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Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): Does the Prime Minister agree that it would be unjust for any public servant to take the rap today? What steps will he take to shoulder the blame, which, he admits, rests with him, when the main reason for the failure that the report uncovers and outlines largely on page 147 is the Prime Minister's circumvention of all the decencies and formalities of a proven system of government, and his replacement of it by informality, chumminess, distorted lines of communication and the concentration of all power around him and a small coterie in No. 10?
The Prime Minister: I do not recognise that quote from the report, unless I missed something. Apart from the fact that regular, minuted meetings of the relevant Cabinet Ministers took place, the Cabinet discussed the matter in detail on no fewer than 24 occasions.
Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, at the relevant timebefore the publication of the September dossierthe then Leader of the Opposition had full briefing from the intelligence community and did not try to play politics with the matter, impugn my right hon. Friend's credibility or criticise any loss of caveats when the relevant debates took place? Will he also remind hon. Members that we are considering the fourth such report on the issue? Of course, some will never be happy because they want my right hon. Friend's scalp, which, again, an inquiry has denied them. Is not it important that we now concentrate on the genuine consensus on the reconstruction of Iraq so that it does not pose a threat to the world community, its neighbours and, most of all, its own people?
The Prime Minister: I entirely endorse my right hon. Friend's comments about the previous Leader of the Opposition, who supported us strongly throughout and acted somewhat in contrast to the right hon. and learned Gentleman who now occupies his place.
It is important that we concentrate on the future in Iraq, while recognising that its history is one of trouble not only for its people but for the region and the wider world. That is why it is important that it becomes a stable partner for peace.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): I am sure that the Prime Minister recognises that many hon. Members voted for the war on the case that he made so passionately and assuredly, and that, in the light of the material that became available through the Hutton inquiry and now through Lord Butler, they would not have voted for it. Is not it even more alarming that, after the Prime Minister based his case for war so narrowly, clearly and vehemently on the threat of weapons of mass destruction to the country, he now extends the basis for going to war and thus justifies it?
The Prime Minister:
We went to war to enforce the UN resolutions that were outstanding in respect of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. I have had to concede, as the Butler report finds, that some of the intelligence cannot be relied upon, but the hon. Gentleman goes to the other extreme and says that, in that case, there was no problem. There was a problem: our evidence, which the Butler report details, is about
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breaches of UN resolutions. If that information had reached the inspectors when they were in Iraq, it would have constituted a breach of resolution 1441.
It is not a matter of my extending the case; there is a genuine issue, and that is why I went into such detail in my statement. It is my belief, which many people dispute, that there is a different sort of security threat today. It comes from the combination of the new form of global terrorismterrorism is always evil, but we are considering a different sort, which is without limitand the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in unstable, repressive states or the commercial networks that live off them. That possible combination is the security threat that we face.
My thinking has changed after 11 September. I am prepared to take all the criticism and so on because I know that, in future, people would look back and want to know why, if we were given information about the actions of terrorists after 11 September, and we knew about the trade and development of weapons and that terrorists were trying to get hold of them and unstable countries were proliferating them, we did not do anything to stop that. I therefore believe that we have to take an active rather than a reactive position. That is why we are in the current situation. I do not regret it.
If the Butler report had found that Saddam and weapons of mass destruction were all a hoax, that would be different. However, no one seriously claims that. The issue is the extent to which readily deployable stockpiles existed. There is no question about the threat that Saddam posed because he used the weapons. There is no question about the intent, because the report found that. The question is what action to takethat judgment had to be made. Some people take the view that action was not necessary because the threat was not strong enough, but my view is that it was powerful enough. That is the difference between us. It is not an issue of integrity or good faith; it is just a disagreement.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Prime Minister said that everyone genuinely believed that Saddam had both strategic intent for WMD and actual weapons. That is a classic definition of a threat: capability plus intent. However, I remind him that many of us took issue with that at the time. We voted for an amendment that said that the case for war was not provenit was as simple as that.
On intent and the way in which the imminent threat has long been the key to trying to convince Parliament and the people of the Government's case, I refer the Prime Minister to paragraph 374 of the Butler report
The Prime Minister:
With the greatest of respect, that was not the issue. Indeed, on 24 September, when I presented the dossier to the House, I said that I could
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not say that Saddam would use the weapons this year or next year. The dossier was the reason why we went back to the UN. If I believed that there was an imminent threat to this country from Saddam, we would not have waited for the UN but would have taken action immediately. I came to the view, which I still hold, that the potential combination of global terrorism and WMD meant that we had to act on WMD. That is what we did. As to the belief about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, I simply refer my hon. Friend back to resolution 1441, which clearly stated that he was a threat in respect of the weapons.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I am pleased to say that we on these Benches were not duped into supporting the war, and we remain of that view. The Butler report refers to strains, mistakes, misinformation and the resultant carnage. Somehow, no one is to blame for all that. Why does not the Prime Minister take responsibility and do the honourable thing?
The Prime Minister: First, Lord Butler does not use the words that the hon. Gentleman did. Secondly, let us consider the judgment at the heart of the matter. The hon. Gentleman says that he is glad that he was not duped into supporting the war, but if he had his way, Saddam Hussein would continue to run Iraq. [Interruption.] I have to deal with the consequences of my position, and he must deal with those of his. Would Saddam Hussein's continuing to run Iraq mean that the world and the region was a safer place? I do not think so.
"no evidence to question the Prime Minister's good faith."
"We have no evidence of deliberate distortion or culpable negligence . . . Government believed the assessments it was putting forward to the British people . . . There was no intention to mislead."
The Prime Minister: What my hon. Friend says is absolutely right. The disagreement that we should have is about the judgment over whether it was right to go to war. That is a disagreement that I can have with the Liberal Democrats. The problem for the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) is that he supported the war and, truthfully, he supports it still. He therefore has to rerun the allegation of bad faith because he cannot make the case against the war.
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