said there was a solid case, but what made him vote against war?

Ian Lucas: The hon. Gentleman has beaten me to my next paragraph—I was about to mention my position in respect of the March 2003 vote, which I remember very well indeed. The Minister said that little else was in the minds of Members of Parliament at the time, and there was certainly little else in my mind. I made the decision to cast my vote against the Labour Government, the first of only two occasions when I have done that—I was right the other time, too—and I will explain why.

In 2003, I sat through the entire debate on the Back Benches, but was not called. It was only in 2006 that I had the opportunity to speak and explain why I had made my decision. I had an advantage then, because the weapons inspector Hans Blix had spoken following the end of the Iraq war. He said—this is very important—that in March 2003 his belief was that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. I believed, and still believe, that the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, also believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. It was on that basis that those who voted in favour of the war made their decision.

My decision was not made on the basis that I opposed any intervention, but that the weapons inspectors needed more time. I looked at all the evidence, thought long and hard, and decided that it was right and appropriate for me to vote against the war. I do not regret that decision and I never have. It is important to recognise that 139 Labour MPs made the same decision. Some suggestions that MPs were sent down the wrong path by representations made at the time could be put in a misleading way. Many of us made the decision on the basis of all the evidence we had at the time, and we made the correct decision.

Paul Flynn: I recall those days of great turmoil well. Does my hon. Friend think it is a matter of regret for this House that the three Committees we had to oversee these matters—the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Defence Committee —were cheerleaders for the war and did not act with the kind of independent scrutiny that they perhaps should have?

Ian Lucas: I cannot pass judgment on the work of the Committees, because I have not looked in great detail at the position they took at the time. I am sure that the vast proportion of hon. Members will have made their decision honestly and in the way that they thought was right.

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We know that the decision was important not just to Members of this House, but to an enormous number of people outside. It had a profound impact on British politics. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the war led to a fundamental loss of trust in the Labour party, and it is right that the Labour party should acknowledge that. Those who knocked on doors in the subsequent general election were made well aware of that, which is one of the great qualities of our democracy.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend not just on the position he took 10 years ago, but on the way he is presenting his case today. A number of Labour MPs took the same decision. Indeed, if it had not been for the votes of the Conservative party and others, the motion would not have been carried. Has he given consideration to the suggestion that votes on war should be matters of conscience, and not be whipped?

Ian Lucas: The 2003 vote was whipped and I still did what I thought was right. Members of Parliament should always do what they think is right.

Mr Straw: May I echo the point made by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) that it was a whipped vote in name only? The vote was perfectly open. Given the extent of the rebellion on both sides, people were able to make their own judgments. Inside the Government, there was a clear expectation that anybody taking the Queen’s shilling would vote with the recommendation of the Cabinet, but it was open to Ministers to resign—two did, very honourably. Others chose to stay.

Ian Lucas: I think that votes on important matters in this House always have consequences. This vote had consequences for those MPs who did not support the Government on that particular occasion.

Paul Flynn: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Ian Lucas: May I make a little progress? I think I am getting stuck.

Regardless of individual positions taken by Members across the House at the time of the invasion, all of us agree that 10 years on we need to reflect on the consequences of the conflict and on the procedures that led to the vote, and to draw important lessons for the future.

As I touched on earlier, the Iraq war casts a long shadow over the House, setting the context for debates on foreign policy and, in particular, current debates on the middle east. Ten years on, the effect of the intervention on Iraq itself is that the negatives still outweigh the positives. There has been a protracted period of internal conflict within Iraq. As the Minister said, terrorist attacks continue, with people killed in Baghdad only this week.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): I commend the hon. Gentleman for the tone he is adopting. It is refreshing to hear such personal thoughts from the Front Bench. I am concerned about what we did once the decision was made and we took responsibility for Basra. My concern, which I put to Clare Short, was why a diktat had gone around the Department for International

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Development to say that the war was illegal and that the Department should not have any involvement or take any responsibility. Does he agree that that put huge pressure on our armed forces, who created an umbrella of security but were unable to progress with governance and reconstruction?

Ian Lucas: The position of the troops following the war was one of the issues that weighed on my mind. It is always important to pay tribute to our troops. Following the vote, we asked them to serve and it was important that we supported both them and Iraq, so that it could develop and rebuild. The tragedy is that that did not happen. We need to focus on that issue and learn from it.

The massive instability in the middle east currently is caused partly by the Arab awakening and the response to it, but also by the perceived increased reluctance of the west to get involved in the region. I believe that the roots of that reluctance are the events in Iraq in 2003. There are, however, some positives. It is right to acknowledge that Saddam Hussein and his sons are no longer in power. None of us in this House mourn the passing of that dictatorship. That was brought home to me this week. I returned last night from a visit to the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, as a guest of the regional Government. It was my first visit to Iraq. In Barzan, I met victims of Saddam Hussein, including women who had lost husbands, their faces still etched with grief 30 years on. There is no doubt in the minds of Kurds—the victims of Halabja and the Anfal—that the 2003 intervention was justified. I also visited the Domiz refugee camp, where the Kurdistan regional government, working with UNHCR, has provided refuge to 150,000 fleeing Syrians, mainly Syrian Kurds. For someone who voted against the Iraq war, this was an important visit.

We must all today accept that foreign policy is made in the long shadow of the Iraq war—that cannot be denied—but it should inform, not paralyse policy. Intervention took place in Libya, authorised by the UN, backed by the UK Government and supported by the Labour Opposition. The consequences there are still unfolding, only serving to confirm the lesson of Iraq: that winning a military victory in the short term is merely the start of any process of building a stable and functioning democracy. Ten years on from the Iraq war, I saw earlier this week that in parts of Iraq we have the beginnings of a new democracy. Prime Minister Maliki visited Erbil on Sunday, as the Minister said, to work through issues and disputes that have arisen between the different parts of Iraq. A political process is going on to resolve those difficulties, and that is progress, but there are still massive challenges in Iraq and we must not overstate the progress made.

The international community is most effective when it works collectively, through the UN, to take necessary action. I hope and pray that the next decade will be defined by the kind of international co-operation that was regrettably absent in Iraq.

1.42 pm

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): I thank the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) for securing this debate, and it is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas), who made an extremely moving speech.

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I was not in the House for the 2003 vote, and I certainly do not want to focus on it today; I am far from sure that I would have made the right decision. In fact, I think I would have been on the wrong side in 2003. It was not until I was stuck in Iraq in 2003 that I saw what a mess it was. I want to reflect briefly, therefore, on the lessons we might be able to draw, not so much from the decision to intervene, but from the questions about how we got stuck there and why we find it so difficult to acknowledge our failure.

The starting point for any discussion of Iraq has to be an acknowledgment that it was a failure and a scandal. However we look at the costs and benefits of what happened there, it was probably the worst British foreign policy decision since the Boer war or the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1839. Never have the British Government made a worse decision. By that, I do not mean that had I been in the House I would have voted differently. In fact, I suspect that I would have voted in favour of the war, wrongly. I hope, however, that this is an opportunity to reflect on what Parliament is, what the Foreign Office is, what the military is and how Britain as a whole—or at least the British policy establishment—could get something so wrong.

This matters because there are many similarities between what we did in Iraq and what we are doing in Afghanistan, and many similarities between those things and what we occasionally think of doing in Mali or Syria. At the base of the problem is our refusal to acknowledge failure, to acknowledge just what a catastrophe it was, and the House’s refusal to acknowledge how bewildering it was, how little we know and how complicated countries such as Iraq are. Sitting in Iraq for 18 months from the middle of 2003 to 2005, I found myself facing, in a small provincial town called al-Amara, 52 new political parties, many of them swarming across the border from Iran and many of them armed.

Nobody in the Foreign Office or the military, and certainly nobody in the House, would have been able to distinguish between Hizb-e-Dawa, Harakat-Dawa, Majlis Ahla, Hezbollah—which turned out in the Iraqi context to consist of two men with a briefcase—or any of the other Shi’a Islamist groups that emerged. None of us in the British policy machine predicted in January 2005 that 90% of the votes in the south of Iraq would go to only three Shi’a Islamist parties. Everybody in the foreign policy machine then predicted that it would be different at the end of 2005, and we were all wrong again. Why were we wrong? We were wrong because we did not have the right relationship between politicians, diplomats, soldiers and the local reality of these countries. We have not got it right yet.

We have not got it right because it is not realistic today—as it was not realistic at the time of the Boer war or the first Anglo-Afghan war—to expect people in Parliament to be experts on the internal politics of Iraq. What really began to go wrong after the invasion, beyond the decision about WMD, was all to do with micro-relationships in Nasiriyah and al-Amara and in the relationships between the different grand ayatollahs in Najaf. These are not things that anyone in the Chamber, however well briefed, can pretend to understand or judge. Instead, we have to rely on the military, the Foreign Office and the intelligence agencies, and there the problem starts. The problem starts because the entire structure of our organisations—their incentives,

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their promotions, their recruitment, how they interact with policy makers, politicians and Ministers—does not help us ever to acknowledge failure. In fact, these institutions are designed to trap us in these countries.

Careers are made by people going out for short tours. I remind the House and those in the Foreign Office that the initial tours in Iraq were for six weeks, extended to three months, then to six months. The idea—that people living in heavily defended compounds, moving around in armoured vehicles, generally unable to speak a word of any local language, unable to interact with an Iraqi for more than half an hour or an hour at a time, except if surrounded by heavily armed men and operating through translators, could really get a sense of whether Iraq was stabilising or what, to use the Minister’s words, Iraq would be like in 10 years—was of course misleading. The advice and challenge that they could provide to the Government, therefore, was not good enough.

It is not good enough that not a single senior British diplomat formally recorded on paper their opposition to what was happening in Iraq. Many of those who were inside the system now say that they made private comments, that they were worried, but nobody, from the political director downwards, formally objected on paper to the Prime Minister.

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): Was that not compounded even further by the American Administration, where if someone questioned what was going on, either strategically or tactically, they were sent back to the states, their future career very much in question?

Rory Stewart: That is a very good point, and perhaps it is a way for me to wrap up my analysis of the Foreign Office. Of course, this is not a uniquely American problem. Within any British civil service Department, there is no great incentive to admit failure. When I look back at the reports I wrote stuck in al-Amara and Nasiriyah, I find it extraordinary how every week, I claimed great success. Every week, I would write, “We’ve hired another 300 people into the police. We’ve held a new sub-district election. I’ve just created 3,000 jobs. We’ve just refurbished another set of clinics and schools.” To read report after report, week after week, it looks as if the whole thing is getting better and better. In retrospect, I know differently, of course. When I began, I could go into the bazaar to get an ice cream, but by the end, I was stuck in my compound with 140 rocket and mortar-propelled grenades flying at the compound, and we had to abandon it and retreat back to a military base, essentially surrendering Nasiriyah, a city of 600,000 people, to the insurgents.

The situation is not helped by the way we talk about it in Britain today. We do not really think very much about Iraq. We do not think very much about what exactly Iraq is doing with Iran or Syria at the moment, why exactly Iraq got involved in dubious banking transactions to bust sanctions on behalf of the Iranian Government or why exactly our great ally, al-Maliki, appears to have been allowing trans-shipment of weapons from Iran into Syria. Why do we not think about these things? It is because we are not very serious. At some level, this country is no longer being as serious as it should be about foreign policy. Our newspapers are not

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writing enough about Iraq. The Foreign Office is not thinking enough about the failure. The military is not thinking enough about these things. Unless we acknowledge that something went wrong in Iraq and that something went deeply wrong in Afghanistan, we will get ourselves stuck again.

What do we do about it? We need to reform. It cannot be business as usual. We cannot just go around pretending it was all fine. We cannot simply blame Blair and Bush.

Pete Wishart: Is not the reason for us going to war in Iraq actually quite simple? Prime Minister Tony Blair had some perverse obligation to George Bush, and that is why we went in.

Rory Stewart: The hon. Gentleman has raised exactly the point that we need to talk about. We believe that somehow it is all the fault of Blair and Bush—this is the myth that has entered the national consciousness. My experience as someone inside the system is that we have to look much more deeply at ourselves. We need to look at the Foreign Office, the military, the intelligence services and Parliament. These people, Blair and Bush, do not operate in a vacuum; they operate in a culture that did not challenge and shape the debate sufficiently. It is not realistic for Blair or Bush to know deeply about these situations and it is simply a constitutional convention, of course, that the people who make the decision are the Blairs and the Bushes. However, if we look at what got us trapped on the ground in Iraq—at why, for example, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) found it difficult to get out of Iraq or why President Obama found it difficult to say no to the surge—it is because these people are part of a much bigger system.

The reform of that system is threefold. First, we need radically to reform the way in which the Foreign Office operates. The Foreign Secretary has begun; we need to go much further, thinking all the time about the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to focus on people with deep linguistic and cultural expertise. We need to ensure that we change all the bureaucratic mechanisms. The core competency framework for promotion in the Foreign Office needs to be changed. The amount that people are paid for learning languages in the Foreign Office needs to be changed. The posting lengths need to be changed. The security conditions for the Foreign Office need to be changed, because unless we begin to understand deeply and rigorously what is happening on the ground, it is difficult to challenge the Blairs and the Bushes.

Caroline Lucas: I thank the hon. Gentleman for making such a powerful speech, but when it comes to whether it is right or wrong to blame Bush and Blair, I think he is being a little too generous in his assessment of them. He is giving the impression that they were sitting waiting to hear what the evidence was, when it seems clear—certainly in the case of Bush and maybe in the case of Blair—that they had already made up their minds. They already had an agenda.

Rory Stewart: I am sure that much of that is true. I am not here to defend that decision—it was a terrible, catastrophic decision—but I think it is dangerous to put

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the whole blame simply on Blair and Bush, because the implication is that if we do not have Blair and Bush around, we will never get in these messes again. We will get in these messes again because we have not created the proper Government policy structures required to think these things through—not just to avoid the decision to invade, but above all to get out more rapidly once we have made a bad decision.

Military reforms—you have very kindly given me some time, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I do not have enough to talk about this today—involve accepting that the military have too much power in the policy debate. That is not the military’s fault: they are filling a vacuum. The military feel that the Foreign Office is not taking the lead and that somebody needs to do something. I saw that all the time on the ground in Iraq. I remember a major-general saying to me, “The diplomats and aid workers aren’t doing anything, so we”—the military—“need to take those things over,” but that is not the military’s job. It is extremely dangerous, because its puts generals in positions where they make optimistic predictions about their capacity to sort things out, albeit without a detailed understanding of the politics or the reality of those aspects of governance or diplomacy.

We in Parliament need to look at ourselves—it is on this that we need to conclude. The hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) was exactly right to ask us to look hard at how the Select Committee on Defence, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Intelligence and Security Committee got this wrong. What reforms have we introduced to those Committees to ensure that we do not get it wrong again? How do we as Members of Parliament operate in a very complicated world? It is not realistic for any of us in this Chamber to understand exactly what the difference is between Harakat-Dawa, Hizb-e-Dawa and Hizb-e-Dawa Islamiya. Everybody is learning desperately from briefs, trying to sound plausible, but there are 200 nations in the world. Ministers are busy. Politicians are busy; they are worrying about their constituents. They are not deep experts on these issues. We therefore need to create a system that we can rely on in the Foreign Office, the military and the intelligence services. We in Parliament need to know how to question those people, how to listen to them and how to promote people who disagree with us. We need in Parliament to learn how to look at which civil servants got it wrong and hold them accountable, rather than promoting, as we did, almost everybody who was implicated in the Iraq decisions.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD) rose—

Rory Stewart: I am coming to the end.

Finally, we need above all to learn—I feel, as a new Member of Parliament, and with all deference to this House—a lesson of humility.

1.56 pm

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) has been able to secure today’s debate. It is timely, obviously, and it is important that we should have plenty of time to talk about this issue, even 10 years down the line. She made a fine and impassioned speech and set the tone for the debate.

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I do not always see eye to eye with the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas), who speaks for the Labour party, but I must say that he made a very fine speech. It was a balanced speech, it came from the heart and it was refreshing to hear such a speech from the Front Bench. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), who speaks with great knowledge about things diplomatic and military. They are things that I know very little about—I will place that on the record now, lest it becomes too obvious later on.

Paul Flynn: Does the right hon. Gentleman follow the significant point made by the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) about the unimportance of being right on these decisions? Those who sided with error saw their careers flourish, while those who were right and objected to their Ministries saw their careers wither.

Mr Llwyd: That is absolutely right, obviously. That is a feature of the system that we are all embroiled in at the moment, imperfect—greatly imperfect—as it is.

I want to start by quoting something that was said recently:

“I let Parliament have the final say on me decision to go to war. I made statements, answered questions, took part in debates. But in the end there was a decision that had to be made: on the basis of the information available, to decide whether to join the US coalition and remove Saddam; or to stay out. I decided we should be in. The job of the Prime Minister is to make such decisions based on what he believes is in the interests of the country.”

Those words are taken from the end of former Prime Minister Blair’s statement to the Chilcot inquiry—an inquiry that, as we have heard, has so far failed to report, despite almost exactly four years having passed since it was first announced in this place by the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). As I shall briefly outline today, I have reservations about the Chilcot inquiry, which I suspect was as flawed and compromised from the outset as the then Government’s decision to go to war.

Let me nail one other myth. The Liberal Democrats are very pleased to go around saying that they were the only party to vote against. We voted against, the Scottish National party voted against and many Members of other parties voted against. We were described as jellyheads and all kinds of things.

Martin Horwood: I do not recall us often saying that we were the only party to vote in that way. I am happy to acknowledge publicly the support of Plaid Cymru and the other parties that stood alongside the Liberal Democrats in the Chamber in opposing the war. Is not the truth that the most chilling words were those of Tony Blair in the recent BBC documentary, when he said that he had reflected that it was time to remake the middle east? Did not the combination of that kind of messianic leadership and the enormous momentum towards war mean that no amount of political or even expert diplomatic advice would have changed their minds?

Mr Llwyd: I am very pleased to agree with the hon. Gentleman. He has made a good input into the record.

Between 2002 and 2003, my then Plaid Cymru colleagues Adam Price and Simon Thomas and my hon. Friend the Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams), along with

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our colleagues in the SNP, were unanimous in our opposition to the incursion into Iraq and, on 18 March 2003, we voted against the invasion. We did not believe then, and nor have we ever believed, that the dossiers produced by the then Government displayed any credible threat from Saddam Hussein’s regime. In the words of Mr Blair that I quoted a moment ago, the former Prime Minister said that he had let Parliament have the final say on whether we should go to war, but the motion on which Parliament voted asserted:

“That this House…recognises that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and”—


“long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security”.—[Official Report, 18 March 2003; Vol. 401, c. 760.]

The motion was flawed in several regards, so we were meant to vote on a flawed motion in any event, quite apart from the fact that the evidence did not stack up to create a credible or immediate threat from Saddam’s regime. Thus the basis on which Mr Blair led Parliament to decide was a false premise. The jury is still out on the extent to which Mr Blair and the Cabinet knew that the claims were counterfeit.

On the day after the House voted for the invasion, the Prime Minister said:

“We want to ensure that any post-conflict authority in Iraq is endorsed and authorised by a new United Nations resolution”.—[Official Report, 19 March 2003; Vol. 401, c. 932.]

There were of course those of us who argued even then that the Government were not acting under the endorsement of an existing UN Security Council resolution, because as Sir Jeremy Greenstock admitted, there was no automaticity in resolution 1441 and our incursion into Iraq was therefore illegal under international law.

On 24 November 2004, an impeachment motion was tabled in the name of myself, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier), Douglas Hogg QC and the First Minister of Scotland. The motion had been supported, in writing or otherwise, by 24 Members of this House, but it was never called for debate. However, the Impeach Blair campaign had the support of the Stop the War Coalition, the Green party, Frederick Forsyth, Terry Jones, Brian Eno, the late Harold Pinter, the late Corin Redgrave, the late Jimmy Reid and, last but by no means least, the late—alas—Iain Banks.

With hindsight, and following debates on this topic, that one sentence of Mr Blair’s seems almost to override all else: he had decided that “we should be in”. He had made that decision without a second UN resolution, when most of the world was against the incursion. He had decided that the UK would lend its support to President Bush’s war on terror, whatever the cost. Let us be realistic; Bush had the might to do this in short order in any event. He wanted a cloak of legitimacy, and that is how he lured Tony Blair in to support him—and at what a cost it has proven to be.

Today, Iraq is the state fifth most at risk of terrorism in the world, and the eighth most corrupt. It is a country marred by car bombs and corruption. Under the Shi’a Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, power is divided along ethnic lines. Economically and physically,

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the country has been all but destroyed. In a poll published in September 2011, 42% of Iraqis said that they were worse off as a result of the invasion, compared with only 30% who thought themselves in some way better off.

The war has arguably resulted in the other members of the so-called axis of evil, Iran and North Korea, obtaining nuclear weapons, and the risk of terrorism at home has definitely increased. We have heard quotes from Eliza Manningham-Buller and others on that subject. There is no basis for claiming that al-Qaeda had a real presence in Iraq before 2003, but the war itself has established one. The human cost has also been devastating. Between March 2003 and the end of UK operations in May 2011, 179 UK armed forces personnel died as a consequence of operations in Iraq. Of those, 136 were killed in combat. I join other Members across the House in paying tribute to them. Whatever foreign policy decisions are arrived at in this place, they always do their best and carry out their duties bravely. I respect them for that. The question of whether the war was lawful or otherwise is our problem.

Jeremy Corbyn: I accept everything that the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but does he not agree that there also needs to be some reflection on the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and on the many atrocities that were perpetrated on ordinary Iraqi people by occupying troops in that country?

Mr Llwyd: Absolutely; the hon. Gentleman is quite right. He also voted against the war and took part in the debates at the time. We have not even touched on that important subject in today’s debate, but I hope that, if he catches the Deputy Speaker’s eye, he will develop that theme. It is vital that it should be brought into the debate.

According to the Iraq Body Count project, an unofficial survey of Iraqi civilian casualties, between 113,000 and 123,000 civilians have died as a result of violence in Iraq since March 2003. According to the same source, 883 civilians died in May 2013—the highest number of civilian deaths in any month since April 2008. That is the ugly legacy of this war.

Let me tell the House that it gives me no satisfaction whatever to stand here today and say that we who voted against the motion were proved right. The damage to Iraq, has, as they say, already been done. However, many unanswered questions remain about our descent into war in the spring of 2003. I want to quote from the words spoken by the then Member for Blaenau Gwent, Llew Smith, who said:

“We…need to know whether Ministers simply proved to be very bad judges of geopolitics, stubbornly refusing to listen to the millions who marched against the war…or—worse—deliberately distorted the evidence, cherry-picked the details that suited their case for invading Iraq, and pressed the Attorney-General to provide an opinion that endorsed a political decision already taken two years earlier to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam.”—[Official Report, 9 March 2004; Vol. 418, c. 1426.]

Personally, I have little doubt that the evidence was indeed distorted, as the decision to go to war had already been made months, if not years, before a motion was ever put before the House. I saw proof of this dating from 2002, and I will return to that point later if I may.

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On 9 March 2004, I opened a debate calling for the advice of the Attorney-General on the legality of the war in Iraq to be published in full. I said during that debate that Treasury counsel would have received instructions when they were advising the Attorney-General, and that, had counsel been ill informed or misled in those instructions, the advice would have been flawed ab initio. I said that it was of the utmost importance to establish whether the instructions given by the Attorney-General contained reference to the now infamous 45-minute claim. Had these instructions contained such references and had counsel accepted them as valid, the whole basis of that advice would obviously have been flawed. I made it clear in the debate that the ministerial code holds no bar on publishing such advice. In fact, the code states:

“Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.”

I argued at the time and I argue now that it is in the wider public interest on going to war that disclosure should be made, for heaven’s sake. What is more, I set out the precedents for publishing the advice of the Attorney-General—including, for example, the Belfast riots and the Archer-Shee cases. I cited the opinions of five distinguished international lawyers who each had differing views about whether the war in Iraq had been legal, but who were unanimously in favour of publishing in full the advice of the Attorney-General. One of these, James Crawford, who was then—and still is, I believe—professor of international law at Cambridge, observed: