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Armed Conflict (Parliamentary Approval)

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:31 pm on 15th May 2007.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chair, Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Joint Committee) 5:31 pm, 15th May 2007

I do not agree with that analysis of events at all. The whole point about the invasion of Iraq is that it was not a sudden or quick process. It was a very long process, planned back in 2002, involving a remorseless build-up to an invasion that became ever more inevitable the more that preparations were made. One can see that from Bob Woodward's descriptions of what was going on in the United States. As is usual, we have had far more revelations about what happened day to day in the United States in the run-up to the war than we in this country will get for 30 years.

There came a stage in that process when so many troops had been deployed and so much preparation has taken place for what might lead to an invasion—I would say that it was 90 per cent. likely to lead to warfare—that the time had come for Parliament to be asked to approve that deployment. At that stage, Parliament should have had plainly before it not just a bald statement that the Attorney-General believed the deployment to be lawful, but an adequate, decent legal statement on the legal basis, saying why, on the authority of international law and precedent, the Attorney-General had come to that conclusion. There should, of course, also have been a plain statement of the purpose of the war, and why the British Government thought that there was a British interest that it might prove necessary to defend through the use of military force. That was the key thing in the Iraq war.

When we have the promised inquiry—now promised by a Government who were reluctant to have an inquiry, and who refused one the last time we debated this issue on, I think, a nationalist motion—we will discover whether the reasons given for going to war when we had the final votes were those agreed on by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister many months before. To judge by my many discussions with neo-conservative friends of mine who debated vigorously with me my opposition to their determination to see regime change in Iraq, I very much doubt whether at any stage there was a plain and defensible statement of the real political and diplomatic motives for going to war. Something of that kind must be the starting point, so that we can clarify it in consultation. We need to put it into some firm process that cannot be wriggled out of, so that with future military conflicts, we will not get into that situation again.