Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Report of the Iraq Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:51 pm on 6th July 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 12:51 pm, 6th July 2016

Let me briefly respond to that, because I want to leave as much time as I can for colleagues to make their points. I think the right hon. Gentleman is right to praise the families for the dignity that they have shown. I understand the regret over the time taken, and I think we all feel that. The only point I would make is that when you have an independent report, you have to allow it to be independent and you have to allow the chairman to make his or her own decisions in their own way. While it has been frustrating, I think that frustration has probably been better than intervention.

In terms of the time the right hon. Gentleman was given to read the report, I did not want politicians, including the former Prime Minister, to be given more time than the families themselves. That is why the 8 o’clock deadline was set. On the report itself, I think the right hon. Gentleman is right to say, and the report finds, that the intervention did create space for al-Qaeda. The only point I would make is that it is important to remember that violent Islamist extremism—al-Qaeda and all of that—started long before the Iraq war. It started long before 9/11, which was several years before the Iraq invasion. It is important to remember that.

In terms of the litany of failures, I have been able to read the executive summary and some other bits and pieces, as I am sure colleagues will. The right hon. Gentleman is right that there is a litany of failures: the disbanding of the army, the de-Ba’athification, the way the Coalition Provisional Authority worked and the failure to plan for the aftermath. There were very powerful points made by Sir John Chilcot.

In terms of the lessons to learn, many of the points the right hon. Gentleman made we have already put in place: proper Cabinet discussions, National Security Council discussions, parliamentary votes and the oversight of the intelligence agencies. Before coming up with even more ways to oversee our intelligence agencies, I would urge colleagues from right around the House to look at the way the beefed-up Intelligence and Security Committee works and at the other things that we have done, not least in the legislation going through both Houses. We do need to leave our intelligence services with a clear set of instructions and oversight arrangements, rather than changing them every five minutes.

A war powers Act is something that can be discussed in the two-day debate. It is something I have looked at very carefully, and I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right thing to do. I think we would get ourselves into a legal mess. But the House should clearly debate it, as it will when it considers the report.

On the issue of the United States, the right hon. Gentleman calls for an open partnership. I do not believe that the United States is always right about everything, but I do believe that our partnership with the United States is vital for our national security. I rather fear that his approach is that the United States is always wrong. I do not think that they are always right, but I think that they are always our best partner, and we should work with them.

I urge the right hon. Gentleman and others to take the time to read the report—not in its entirety; I do not think any of us will have time for 3.8 million words—because it is very carefully judged and very carefully thought through. We should read it in conjunction with the statement that Sir John has given today, which is a very articulate distillation of what he says in his 200-page summary. I think that that is what we should be guided by.