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Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I dealt only briefly with the intervention from the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) because this debate is about the Iraq inquiry and its timing, not about the substance, and I would have been slapped down very quickly. For the avoidance of doubt, however, the whole Security Council judged in November 2002 that there was a threat to international peace and security from...

Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). I welcome the debate, and in doing so I formally draw the attention of the House to the fact that as Foreign Secretary between 2001 and 2006, I have been a witness before the Iraq inquiry. Of all the many decisions I had to make as a Minister, none was more serious than my decision not just to support...

Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: With great respect, no, and this is not the occasion to do that. I gave extensive evidence to the Iraq inquiry, as I will explain. As part of the process of Maxwellisation, all relevant witnesses were required to sign undertakings of confidentiality. The House will therefore understand that those who are part of the Maxwellisation process are constrained in what they can say. I would,...

Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am afraid that the answer to that is well above my pay grade. My hon. Friend would have to ask the inquiry, or those responsible for the inquiry, about that. But I just say, parenthetically, that when this is all over, there will be many issues for parties on both sides of the House to consider about the conduct of such inquiries, not least whether they would be aided, as I soundly believe...

Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I have no information about any of the process of declassification. At the same time, my hope is that in the Maxwellisation process, which is only “currently” under way, no one is suggesting that any person who is the subject of provisional criticisms by the inquiry should not be given a proper opportunity to consider those and to respond, with sufficient time, proportionate to...

Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: With great respect, it was not. I have looked at the precedents. There can be inquiries in the middle of wars. I have looked, as it happens, at the precedents of the Dardanelles and the Crimea. A contemporaneous report of the conclusions of the report on the Crimea, which were read out to the House by the Clerk for one hour and 25 minutes, spells out that the difficulty of the task “has...

Business of the House: Backbench Business — Iraq Inquiry (29 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am just coming to the end. Everyone bears a heavy responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry is not put in a position where it becomes impossible to conduct a fair process and reach a fair and independent conclusion. As the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden importantly noted outside the House on 14 January: “The purpose of the inquiry is not vilification or...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I thank all 14 right hon. and hon. Members who contributed to this very interesting debate. I particularly thank the members of the Committee—which I had the privilege to chair—and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the House. Before I respond to a few of the points that have been raised, I want to underline the tribute that the Leader of the House paid to his predecessor Leon...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: It is odd, but I last met him and his wife in an airport lounge when we were whiling away about three hours as we waited for a late plane. I cannot remember which airport it was, but I do remember that the conversation was very entertaining. Let me now deal with some of the points that have been made today. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) raised the issue—which...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: rose—

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: Thank you—I have got your point, Madam Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and the hon. Member for New Forest East both raised the issue of the relationship between the Clerk and the director general. We thought about this a great deal, and I say to both of them that even in institutions where the wiring diagram is very clear and there are...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: Had a cold shower been available, I would have taken it; the problem was that there was no shower.

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I beg to move, That this House welcomes the report of the House of Commons Governance Committee; notes the priority it has given to agreeing a package of proposals which can both significantly improve the governance of the House and be capable of attracting support from Members on all sides of the House, in a timely manner and well before the House is dissolved; agrees to the recommendations...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. When she rose as I was speaking about leaks, I thought perhaps she had something to say about her work as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, but I was on the wrong track. Of course she is right about that, and I greatly welcome the initiative that you, Mr Speaker, have taken. We have endeavoured to ensure that all our...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I should also say that my general remarks about Whips exclude him, as a pairing Whip, because I have to ingratiate myself with him on a regular basis.

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: But not very often. The House will note that the recommendation of our report was that the Chairs of both those Committees should be chosen by the Commission itself from the four Back-Bench Members who, in turn, would be elected by the House. However, the motion before the House today proposes a variation to that recommendation, stating that “without changing the party balance of the...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention and for his evidence. We did come to the issue from different perspectives, but the fact that this is a unanimous report does not reflect any sense of it coming from a search of the lowest common denominators—rather, the highest common factors. I will come on to the issue of implementation in a moment. A second reform that we...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I accept that there are such problems. This is a grade I listed building. I do not dispute the dedication of staff, but stronger leadership and greater clarity are needed. We propose that the position of Clerk and chief executive should be split. There should in future be a Clerk, and working alongside her or him, there should be a new post of director general of the House of Commons. We had...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: Let me go through the arrangements. Once I have done that, it will become easier to answer the hon. Gentleman’s point. To secure a unified House service, we concluded, as paragraph 166 sets out, that the Clerk should continue to be head of the House service and thus formally the line manager of the director general. However, the new director general will have a considerable degree of...

House of Commons Governance (22 January 2015)

Jack Straw: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. We make recommendations about and acknowledge the work that has been done. In recruiting to any senior post, including the Clerk and the director general, we must take full account of the need to improve diversity in all ways in this place.

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