Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New BBC investigation

The Sunday Times November 12, 2006

BBC reopens Kelly case with new film

Maurice Chittenden

THE BBC is risking a new confrontation with Downing Street by launching an investigation into the death of David Kelly, the scientist at the centre of the storm over the "sexed up" dossier on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

It is reopening the case less than three years after its management virtually imploded with the resignations of Greg Dyke, the director general, and Gavyn Davies, its chairman, in the wake of Lord Hutton's report into the affair.

The corporation is filming a programme about the alleged suspicious circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death in an Oxfordshire wood.

It has told officials who carried out a post-mortem and toxicology tests on Kelly’s body that it "wants to quash conspiracy theories" about the death. But it has interviewed independent doctors who point to unexplained discrepancies in the results of Kelly's post-mortem. They suggest that neither the wound to his left wrist nor the drugs found in his body was sufficient to kill him.

The BBC has also spoken to legal experts who say the Hutton inquiry was a poor substitute for an inquest and that a coroner should now be asked to record a verdict on how Kelly died.

The 60-minute documentary is scheduled to be screened in January, just a month after the BBC hopes to have secured an inflation-beating licence fee rise.

The programme will examine in forensic detail the hours leading up to and immediately after Kelly's death. The weapons inspector disappeared from his home in Oxfordshire on July 17, 2003, about the same time that MI6 withdrew information used in the dossier about the Iraqi arsenal. He was found dead the following day.

The inquest into how he died was adjourned indefinitely because of the Hutton inquiry. Nicholas Gardiner, the coroner, has declined to reopen it because he says there are no "exceptional reasons" to do so.

The BBC programme will examine whether Kelly's body was moved after it was first found and whether anything was added to the scene.

Michael Powers, a barrister, former coroner and an expert on coroner's law who has been interviewed by the BBC for the programme, said: "It is my opinion that on the evidence before Hutton, a conclusion that Kelly killed himself should not have been reached. This does not mean either that I am a conspiracy theorist. I am not. Or that I believe Kelly was murdered. I do not know. Suicide cannot be presumed. It has to be proved to the criminal standard: beyond reasonable doubt."

A spokeswoman for Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who performed the post-mortem on Kelly, said: "We were approached about a month ago but he is reluctant to take part in the programme. The BBC has a vested interest in the case. We believe the Hutton inquiry was satisfactory in its exploration and that the family should be left in peace." Thames Valley police have also declined to take part in the documentary.

A BBC spokesman said: "It is too early in the production stage to say what will be in the programme but nobody has tried to prevent us from making it."


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Motion (EDM 1088)

The original motion:

That this House believes that there should be a select committee of seven honourable Members, being members of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, to review the way in which the responsibilities of Government were discharged in relation to Iraq and all matters relevant thereto, in the period leading up to military action in that country in March 2003 and in its aftermath.

This motion was lost Noes 298 Ayes 273.

The Question accordingly agreed to.

MR SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


That this House, recognising that there have already been four separate independent committees of inquiry into military action in Iraq and recognising the importance of learning all possible lessons from military action in Iraq and its aftermath, declines at this time, whilst the whole effort of the Government and the armed forces is directed towards improving the condition of Iraq, to make a proposal for a further inquiry which would divert attention from this vital task.

This amendment to the motion was won by the Government by 294 Ayes to 264 Noes.


Debate in the House


(Edited highlights)

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): ...The motion has cross-party support because the issue at its heart is far bigger than one of party politics. It is about accountability. It is about the monumental catastrophe of the Iraq war, which is the worst foreign policy disaster certainly since Suez, and possibly since Munich. It is about the morass in which, regrettably, we still find ourselves. It is also about a breakdown in our system of government—a fault line in our constitution that only we, as Parliament, can fix. Fix it we must, if there are not to be further mistakes and other Iraqs under other Prime Ministers, in which case we shall only have ourselves to blame...

...Fifty years ago today, our Government began bombing Egypt under the cover of darkness. That invasion, too, was based on a falsehood. Anthony Eden secretly colluded with Israel and France, and kept Parliament in the dark. It is a matter of debate as to whether the Prime Minister deliberately deceived us, but one way or another we were certainly misled. The evidence clearly suggests that he had privately assured President Bush that he would join the invasion. Here was a Prime Minister so deluded by his determination to do what he believed to be right that he began to think not as primus inter pares but as an acting head of state. It is time now to tell the Prime Minister and all future Prime Ministers that they are not presidents, and that the policy of this United Kingdom does not always have to be the policy of the United States.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have been fighting in Iraq for the cause of democracy and liberty, and that there is no finer sign that that is what we believe in than the fact we can hold a democratic debate in the House and set up a proper democratic inquiry? What is the point of democracy if we cannot challenge how the Executive have handled a very contentious war?

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point. As I have said, our predecessors in this House debated the Dardanelles. They also debated the Morris report in 1918, to the great embarrassment of Lloyd George, and the 1940 Norway campaign. They were not scared that debating such matters might have given heart to the Germans, in either the first or the second world war. We will not be worthy of being their successors unless we are unafraid to debate things in this House as well.

Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): The Chief of the General Staff, General Dannatt, is more aware than most of the sacrifices and hardships that have been endured. Nevertheless, his dramatic recent intervention took the country by surprise. We cannot underplay the stark nature of his message. He said:

"Whatever consent we may have had in the first place may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance…the original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance in the Middle East. That was the hope. Whether that was a sensible or naïve hope history will judge. I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

In normal times, there would be serious questions about the appropriateness of the general's intervention, but it was a sign of the severe level of frustration in the armed forces and of the fact that Parliament has not been doing its duty of holding the Government to account and challenging the lack of a proper strategy. We have always recognised our responsibilities to the Iraqis and for wider regional stability. Ultimately, however, our responsibility is for the security of our armed forces, ensuring that they have sufficient and appropriate resources and a credible mission that they can hope to achieve. What General Dannatt highlighted is that all those things are in question and that there appears to be no strategy to address the problems...

...Four years on from the dossiers and the fateful decisions to go to war, we are still none the wiser about the political decision-making processes that led to the war. We have been given snatches from the Attorney-General's legal advice and titbits from the diaries of Cabinet Ministers and former diplomats, but no serious examination of the critical issues. How did the Prime Minister and the Cabinet consider the issues facing the country? Where did Foreign Office advice fit into the calculations? How serious were the attempts to get the second resolution? At what point did we make a commitment to the United States to support them in the invasion? When and how did the Attorney-General get himself involved in the process? What planning was there for the aftermath in the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development? That is just a sample of the huge range of issues that we have still not considered in this country...

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was, in my view, a strategic, political and humanitarian blunder of historic magnitude. It was a strategic blunder because the traditional aim of British foreign policy over the centuries, the maintenance of a balance of power in each region where we have a national interest, has been destroyed in the middle east...

...As a result of his tragic misjudgments in the middle east, our Prime Minister is, figuratively speaking, more deeply steeped in blood than any Scottish politician since Macbeth. We need an inquiry to tell us how he led us into this disaster, and to make sure that no vainglorious and ignorant Prime Minister can ever do so again.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): The situation in which we find ourselves in Iraq is serious and worsening, and the House of Commons has not given the matter adequate consideration. I was one of the Members of the House who voted against the war before it was launched in March 2003. We were wrong to go to war when we did. To be justified, military action must be absolutely the last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. The military action was launched in the name of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, but the alternatives to war to achieve that aim had not been exhausted. The House will remember that the United Nations weapons inspectors were forced to leave Iraq before they had had the opportunity to complete their work.

Not only was the war unjustified, but it lacked the support of the international community. Having failed to get the support of the UN Security Council for a resolution authorising war, the US and UK went ahead and invaded anyway...

...It was clear to me that launching this unjust and unauthorised war in the middle east would damage the coalition against international terrorism that had been put together since the atrocities of September 2001. I was also very concerned that invading Iraq could only help those violent extremists to turn new volunteers to their cause.

In September 2003 the Intelligence and Security Committee, of which I was then a member, published a report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. We were able to make public that the Joint Intelligence Committee had said in February 2003 that al-Qaeda and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest threat to western interests, and that that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.

As time has passed, those who support the invasion and occupation of Iraq have developed new and intriguing justifications for doing so, but none of them hold water. In recent months proponents of the war have argued that al-Qaeda was a force in Iraq prior to invasion, and that one of the justifications for invasion was to take on al-Qaeda in Iraq. That is just not true. In recent months it has been suggested that we had to go into Iraq because the US went in. That reflects an unsatisfactory analysis of the role of the UK in the world today...

...It is possible, as has been said, that some movement is taking place in the United States. Popular support for the US presence in Iraq is very low. The Vice-President, Dick Cheney, said yesterday that al-Qaeda is timing attacks to influence the mid-term elections. To me the fact that he said such a thing is an indication of the desperation in the pro-war leadership of the Republican party. Obviously, it is my profound hope that the outcome of the elections will lead to a real reappraisal of the situation in Iraq...

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): It is a depressing illustration of the Government's indifference to this House that the Foreign Secretary, in the first debate of more than two hours on the Floor of the House specifically on Iraq, left the Chamber shortly after her own speech and will presumably not return until the winding-up speeches. The Foreign Secretary and the Government have been reluctant to answer to this House for far too long...

...Today is not the day to go into the merits and details of the policy, but if we live in a parliamentary democracy in which the Government are accountable to Parliament for the way in which they conduct their affairs, then not having a debate in Government time for three years on a matter as serious as going to war is an extraordinary disgrace of which the Government ought to be ashamed. In reply to my earlier question, the Foreign Secretary said, "We have had debates on foreign policy. We have had debates on defence. No doubt we will have a day on this subject as part of the Queen's Speech debate." That is hopeless and unacceptable. The Government's policy has failed so far, and they are in denial. If they want to recover support in this House and in the country, they must have the guts to come to the Dispatch Box to explain and defend their policy, not once every three years but on a regular basis, to allow their claims to be tested.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): I have two brief backward-looking reflections that are central to the whole issue of having an inquiry now. First, during the build-up to the Iraq war, I repeatedly asked the Prime Minister during Prime Minister's questions whether there were any circumstances—given that the Ministry of Defence must plan for all sorts of contingencies as regards any potential trouble spot anywhere in the world that might involve British forces—in which the British Government would not have backed the Americans had they decided to invade Iraq without the authority of the United Nations. That seemed a reasonable question, yet the Prime Minister never answered it. That creates the obvious suspicion that there was never a contingency in his mind that involved anything other than going in with the Americans—preferably with a second UN mandate, but if that was not forthcoming, then without it. We have subsequently read in Mr. Woodward’s book about assurances that the Prime Minister possibly gave, including when he met the President in Crawford at his ranch. That in itself merits a legitimate inquiry, because it has never been properly addressed by any of the inquiries that have taken place...

...The truth will out one day. We will never know how many people lost their lives. On the political tombstone of this Prime Minister will be the word "Iraq". For hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians in that country there will never be a tombstone, and we will never know their names...

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): We also need answers to the question of the legality of the war. Let us consider the way in which United Nations Security Council resolution 1441 was constantly prayed in aid by Ministers as a justification for the war. There is no justification for war when no ever-ready, real or present threat existed, when there were no weapons of mass destruction, and when no weapons were going to be fired off at 45 minutes' notice. What we had was a President backed into a corner and troops in theatre, so we had to go for it. The war duly took place...

...If we want to live in a world of peace and justice, we need to examine how we got into this perilous situation, why we are continuing in it, and what we are doing to address the grievances in the world—Palestinian grievances, the gap between rich and poor, and all the other problems facing the planet. That is the way forward. We should examine our consciences and what we have done, and learn the lessons from that.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Last Wednesday, I remember that the Prime Minister told the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) that he would be delighted to debate Iraq in the House "at any time." Clearly, tonight was not convenient for the Prime Minister. He would have been well advised to turn up, because the Foreign Secretary did not give him the sort of defence that I would like her to give me, if my conduct was being examined...

...The Foreign Secretary shook her head when my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price), who moved the motion, suggested that she had admitted that historians might judge the Iraqi adventure a foreign policy disaster. I have with me the transcript of her interview on BBC Radio 4. Asked whether historians might ultimately conclude that the war was a "foreign policy disaster" for Britain, the Foreign Secretary replied:

"Yes, they may. Then again, they may not."...

...Before I give way, the third reason for supporting the motion concerns what happens if the same circumstances arise in future. Surely we should look to the future. What happens if there is another conflict that the House is misled into supporting, and if we are bounced into another Iraq? The back-stop of full, parliamentary accountability will make any Government, and any Prime Minister, think again before taking the course that the Prime Minister took...

Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Ind Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we do not have an exit strategy on Iraq, and that the chaos can continue for many years to come? Does he agree that if we are to decide on an exit strategy, we first need to know why we were there, and does he agree that we should not accede to the American aspiration to set up permanent bases, which will almost certainly mean a permanent insurgency?

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Many of us remember the debate on Iraq in which the Prime Minister said that it was "palpably absurd" not to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He told us that he had never made the argument for regime change when defending the decision to invade Iraq. He has made that argument many times since the invasion, because clearly he can no longer make the argument about weapons of mass destruction. Those are not matters of opinion, but of fact—we know that there were not any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that the American justification that al-Qaeda was involved was tenuous at best. There was no connection with 9/11 to justify the invasion and the casualty toll as a result of the action is a matter of fact: 120 British soldiers and 2,821 American soldiers are dead. Tens of thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of Iraqi civilians are dead. Those are the consequences of the decision by the House...