15 Jun 2009 16:18:17

David Cameron: Iraq Inquiry risks looking like an "establishment stitch-up"

Many Labour MPs stayed away from the Commons for
Brown's Iraq Inquiry statement.Picture 18

David Cameron welcomed the Prime Minister's statement on the importance of good relations with democratic Iraq, Prime Minister Netanyahu's embrace of a 'two state solution' and the need for scrutiny of Iran's elections.

The Tory leader then expressed concern that the inquiry won't build public confidence because of its restricted terms of reference, limited membership and the fact that it will meet in private.

Mr Cameron raised four broad concerns (not verbatim):

  • Timing: This inquiry should have started six months ago.  By delaying it until now (although British troops are still in Iraq - the Government's original excuse for delay) and prolonging it for a year (much longer than the Franks Inquiry into the Falklands War) there will be suspicions that it has been "fixed" so no conclusions are published until after the next General Election.  He urges the Prime Minister to produce an interim report so that the Government can be held properly to account.
  • Inquiry membership: It is a mistake not to include political representation as Franks did.  It risks looking like an "establishment stitch up".
  • Coverage and content: Why does the Prime Minister say the inquiry should not "apportion blame"?  If mistakes were made we need to know who made them and why.  Will the Inquiry be free to invite foreign witnesses to give evidence? On scope will he confirm that the Inquiry will cover relations with the US, use of intelligence, post-conflict planning and coordination between DFID, the FCO and the military?
  • Openness: Shouldn't there be some open public sessions in which British families affected by the war can be heard and feel involved?  Mr Cameron ends by comparing the Franks report - the terms of which were debated in the Commons - to this Inquiry - the terms of which are announced to the House by a Prime Minister who only last week was promising a new era of democratic accountability?

Responding Brown says the Opposition has got the Franks-style Inquiry it wanted. The Inquiry covers eight years, can interview any witnesses and has access to all official documents.  Franks, in contrast, only covered the run up to the Falklands War and was announced in a written answer.  Mr Brown said that he was excluding politicians because of the contentious exchanges of the last eight years.  He invited the Tory benches to question the knowledge and expertise of any of the individuals that would sit on the Inquiry.

Tim Montgomerie

7.45pm WATCH: William Hague attacks Brown's terms of reference for Iraq inquiry

18 Oct 2008 12:13:25

Peter Oborne accuses Tony Blair of lying to Parliament

Peter_oborne In today's Daily Mail Peter Oborne makes an extremely serious claim against Tony Blair - that he lied to Parliament about the Government's knowledge of American troops abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

In May 2004, the Prime Minister said during PMQs:

"It is not correct that ministers or I were aware of those allegations in respect of American troops."

Mr Oborne counters [my bold highlights]:

"Last week, Bill Rammell, who, at the time, was a junior Foreign Office minister and has recently been promoted to minister of state, issued a statement confirming that he had known the truth.

He had been briefed during a meeting in Geneva by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had been investigating the abuses.

This meeting took place seven weeks before the atrocities became public knowledge and Abu Ghraib became a byword for American brutality.

To his credit, Rammell says he was so shocked by the revelations that he immediately convened an emergency meeting of Foreign Office officials.

In his statement, he said: 'I was assured that defence ministers were already aware of the allegations and that actions were being taken by the Ministry of Defence to deal with the allegations, which was the case.'

The minister's comments this week were released in response to my column last Saturday, in which I accused him of doing nothing.

I now accept, in view of his fresh explanation, that Rammell behaved in a better light than I had suggested. But the irony is that, in the process of saving his own skin, he has impugned the honesty of his old boss, Tony Blair."

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