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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have some sympathy with the comments of my noble and learned friend. I believe that the thanks we give to those who are willing to serve on this inquiry should be unstinted. Certainly, I do not envy them their task. My noble and learned friend is right. The problem with any report of this nature is that people commit themselves to a definitive view before the report is published and then find it difficult to depart from that view.
That is one of the penalties we pay for open government. The evidence is given in open session. Everyone assesses the evidence as it goes along, leaps to conclusions, writes them down, publishes them, talks about them and then finds it almost impossible to consider the matter in the round. Perhaps one of the benefits from conducting the inquiry in this way will be that that kind of running commentary may not feature quite so much.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, in inviting the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, and his colleagues to undertake this extremely difficult task, is it not imperative that before they start there is no uncertainty about the meaning of the terms of reference? I have already identified that that uncertainty seems to exist at present.
Of course there is ministerial responsibility for taking a decision, but intelligence, and the decisions taken on it, is a seamless process. In that connection, the Statement says that this is to assist the Government better to evaluate and assess information that the inquiry will provide. This has nothing to do with Hutton and whether the intelligence was improperly or dishonestly used, but perhaps I may ask what was the quality of evaluation and assessment by Ministers. The Statement reads:
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that there will not be doubt about the terms of reference. If the noble Lord means that the committee has still to explore the terms of reference, he is entirely right. As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, is not in the country at present. However, I am sure that he will want to look closely at the terms of reference with his colleagues on the committee. Of course, they have been acquainted with the terms of reference, but the noble Lord will know that very often in setting up a committee the chairman will explore the terms of reference with the committee members to decide the appropriate limits of the remit.
As regards the quality of intelligence, it is enormously important that we visit the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, regarding confidence in the gathering, quality, and evaluation of intelligence and, indeed, as the terms of reference make clear, the use of intelligence by government before the conflict and how that compares with what has been discovered now on the ground.
I assure noble LordsI did not have the opportunity to do so in answering the noble Baronessthat there is no question of scapegoating the intelligence services for shortcomings. We rely on our intelligence services. As the Minister responsible for counter-proliferation and counter terrorism, I have a great deal to do with them and have the utmost admiration for them.
First, when the United Nations inspectors left in 1998, they reported that although Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons had been destroyed, as had his means of delivery, his biological weapons were still there as were a great number of chemical weapons. Will the inquiry, as I very much hope, consider the reports of the United Nations inspectors as well as those of our own intelligence services?
Secondly, I believed that weapons of mass destruction were there because of some of the reports of the highly respected independent think tanks, such as the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Where did that organisation get its information, or did it rely simply on government sources? I very much hope that the inquiry will be as wide-ranging as possible and include those two issues.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for his remarks. He made it very clear that he did not support the Government in the military action, as did many others in your Lordships' House, many in my own party. I respect that view, as I have made clear over and again. This was a genuine disagreement with many not only in your Lordships' House but elsewhere and throughout the country.
The right reverend Prelate is right to remind the House about the UN inspectors. My right honourable friend was right to remind us about what Mr Hans Blix said in the 173 pages of unanswered questions that he published before the military conflict. Not only were WMD thought to be there by our own intelligence services and the United States intelligence services but also by the intelligence services of those who did not agree with the military conflict, that is, France and Germany.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, if, as the Statement says and as the Minister has confirmed, the justification for the war was the breach of UN Resolution 1441 which called on Iraq to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, and if by November 2002, the date of that resolution, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction as now seems very likely, how could it dismantle what it did not have?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I am sure the noble and learned Lord is aware, Mr Hans Blix raised a number of questions, including the non-co-operation in establishing what was on the ground in Iraq. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will recall that we had a very lengthy process with the Government of South Africa, in which we considered ways in which they were getting rid of their capabilities. We discussed that at the time. That is the way to engage: in an open and
The point here is the lack of co-operation in dealing with these issues and the material breach of UN Resolution 1441, which was unanimously found to have occurred. That was not just the view of the United States and the United Kingdom. The whole of the United Nations Security Council found that Iraq was in material breach.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the Statement says that the Government will evaluate evidence that has been discovered by the Iraq Survey Group since the end of the conflict. The evidence given by Dr David Kay was that the two mobile weapon laboratories that we heard so much aboutindeed, the President of the United States mentioned them in the State of the Union address as evidence of weapons of mass destructionwere no more than hydrogen producers either for hydrogen balloons or rocket fuel. Will the Minister immediately release the information about who produced the equipment that was on the back of these vehicles? They were Iraqi produced, although some of the equipment was British. Who produced this British equipment, and when did they do so? I have asked the Government this question a number of times. They have refused to answer it. I took the Government to the ombudsman, and we are waiting to receive that report. However, in the light of Dr Kay's evidence, the Government could report it. I hope that they will be able to give us that information now.
The fact that the Government could not release information to the British people about equipment that was produced in Britain, and that they used exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to say that the Americans did not allow us to use that, gives the impression that there was collusion between the British Government and the American Administration to suppress the information that there was nothing untoward about these two vehicles in the case of weapons of mass destruction. I request that this issue be part of the report. If that is the case, the Government have a case to answer.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not have details about these two vehicles with me at the Dispatch Box. The noble Lord is pushing his luck in thinking that I do. Let me be clear with him. I will release whatever information that I can that is consistent with security. The noble Lord is shaking his head, but he must understand the nature of releasing this sort of information. It is not just that you tell people how your security services work, you may also be exposing sources and putting people in jeopardy. This is not a game; we are not playing some elaborate game of how much I can withhold and how much the noble Lord can winkle from me.
This Government have put more information on intelligence into the public domain over the course of this year and the Hutton inquiry than any government that I can recall. I have been in and around Whitehall for some 25 years, and I have never seen openness of
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