Thursday, March 26, 2009

"The public will not be deceived..."

From The Times

March 26, 2009

Gordon Brown accused as Iraq inquiry confirmed

Sam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent

An inquiry into the Iraq war will finally begin when British troops leave, the Government said yesterday, amid warnings that Gordon Brown should not use the timing of the announcement for personal political advantage.

David Miliband told Parliament that the inquiry would be set up “as soon as practical” after the withdrawal of British troops concluded on July 31. But the Foreign Secretary added that there was a “case for caution” against setting up an inquiry immediately after the British exit, fuelling speculation that Mr Brown would make the announcement at the Labour Party conference in September.

This has been denounced by other leaders, who said that it undermined the non-partisan nature of the inquiry.

William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “The news that the Government would finally accept an Iraq inquiry was leaked to the media, not made to Parliament. Now the Prime Minister hopes to keep the announcement to boost his party’s annual conference.

“The public will not be deceived by any efforts by this Government, which has fought tooth and nail to delay an inquiry, to gain some political capital out of finally doing the right thing.”

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: “It would be totally wrong for the Prime Minister to announce this at the Labour Party conference in the autumn. Wrong because the announcement should be made now, and wrong because it should be made to the House of Commons first.”

The Government has said that the number of troops in Iraq would be reduced from about 4,000 to fewer than 400 by July 31 as part of a fundamental mission change. The remaining troops would be involved mainly in helping to train the Iraqi Navy.

The withdrawal of combat troops will be completed after Parliament has risen for the summer, so Mr Miliband must make any announcement on the nature of the inquiry beforehand, the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told MPs.

Mr Miliband said that the inquiry would cover the conduct of the war and subsequent attempts to impose peace, as well as the run-up to the conflict. “We all know that building the peace in Iraq has been much more difficult than winning the war. The debates about de-Baathification and the disbandment of the Iraqi Army have been well aired and it is right that they are looked over again,” he said.

The precise terms would be likely to be agreed by the three party leaders. But Mr Hague said yesterday that a Conservative administration would seek to widen any review if it felt that it was not comprehensive enough.

It emerged that the Government was likely to follow the precedent of the Franks inquiry, set up after the 1983 Falklands conflict, for it to be conducted in private by a group of trusted Privy Counsellors — who could be given access to top-secret papers.

Mr Miliband said: “One advantage of a Franks-style inquiry is that it would preserve confidentiality, which is very, very important for our troops.”

He said later that Cabinet papers from the run-up to the Iraq war, which the Government has refused to put into the public domain, would be available to be scrutinised by the inquiry.

However, Mr Davey said that a Privy Council inquiry, which would be conducted by a former senior official or politician, should be prepared to sit some of the time in public. “The key questions and the key judgments that will have to be made are essentially political, not legal,” he said.


Post a Comment

<< Home