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Report of the Iraq Inquiry

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

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

My right hon. and learned Friend is right that the way legal advice is produced and considered today is very different to then. We have the National Security Council, on which the Attorney General sits, and before such decisions are made a well-thought-through piece of written legal advice is produced. The Attorney General is not suddenly called on to do this; he is in the room while these vital meetings take place. That is something he did brilliantly and his successor is doing brilliantly.

My right hon. and learned Friend’s point on the collation of evidence and whether we are getting it right is a more difficult question to answer. There is no doubt that, post-Butler, the Joint Intelligence Committee is incredibly rigorous about reaching judgments: testing them around the experts in Whitehall, confirming them often with the Americans and others, and not pretending to know things that it does not know. On how well we test that, there is a role for the Intelligence and Security Committee in thinking about whether we have got judgments right after they have been made, but perhaps more thinking can be done on that.

I would just emphasise that for all the intelligence, briefing and information in the world, at the end we still have to make a decision. We never have perfect information on which we make that decision: we are weighing up a balance of risks. That is often the case, whether we are going to take action against terrorists or to try to help secure a particular national interest. In the end, we have to decide and then defend in this House the decision we have made.