My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to debate the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, into the tragic death of Dr David Kelly. I particularly welcome and look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder of Wensum, who will obviously have a lot to contribute to the debate this afternoon.
The report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, repays careful study. I intend to consider it in a little detail, both in relation to its conclusions and its findings. Also, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, asked me, in the Statement last week, to indicate what the Government's responses are to the criticisms made of them in the report. But it is right, as well, that I speak about the inquiry announced yesterday into the issue of intelligence, and the threat of weapons of mass destruction generally.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, agreed to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of Dr Kelly. The noble and learned Lord is a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. He was a serving Law Lord when he accepted the task. His appointment was greeted with widespread approval. His conduct of the inquiry has been regarded as exemplary because of the transparency of the process, and the clarity with which the evidence unfolded.
His report is an outstanding piece of analysis. There is a generalised complaint, however, that it criticised the media and was not balanced in its attacks on the Government.
The robust prejudice with which the report has been approached is exemplified by comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, in a place other than this House. He is quoted as saying:
"I have not fully read his report but I have already come to the conclusion that his evidence does not support his conclusions and that is, put quite simply, a bad bit of work".
Put simply, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, deserved better than that.
Judges are not selected to produce a compromise; they are asked to analyse the evidence and reach findings of fact. That is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has done with conspicuous skill as a trained professional and a judge. Look at his record; note the skill with which his handling of the hearing was praised; above all, read his report and see the meticulous care with which he analysed the evidence.
Set that record against the attacks in the media on his report. Today's Independent newspaper report claimed that Dr Jones was overruled about the inclusion of the 45-minute claim. In the evidence that Dr Jones gave to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, he accepted that it was right to insert the 45-minute claim; indeed, he said that it was important intelligence. But his concern related to whether the intelligence should be prefaced in the dossier by the words "intelligence suggests" rather than "we judge". It is a significant issue, but not the sort of complaint that justified the subsequent reports of it.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, focused on a number of issues. The main ones were: the accuracy of Mr Andrew Gilligan's broadcasts on
Taking Mr Andrew Gilligan's broadcast first, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concluded that the allegations reported by Mr Gilligan that the Government probably knew that the 45-minute claim was wrong or questionable were unfounded. Mr Gilligan himself accepted that he had made errors in his broadcasts in the "Today" programme on
Secondly, on the so-called sexing-up, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concluded that the allegation was unfounded as it would have been understood by the people listening to it. The dossier, he found, had not been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable.
Finally, on the question of the release of Dr Kelly's name, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, reported that there was no dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media.
However, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, found that the Ministry of Defence was at fault for not informing Dr Kelly that its press office would confirm his name if a journalist suggested it. He also considered that the Ministry of Defence was at fault for not having set up a procedure whereby Dr Kelly would be informed immediately his name had been confirmed to the press and in permitting a period of one and a half hours to elapse between the confirmation of his name and his being told of it. Of course, the Government must respond to those criticisms.
The MoD acknowledged that it would have been better if it had told Dr Kelly explicitly that his name would be confirmed if a journalist suggested it, and if there had been a procedure to inform him immediately he had been identified by the press. The Ministry of Defence has already taken measures to improve procedures, including, first, by reference to terms of employment and, secondly, by reference to disciplinary and related procedures. It intends also to examine assistance to civil servants at risk of media attention and guidance on dealing with the media, where the principle will remain unchanged that no-one should speak to the media, on or off the record, without express approval.
I wish to make the following points. The argument that Mr Gilligan's broadcasts were in substance true albeit inaccurate in some particulars is wrong. His claim was that the intelligence about Saddam using some weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so was inserted in the dossier, not by the JIC, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had told Parliament, but by Downing Street. He said that that was done against the express wishes of the JIC, and that it was done by Downing Street,
"probably knowing the intelligence was wrong".
Furthermore, he said that the source of that unprecedented charge was,
"a senior official in charge of drawing up the dossier".
That was the substance of the broadcast at seven minutes past six on
Secondly, the criticisms that the noble and learned Lord makes of the BBC were, in large measure, based on the views of the BBC itself. Thirdly, the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, were entirely consistent with the findings of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee on the reliability and propriety of the dossier.
With respect to those who attack the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, such as the Independent today, I ask that they understand what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has done—an independent analysis of the facts that is unbiased, unprejudiced and fair. No axe to grind; no case to make; no unsupported assumptions. Instead, detailed findings of fact. We will make so much more progress in this matter if we accept those findings and then draw our conclusions from them.
Perhaps I may lay one more canard to rest. It has been suggested that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has enunciated a doctrine that greatly inhibits press freedom. It is said that this is new law. We do not accept that that is right. Obviously, we regard the independence of the BBC as critical. But the relevant findings are set out in the report.
The first is: do not publish false allegations. In support of that, the noble and learned Lord relies on well known decided cases and quotes Reynolds from this House. Secondly, he says that it is necessary to ensure that the editors of media outlets know the terms in which a serious attack is going to be made on the Government before it is broadcast and consider whether it is right in all the circumstances to broadcast it. Thirdly, he concludes that, where an allegation of inaccuracy is made, the management should normally investigate it before dismissing it. Finally, he concludes that, where the Prime Minister and the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee allege to the governors of the BBC that a broadcast is false, the governors should investigate it. None of that is either new law or bad practice.
The report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was into the death of Dr Kelly. It was set up in the wake of his tragic death. It did not deal with the accuracy of the intelligence, though the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concludes that the dossier was an accurate account of the intelligence then available. We support and have the highest regard for the intelligence services. As has been made clear, we have not, until very recently, thought that an inquiry into the disparity between the intelligence received on weapons of mass destruction and what has been found about WMD by the Iraq Survey Group was either wise or timely. The ISG has been looking at the WMD position in Iraq.
Until the beginning of this week (Sunday), we have always preferred to wait until that group had reported before considering any further investigation of the discrepancies that might exist after the ISG had reported. I myself expressed that view as late as Sunday morning, in a broadcast. However, a series of events has caused us to change our view. David Kay's evidence to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday of last week and the increasing uncertainty of the time within which the ISG might conclude its activities make it unwise to wait. We accept that an inquiry is required. We would have been happy for it to be conducted by the ISC, but my right honourable friend in another place was pressed hard for a Franks-type inquiry, and has agreed to it.
The inquiry was described in detail by my noble friend Lady Symons yesterday, when she repeated the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place yesterday. The inquiry will be able to examine the whole intelligence issue, including weapons of mass destruction, and investigate in particular any discrepancies in that intelligence and what has been found in Iraq by the Iraq Survey Group. It will be able to make recommendations. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for agreeing to chair it, and to all the other members participating. I know that in this House we will be particularly pleased to see the participation of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge.
I have no doubt about the independence and integrity of the members of that inquiry. I hope that they will be given time and space to conduct their inquiry, and that people will judge them by the quality of their findings rather than by whether they give the judgment that those who have already formed their view on the issue want. I hope that the willingness of public servants such as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, and their fellow members of the inquiry to give of their time in such inquiries is not undermined by the monstering that they get from some elements of the press—either after they have failed to deliver a judgment in accord with the prejudices of some, or even, in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in advance of uttering one word on the subject.
I am very glad that the Conservatives are co-operating in the inquiry. I welcome the participation of the Conservative Party. I am disappointed but not surprised by the Liberal Democrats' failure to participate in the inquiry. They will snipe from the sidelines; they will make no positive contribution; and they will hope that it all goes wrong for somebody else.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord referred to the participation of the Conservative Party. He will be aware of the statement made by the right honourable Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative Party, that the participation of the Conservative Party is on the basis that the terms of reference referring to the use of intelligence refers to the use of it by the Government and that the committee will be entitled to cover that aspect.
In order for the committee to start with a clear understanding of its terms of reference, will the noble and learned Lord confirm on behalf of the Government that that is the Government's understanding?
My Lords, that question was put to my noble friend Lady Symons yesterday to which she gave a clear answer. I stand by that answer.
My Lords, a number of noble Lords did not believe that they had been given an answer to that question. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, as a member of the Cabinet, has the opportunity to do so. The committee is being set up by the Government who are claiming the support of the Conservative Party, although they have not succeeded in getting the support of the Liberal Democrats. Michael Howard on the "Today" programme made absolutely clear his understanding of the terms of reference. The committee cannot start on the basis of an argument about its terms of reference. The terms of reference are the use of intelligence by the Government.
My Lords, as I said, that question was asked and answered yesterday. I am reluctant to reformulate the answer in different words. I shall find the words in Hansard and answer the question in the course of our debate.
My Lords, I put the question to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, yesterday. I am sure that it has nothing to do with her abilities, but her answer was not very clear. The answer, in effect, was that Ministers do not evaluate. I did not raise the question of usage, but the words—evaluate and use by the Government—go together. We assume that that means Ministers and civil servants, not including the intelligence service, which is a separate civil agency and cannot be wrapped up in government. We are talking about Ministers and the political administration. That must be made clear.
My Lords, as I have said, the matter was dealt with yesterday by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. The precise meaning of the terms of reference is plainly a matter that will ultimately be evaluated by the chairman of the inquiry. He and the other members of the inquiry must determine the scope of the inquiry. If the Conservative Party has difficulty with that, it must reach its own conclusion.
My right honourable friend was, rightly, not willing to give the committee the task of deciding whether the political judgment that led us to war was right, which may go some way towards answering the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord King. It is for elected politicians to make that judgment, not a committee.
We already know that there was both a legal and moral justification for our attack on Iraq. We went to war because of the breaches of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. That resolution made it clear that Iraq must co-operate with the United Nations in disclosing its WMD and WMD programmes, in stopping their development and dismantling all the work on them.
The ISG has already found laboratories, technology, diagrams, documents and scientists who have been told to conceal their work. The ISG, as David Kay has said, has not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. David Kay thinks it unlikely that it will do so. We shall have to wait and see. But there is no doubt from what we have already found that Iraq failed to comply with Resolution 1441. Iraq was seeking, in breach of the resolutions, to develop weapons of mass destruction, and had the necessary intent to build up those weapons of mass destruction wherever it could. David Kay's estimate of whether stockpiles will be found may be right. We do not yet know. Even if it is, even if the 26 million documents that we have yet to read produce not one further clue, even if the interviews with scientists yet to be completed produce no further evidence, even if nothing more is found, the justification for war—the plain breach of Resolution 1441—would be there.
As David Kay recently told a US Senate committee:
"In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point by the Iraq survey group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of resolution 1441. Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities: one last chance to come clean about what it had".
"We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis of activities that were prohibited under the initial UN Resolution 687, and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the UN about this, they were instructed to not do it, and they hid material".
The world has been made a safer place by our willingness to confront Saddam, and pursue it to a conclusion so that there is no longer a regime acting in breach of a series of Security Council resolutions designed to ensure that the regime did not continue to develop WMDs. But the world has been made safer not only by the disarming of Iraq, but also because of the effect on other unstable, repressive regimes of our willingness to confront Iraq. We need only look at the six nations talks involving North Korea, Iran's recommenced negotiations with the IAEA, and the new relationship with Libya.
The Hutton report has established that the intelligence we had was properly presented in our dossier. The Butler report will examine any discrepancies between the intelligence that was gathered, evaluated and used by the Government, and what the ISG has found. But let us make no mistake. We already know from what we have found in Iraq that breaches of the United Nations Security Council resolutions justified war. We can identify how the world has been made safer by the use of force.
It is also worth saying that our invasion has freed Iraq. A country with a proud history had been brought to its knees by the evil and isolation of Saddam. Now its oil is flowing and its wealth has been put back into the hands of the Iraqis. There is much to do. There are real security problems. But a free Iraq, which is no longer a pariah, can join the family of nations rather than threaten them.
While the wider issues of intelligence will now be considered, it is worth emphasising that the tragic death of Dr Kelly was the subject of Lord Hutton's inquiry. He discharged his task with conspicuous skill and he has provided an authoritative account of the circumstances leading to Dr Kelly's death. We achieve nothing by rejecting the account because it does not suit our prejudices. The picture which he paints is accurate, and for many painful. But we do not commission people of the calibre of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, to reproduce as fact the prejudices of a faction in the debate. It is precisely because the passions run so high that a measured and meticulous account is so important.
Dr Kelly was a fine and honourable public servant. His death was a tragedy. The dignity and bearing of his wife and family through the pain of loss and the huge difficulty of public gaze is inspiring. May they now be left to grieve in private. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am proud to follow the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor because I greatly respect the office he holds. I hope that he will hold it for a long time. I know that he has some subsidiary offices, but he knows as well as I do that governments in their declining years tend to create offices to divert attention from their misdeeds. Such offices do not usually endure for very long. They are here today and gone tomorrow. The noble and learned Lord would be wise, therefore, to emphasise the historic role that he performs rather than any other.
I was disappointed in his speech. When he reads it over, he might think possibly that he should have voiced more sympathy for the family of Dr Kelly and indeed have apologised for the misdeeds of the Government that were recognised in the report.
I, too, pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for the skilful way in which he conducted his inquiry. Nobody could have gone to more trouble to try to arrive at just conclusions, but some of those conclusions trouble me greatly. I do not find it easy to accept that there was nothing wrong in the way in which Dr Kelly's name was made public. I would just remind noble Lords of the evidence given before the Hutton inquiry, which of course was beyond contradiction.
I cannot get out of my mind the references in the diary of Alastair Campbell. I quote:
I quote again:
"The biggest thing needed was the source out".
And I quote again:
"Spent much of the weekend talking to TB and GH re the source".
I cannot forget Campbell agreeing with Mr Dingemans at the inquiry that in government circles it was recognised that it would indeed assist them to get Kelly's name out.
How on earth, in the face of all that, can one take seriously Mr Hoon's statement that he made great efforts to ensure Dr Kelly's anonymity? Far from doing anything of the sort, he agreed to the issue of a press statement and a course of action which he knew would lead to the naming of Dr Kelly. He did not even bother to tell Dr Kelly what he was going to do.
As for the Prime Minister, he may not in the strictest sense have authorised the leaking of Dr Kelly's name, but he presided over the meeting where it was decided to issue a press release that led, inevitably, to the naming of Dr Kelly. Campbell's diaries show that neither he nor anyone else in No. 10 were the slightest bit interested in Dr Kelly's welfare. On the contrary, they spent hours and hours in unminuted meetings and made unrecorded telephone calls plotting not how Dr Kelly's interests might be protected, but how his being thrown to the media might be turned to their advantage.
A fair summary of events is surely this. Campbell decided to wage war on the BBC, a war with no holds barred—and he was happy to use Dr Kelly as a weapon in that war. Dr Kelly, already under intolerable pressure, was given no support, but instead was thrown to the media wolves and in that situation of mental turmoil, largely created by others, he took his own life. If I were a member of Dr Kelly's family, I would find it hard to accept that no one is really to blame.
Having got that off my chest, perhaps I may now turn to the other aspects of the inquiry, and to Mr Gilligan. I accept, without reservation, that he was entirely wrong to say what he did on the "Today" programme. But while accepting the central finding of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that the Government did not know that the 45-minute claim was wrong, I am bound to say that the evidence as a whole discloses a course of conduct by those in Downing Street concerned with the preparation of the dossier which is deeply troubling.
From his background as a lawyer rather than a politician, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, may not have appreciated how wholly unusual were some of the goings on in Downing Street at that time, and how very different was the manner in which business was conducted from the way in which it was conducted by previous administrations, and, it is to be hoped, now that Campbell has gone, will be conducted in future.
My Lords, I think that noble Lords opposite had better listen to what I have said because it is all in the evidence. It is of course wholly unusual for a press officer, director of communications, party political adviser—call him what you will—to set out to harass and intimidate the BBC with a veritable blizzard of complaints.
My Lords, I do not think that noble Lords opposite know what I am going to say, so they had better listen. I am referring to the veritable blizzard of complaints, revealed in the evidence before Hutton, about the coverage of events in Iraq, going back long before the Gilligan broadcast.
It is wholly abnormal for a director of communications, let alone a highly political one like Campbell, to play any part in the drawing up of a JIC dossier, which is supposed to be an independent intelligence assessment, let alone chair a meeting of the JIC, as Campbell did on
Going back to the September dossier, there is no dispute that Campbell persuaded the intelligence people to make changes that were not presentational changes, but changes of substance. The change from,
"Iraq may be able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes", to,
"The Iraq military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes", was a change of substance made at Campbell's request. I do not seek for one moment to go behind the finding of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that the change was compatible with the intelligence material in Mr Scarlett's hands, but one can see only too clearly the risk of someone in Mr Scarlett's position, knowing the desire of the Prime Minister to have a dossier which was as strong as possible, being,
"subconsciously influenced to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been in a normal JIC assessment".
I quote from the Hutton report.
It is absolutely clear that Campbell should not have acted in a way which caused Mr Scarlett to be influenced. If he had not, we might not have finished with a dossier so at variance with what appear to be the facts. We might not have had a dossier which Mr Jones, the leading expert in WMD in the MoD, says in the Independent today was misleading about Iraq's capabilities because the views of the experts were ignored.
For reasons of time, I shall not deal with the instance where Mr Jonathan Powell also got a change of substance in the dossier. It is worth noting that sometimes Mr Scarlett would not agree to changes asked of him, but it is illuminating to look at what then happened. The original draft of the dossier led Campbell to minute Scarlett on
"Iraq might have stocks of vx nerve agent" and, by implication, nothing else. Scarlett stood firm and said,
"We cannot improve on 'might'".
What was the reaction of Mr Campbell? He removed the whole passage from the dossier and with it the point that the only stocks the intelligence service thought Iraq might hold were of VX gas. I suppose that is what they call open government and transparency.
Finally, I turn to the Prime Minister. He signed the foreword to the dossier, which contains the words:
"His [Saddam's] military planning allows for some of the weapons of mass destruction to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them".
The Prime Minister knew perfectly well that the intelligence community was not talking of long-range weapons because in the original draft of the dossier he had cancelled that out. But those words were removed in the final draft and the words that were left in—unqualified—were taken to mean that there was a threat to Britain. A headline appeared in the Sun, "45 minutes to doom". Jonathan Powell got the headline that he wanted in the Evening Standard, "45 minutes to attack", and it was accompanied by a photograph of a London street.
When all that happened, did the Prime Minister hasten to correct the false impression given by his dossier? Did he hasten to say that the reference in the dossier was to battlefield weapons only and that there was no question at all of strategic weapons being ready or of there being a threat to this country? Not on your life. Downing Street was keen, very keen, to correct what Mr Gilligan said, but it made no effort at all to correct the false impression given by the wording of the dossier. When it suited his purpose, the Prime Minister was quite happy to see the public misled. Some might say that that deceit was almost as grave as any conduct on the part of Mr Gilligan.
It is a sad and tawdry story and the public should be aware that while the conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, were justified by the evidence, there is nothing for Downing Street to be proud of and many lessons to be learned by those in government who were involved in this sorry affair.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has made a powerful speech, not least because of his close identification with the family of Dr Kelly, and I congratulate him on it. He raised questions that need to be answered and have not yet been answered by the Government.
However, I shall step back for a moment to the Hutton inquiry itself, on which the Government have become so reliant. The Hutton inquiry was strange in a sense, because the judge was a man of the utmost probity and integrity and he was regarded in Northern Ireland as a man of courage and honour. We on these Benches would not wish in any way wish to impugn him, even, if I may say so to the Lord Chancellor, as I snipe from the sidelines, which I intend to do for the next few minutes.
The assessment of the Hutton inquiry ran into considerable difficulties on two fronts. The first was the context in which people would read its conclusions. I give one example. If one does not set it in the context of the extraordinarily high standards of accuracy of the BBC's journalistic output, one could not understand why 56 per cent of the public said that they did not believe the judge's findings with regard to the BBC. Nor could one understand why the public, in such polls as that commissioned by YouGov and the Daily Telegraph, have said by a ratio of 67 per cent to 31 per cent that they trust the BBC more than the Government.
The public are not fools. They have reached those conclusions precisely because they set them in the context of their knowledge of some of the organisations involved. Similarly, the Government were being judged by the public on the basis of several years during which, rightly or wrongly, Mr Alastair Campbell was regarded as a somewhat dubious and devious figure in the way in which he used the power and street-reach of No. 10 to influence outcomes in the media. One cannot understand the reaction to the recommendations and conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, if one does not realise that it was set against that background. That background is significant and it was not mentioned in the report.
In that context, one of the conclusions that was reached widely in the media—not in this case by the BBC, but by newspapers—and indeed in comments made since the inquiry was published, was about the distinction, perceived by many, between the conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, about the likelihood of the journalists and other public bodies being at fault and what appeared to be the giving of the benefit of the doubt to the Government and specifically to No. 10. I shall give an example. All of us know—and we on these Benches have never denied it—that Mr Gilligan made a serious mistake by raising the possibility that the Government had knowingly included false information in the September dossier. We do not question that. It was a serious mistake, all the more so in that the allegation was made by a journalist from a corporation that has such a fine reputation. Understandably, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, made it clear that, in his view, the editorial control over Mr Gilligan at that time was weak and had to be improved. As we all know, the result has been disproportionately great, with the departure and resignation of the chairman and director-general of the BBC, both of whom are highly regarded in their own field.
Contrast that with what happened when the Government and the intelligence service fell below a similar kind of standard. I quote from an article in today's Independent by Dr Brian Jones, the former head of the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons section of the Defence Intelligence Staff:
"My belief is that right up to the publication of the dossier there was a unified view amongst not only my own staff but all the DIS experts that on the basis of the intelligence available to them the assessment that Iraq possessed a CW or BW capability should be carefully caveated".
He goes on to state that he had considered who might have seen that ultra-sensitive intelligence and concluded that it was extremely doubtful that anyone with a high degree of CW and BW intelligence expertise was among the exclusive group which did the final scrutiny of the intelligence before it went into the September dossier.
That is an example of a failure to read the detail provided by the most experienced experts in the field of CW and BW capability. It has many parallels with the failure to read the original notes on Mr Gilligan's report. In the first case, the BBC was heavily criticised; in the second, nothing was said about the failure to look back again at the intelligence to see whether Dr Brian Jones's objections should be upheld.
I turn from that, without any apology to the Lord Chancellor, to the so-called "sexing up" of the dossier. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has already given some powerful examples of that: the use of "are" instead of "may"; the change of the title of the September dossier; the decision to leave out of the Prime Minister's foreword—in which he wrote:
"I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons"— the Prime Minister's own reference in a first draft to the inability of Iraq to mount a nuclear attack against the United Kingdom. I stress "inability". The Prime Minister said that he could not. However, that essential sentence was wiped out of later drafts, including the final one, of the dossier. I could go on and on. Between us, the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and I could give at least half a dozen more examples. Frankly, if one looks at Appendix 3—I say to the Lord Chancellor that I have read the report very fully now—with its 16 specific recommendations from Alastair Campbell's team to change and strengthen that dossier and to give it more zip, it is hard to accept that there was no sexing up of the dossier.
My Lords, may I deduce from that that the noble Baroness does not accept the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton? He rejected that finding.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is very pleased to respond to the noble and learned Lord. I shall do so by reading directly from the Hutton report and I shall give the noble and learned Lord the precise reference, which is paragraph 228, subsection (8):
"The term 'sexed-up' is a slang expression, the meaning of which lacks clarity in the context of the discussion of the dossier. It is capable of two different meanings. It could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable to make the case against Saddam Hussein stronger".
We fully accept that that is not acceptable. It is "unfounded", as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton said. But here is his second definition of the term,
"it could mean that whilst the intelligence contained in the dossier was believed to be reliable, the dossier was drafted in such a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as strong as the intelligence contained in it permitted".
That is exactly the definition that Members on these Benches wish to examine.
I shall read on; this is a direct quotation:
"If the term is used in this latter sense, then because of the drafting suggestions made by 10 Downing Street for the purpose of making a strong case against Saddam Hussein, it could be said that the Government 'sexed-up' the dossier".
For the moment I shall not give way, having just given way to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I wish to continue my argument. It is an important argument and I am well aware that Members on the Benches opposite do not wish to hear it. Members on these Benches and all the critics of the report wish to make the case that we uphold the argument that the first definition was unfounded, but believe that the second definition is clearly carried out in the terms of the dossier. Perhaps I may say that over the past few days I have asked many people—ordinary people rather than intelligence experts—what they think the term "sexing-up" means. I did not prompt them and they have all replied by saying, "We think it means enhancing the good things and playing down the bad". That is exactly what I believe the Government did.
My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that in the next part of the report the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, explicitly rejected that definition. He said that the way in which the term "sexed-up" would be understood is that it would mean putting in information that the person knew to be false. That is the finding of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. Does the noble Baroness agree that that is what the noble and learned Lord goes on to find?
My Lords, I am willing to go on reading the report and to leave it to the judgment of the House. However, I have the words before me,
"in the context of the broadcasts in which the 'sexing-up' allegation was reported and having regard to the other allegations reported in those broadcasts I consider that the allegation was unfounded as it would have been understood by those who heard the broadcasts to mean that the dossier had been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable, which was not the case".
I agree with that completely, as do we all; it is absolutely right. In the context of Mr Gilligan's broadcast, which we also repudiate, it is clear that that statement was unfounded. No one denies that and two major heads at the BBC have gone.
But not "sexing-up", which the Lord Chancellor mentioned again. The term "sexing-up" takes both definitions. We are talking about the second definition and we believe that we are thoroughly justified in doing so.
I shall now quote from Mr David Clark, the former adviser to the former Foreign Secretary:
"Hutton, in assessing the charge that the Government sexed up the September dossier, relied on a definition of the term so extreme that he could not fail to acquit the Government of it".
I leave that without further comment because I wish to turn to the rest of my remarks.
I believe that the sexing-up of the dossier was made against an extraordinary background—I am talking again about the context of claims made by political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic about the danger posed by Iraq. I quote the Prime Minister on
"What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons".
I quote the Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, on
"Saddam's removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction".
Should noble Lords like a rather more extreme argument, this is President Bush:
"We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun. It could come in the form of a mushroom cloud".
Unfortunately he was supported in that by Vice President Cheney, one of the most troubling people on the scene. On
"we believe he [Saddam Hussein] has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons".
If noble Lords want to be a little light-hearted, only three months later, on
"I don't know anybody that I can think of that has contended that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons".
I move on to what I regard as a crucial question which I hope the Butler inquiry can address, but I am not sure can do so for the reasons advanced by the noble Lord, Lord King. I think it is crucial that it does so. I refer to the case of the intelligence advanced by Mr Blix, the senior UN intelligence head in his report to the UN Security Council on
"At this juncture we are able to perform professional no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance".
He pointed out that he was receiving co-operation from the Iraqi authorities. Finally, on the question of whether he could complete the disarmament studies required of him under the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution under which he went into Iraq:
"It would not take years, nor weeks, but months".
There are key questions: why did Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States insist on continuing with their plans and preparations for war in the face of Mr Blix's reassurance that he could complete the disarmament of Iraq? Why have thousands of people died because we decided that we could override the advice of Mr Blix? Why, now, do we see the facts unrolling every day to support the arguments of Mr Blix? This last is one of the most important questions of all.
I turn finally to the issue of the inquiries. The second inquiry has already been announced by the Government at very short notice, the so-called Butler inquiry. Again, the noble Lord, Lord King, and others have raised the question of how wide the remit can go. The Liberal Democrats are not interested in sniping from the sidelines, they are interested in getting a full study of the use and presentation of intelligence, and they are interested in looking, as did the Franks report, at the judgments made by politicians in going to war. That is the most significant decision that any politician in any country can make—above all, in a democracy.
It is quite clear that the remit does not cover that. My right honourable friend and Leader of the Liberal Democrats in another place, Charles Kennedy, asked specifically whether it might, and was informed that it would not cover that set of issues. I am afraid that will mean that once again, as with the Hutton inquiry, the public will greet it with scepticism and cynicism, will dismiss it, perhaps quite unfairly, as a whitewash job, and we will be back to yet another series of inquiries. Sooner or later—and I say this with respect for the Prime Minister because I think he believed in what he was doing; perhaps too much—he will not be able to avoid the essential questions: why did we go to war? On what basis did we go to war? How can we possibly justify having done so?
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, and in light of her recognition that Mr Gilligan made a serious error in his 6.07 a.m. broadcast, does she agree that, despite the vilification of Mr Alastair Campbell, he was wholly justified in seeking an immediate retraction from the BBC and that it is regrettable that the BBC did not immediately give it?
I shall answer that in two ways. First, I agree that the 6.07 a.m. broadcast made on "Today" certainly went beyond what was justified. We have already said that. I think that the subsequent broadcasts were corrected. It is right for the BBC to apologise. However, my point is that the disproportionate punishment of the BBC in comparison with the punishment of other people who got their facts wrong is very hard to justify.
My Lords, I must begin by saying that I find the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, to be meticulous in its detail, judicial in its weighing of the facts and excellent in its conclusions, with all of which I, as a layman, who very carefully observed the inquiry's progress, find myself in complete agreement.
I have to say that I have found some of the comments made in the media and elsewhere about the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, quite outrageous. People who comment that it is a pity that he could not find something negative to say about the Government completely miss the point that right is right and wrong is wrong and that sometimes, even in journalism and even in politics, things are indeed black and white. Perhaps it takes a judge to have the courage both to perceive and to say that.
The most surprising thing for me about the BBC's reaction is that it was surprised. How could it be? Although maybe I should have expected it. At some stage before the Gilligan story of
I think we are all in danger of forgetting the electrifying effect, on the morning of
It is nonsense to try to present this as one slip in a seven minutes past six broadcast. As an aside, I would point out that it does not seem to me to matter what time of the day or night you lie on the BBC—a lie is a lie is a lie. But this was not just one little slip; the whole story was lies—a lie that the Government knowingly inserted a wrong report; a lie that the intelligence report was not in earlier because the intelligence services were unhappy as it was from a single source. It was not in earlier than the
And it was not just at seven minutes past six—the story was seized upon by the "Today" programme presenters, and other journalists, who ran with it enthusiastically and embellished the lies. I quote John Humphreys at 7.32, from the transcript of the Hutton report:
"Now our defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, has found evidence that the government's dossier on Iraq that was produced last September was cobbled together at the last minute with some unconfirmed material that had not been approved by the security services".
Every single bit of that last statement from the pejorative word "cobbled" is wrong.
Then, at 10 to eight that morning, Mr Gilligan, repeating all his earlier inaccuracies, referred to,
"what my intelligence source says".
He knew David Kelly was not an intelligence source. As David Kelly himself told Susan Watts:
"You have to remember I am not part of the intelligence community. I am a user of intelligence".
That is also in the Hutton report.
I have been, all my life, a defender of the BBC; I still defend the independence of the BBC; and I am a passionate admirer and supporter of the World Service and of Caversham. I am delighted that the excellent Mark Byford is the acting head of his beloved BBC in this turbulent time for it. I have to say that his statement, along with that of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder—whose maiden speech we all look forward to—gave the BBC back its dignity in response to the Hutton report which the so-called apology from the outgoing DG and the resignation statement from the chair of governors so spectacularly lacked.
I understand that the outgoing DG commented that Alastair Campbell had not been gracious. I found him dignified in the reaction to his vindication in the report. All I can say is that I have rarely seen anything so lacking in grace as the outgoing DG's attempt at an apology.
I should like now to turn to the part of the report which deals with intelligence and the JIC, with which I had some experience in my some 22 years of government service. Much was made in the press during the inquiry about the disquiet that some members of staff in DIS had about assessments. This issue has raised its head again today and has been referred to comprehensively by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams.
I think it is important to know that the JIC process—a structure, incidentally, which is greatly admired and indeed envied abroad—is very much one where assessments are thrashed out round a table, usually at ad hoc current intelligence groups, and then, once an assessment has emerged, it is up to every participating service to go back to its headquarters and brief its head. If anyone is not happy about the assessment then they brief in writing accordingly and it is up to the top person to decide on the merits or otherwise of the case. It is for that person to speak for the service or organisation at the JIC. This is the normal and usual practice. In this case, it was all done properly, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has found.
I have to say that in my own experience—I am trying now to be diplomatic in my choice of words—it is not unusual to find some parts of the DIS in disagreement with an assessment. I cannot help also pointing out that DIS officers, however expert in their own particular fields, are not intelligence officers. I think there has been a confusion in the minds of many people about that.
I turn to the comment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that the possibility cannot be ruled out that John Scarlett and other members of the JIC may have been subconsciously influenced by knowing that the PM wanted to have a dossier worded as strongly as possible. When I sat round Cabinet Office tables contributing to assessments for the Prime Minister and No. 10, I was, I think, always very well aware of what the then Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, felt about issues—one could hardly fail to be so—and what she would have wanted to hear. But I know that I and my contemporaries put forward to her what we considered true and accurate. I do not think that she would have wanted it otherwise—and nor would my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I am confident that my subconscious was resistant to her influence and, as I know rather well several of the people who currently sit around the JIC table, I am certain that their subconscious is every bit as robust as mine.
I should like to conclude with some words about John Scarlett, a man I have known for a considerable number of years and have admired for his professional achievements as well as for his outstanding integrity, his intellectual honesty and his decency. I have been outraged by the misconceived attacks on him by various parts of the media. I am delighted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has concluded that the scurrilous charges against him and attacks on his probity are unfounded.
Finally, fine government servants as well as members of the Government and staff at No. 10 were grossly traduced in lies which went round the world, and I, for one, am immensely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for painstakingly investigating the charges and finding them unfounded.
My Lords, I declare interests as a former chairman of a regional radio company and as the paid acting chairman of the BBC. I would like to thank all the present and former officers and officials of the Palace of Westminster for showing nothing but great personal kindness to me during my 29 years here and, in particular, those members of the palace staff who gave such outstanding support during my five years as Government Chief Whip in another place.
The departures of Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke are sad losses for the BBC. Mr Davies is an outstanding public servant with supreme integrity and a deep affection for the institution. Mr Dyke is an inspirational leader and his charisma reached every corner of the BBC. It was necessary for the corporation to apologise for the BBC errors highlighted in the Hutton report. Most of the mistakes were, of course, conceded during the inquiry itself. Mr Davies accepted ultimate responsibility by resigning as chairman of the board. Mr Dyke also offered his resignation to the governors and the board accepted it. As Mr Dyke said himself, in his e-mail to BBC staff last Thursday:
"I've sadly come to the conclusion that it will be hard to draw a line under this whole affair while I am still here. We need closure".
Now the BBC must set its eyes on the future in the public interest. Mark Byford has taken on the role of acting director-general. He has the total support of the governors and the executive. Mr Byford has worked for the BBC for 24 years. He is steeped in public service values and commands wide respect inside and outside the organisation. He has shown formidable skills as head of the World Service and is a strong, proven leader.
Mr Byford has stressed that his role is to provide collective leadership with the executive to ensure that the BBC emerges from this difficult time a strong, independent and vibrant organisation, building on the legacy of Mr Davies and Mr Dyke. Mr Byford will undertake a review of the lessons the BBC must learn from the past few months, including how the corporation investigates and corrects editorial mistakes. Impartiality, accuracy and trust have always been core BBC values designed to serve the public. Brave, independent and rigorous journalism will be maintained under Mr Byford's leadership. This includes investigative reporting set within robust editorial frameworks. The board will never interfere with this work and nor shall I, while acting chairman, allow any external body to interfere with the BBC's crucial independence.
The BBC is experiencing a busier time than ever. Over the next few months it faces the Graf review of online services, the Ofcom review of public service television, the DCMS review of digital services and, of course, the charter review process. The BBC's major document on charter review was due to be published in March. It has been agreed to postpone publication until soon after a new chairman and permanent director-general can take personal ownership of it.
The DCMS has assured me that the vacant chairmanship will be filled by the middle of April. I am not a candidate and intend to keep the department to this timetable. The advertisement for the job will appear in Sunday's newspapers. Meanwhile, the governors, solely responsible for the appointment of the director-general, will invite applications. A short list will be drawn up and a final choice made soon after the new chairman assumes office.
I have always believed that the BBC's prime purpose is to enrich people's lives with programmes and services which inform, educate and entertain. This is done in the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, as well as throughout the world.
Recent turbulence has been borne with true professionalism by the 29,000 people working for the BBC. They are devoted to a great institution which exists to serve the public. In particular, I want to pay a tribute to journalists for upholding the highest standards of objectivity when covering the outcome of the Hutton report. I venture to suggest that no other news organisation in the world could have achieved such balance in reporting itself in the eye of a storm.
I believe that the BBC must remain as an independent organisation that serves the public above all else. I believe that the vast majority of the British people are proud of the values and traditions of the BBC. It is their BBC. And let no one forget, it belongs only to them.
My Lords, I never expected that it would be my experience to have to congratulate a former Conservative Government Chief Whip on making his maiden speech, having crossed the Floor of the House. But, I hasten to point out that there is no suggestion of defection. I am sure the whole House will believe that it was absolutely right that the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, should speak from the Cross Benches in his new capacity as acting chairman of the BBC. The whole House will also have been pleased that he did not feel inhibited by any suggestion that he should speak in a non-controversial way, in discharging the clear responsibility that he now holds to speak for that great organisation and national pride that is the BBC—and for its voice to be heard.
One of the more boring remarks made in this House over issues of reform concerns whether there is any value in having Members who can speak with real authority and experience. The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, whose maiden speech was well worth waiting for since 1997, has underlined that perhaps more controversial point. We very much look forward to hearing him again.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, not particularly for the hours I spent over the past weekend trying to read his report, but for reminding me of what today's debate was all about. The report marks an extraordinary event. When the dust has finally settled, I commend to every noble Lord, contrary to the comments of the Lord Chancellor, the reading of an outstanding article by the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, on Monday. It is a tribute to his experience that even when he had only half read the report he had a pretty good idea. When he had fully read it, the comments he then made bore out his earlier comments on the matter. I was certainly impressed by what he said.
I tried to understand how on earth we have reached this situation. On the first symptom, I share the view of the governor of the BBC reported in the Hutton report. The "Today" programme has become one of extraordinary political significance. It is a battleground of political ideas and attempts at spin and control. Recently, as the director said in his evidence, it has come into the business of creating rather than reporting news. There were elements of tabloid and Sunday journalism in which it appeared to be avoiding contacting people who might deny its story. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, and his colleagues that that has been one of my concerns.
When I read that Kevin Marsh had said that the BBC had recruited Mr Gilligan so that he might get up the nose of the Government, I was not sure that that was what Lord Reith originally had in mind in his concept of the BBC. That attitude—it is valid criticism of the BBC because obviously Mr Gilligan got part of his story wrong—ran headlong into a Government absolutely determined, as no government before, to control and dominate the media in every possible way. That comes out clearly in the blizzard of e-mails to which the BBC was subjected.
That happened not least because these incidents took place at a time of huge government sensitivity about the war—about its origins and the validity of the intelligence. That combination of events led to the extraordinary diversion and to the tragedy of Dr David Kelly's death. It was a diversion from the main issue that is now to be further pursued. I believe that there are valid criticisms to be made of the BBC and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, and his colleagues will be anxious to ensure that those lessons are learnt.
I turn to the other part of the Hutton report that concerns me. I was impressed by Air Marshal Walker, a former deputy chairman of the JIC, speaking on the "Today" programme. His experience—and it is certainly mine as chairman of the ISC for seven years—is that the JIC has never before been used for a public relations exercise of this kind. I recognise the interpretation of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, of the meaning of "sexing up". Clearly, in my judgment, that document was sexed up. It was not sexed up in the context put by Mr Gilligan, but it was sexed up.
I am sure that one of the lessons learnt will be the importance of getting the fullest evidence possible. My former committee, the ISC, examined the issue and established that there were no political pressures on the JIC for the production of that document. The ISC merely took evidence and never had access to the e-mails. Once one has read the e-mails that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, had opened up—they were subsequently referred to as "a can of worms"—one can see the amount of political pressure that was exerted.
I believe that Mr Scarlett, an outstanding public servant for whom I have the highest regard, was put in an impossible position. I understand the expression "subconsciously" used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, but it would have been impossible for Mr Scarlett to do that job knowing that he was under prime ministerial instruction to produce the strongest document possible within the bounds of the intelligence available without being influenced in that respect. With the experience I have in that field, I can draw no other conclusion.
I turn to the naming of Dr Kelly. As a former Secretary of State for Defence, I was extremely unhappy about the way in which it was done. I agree with Alastair Campbell's evidence to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that with hindsight his name should have been concealed or it should have been announced having given Dr Kelly clear warning of that so that arrangements could be made for him. The idea of a "Twenty Questions" exercise to see whether the media guessed the right name was most regrettable.
I read the Hutton report—I need to read it again but I do not have time—and I could not discover who gave authority for the naming. I may have missed it. Of course the question and answer document was the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence, but within that was one key policy decision: whether to release his name. I have not discovered the source of that. Whether it was taken by Sir Kevin Tebbit, who showed the question and answer document to Secretary of State Geoff Hoon, I cannot say because I cannot find out who took it, but the Prime Minister authorised it in principle by everyone recognising, "We will announce that we have a source and it is inevitable that the name will come out". That was not a glorious decision.
The Chief Whip will note that I had one minute to acknowledge the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, so perhaps I may claim injury time in order to ask where we go now. I cannot understand why the Government have got into such a hopeless muddle over the new committee. I cannot understand why there has been a huge rush to set it up. One can announce that there will be an inquiry, but I understand that now we have four unexpected Privy Counsellors. No one expected that they would have to be appointed to the Privy Council because people had not had time to work out who was or was not a Privy Counsellor. That is indicative of the confusion.
The terms of reference are obviously most important. Perhaps I may ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who is a member of the Cabinet: what do the Government intend those terms of reference should be? I hope that in responding to the debate he will have a good, clear government answer to that question. I shall press on my colleagues the question of the continuing participation of the Conservative Party in the inquiry if we cannot be clear about the agreement we have reached. It was spelt out most clearly by Michael Howard on television, and if that is not to be honoured in an attempt to divert the committee, who are splendid people in their own right, from what we understood the terms of reference to be, that would be most unsatisfactory.
I want to make a final point and I apologise for the time. Out of this difficult issue, the aim of the work of the new committee must be to ensure that in future we have the best possible intelligence and that the best possible and wisest use of intelligence is made by government in pursuit of their policies. The Prime Minister was most evangelistic in the House today about the importance of America and Britain being a force for good in the world and making their contribution in difficult circumstances to try to make the world a safer, fairer and more just place. In those circumstances, if we are to enter all sorts of situations and regions, it is absolutely essential that we have the best possible intelligence and take the wisest decisions we can before we send our forces into what may be dangerous situations. That is the objective of the inquiry and I hope that, following on from the lessons learnt from the Hutton inquiry, the new committee can have clear terms of reference to ensure that we achieve that objective.
My Lords, one sets up committees of inquiry for a number of purposes. The first is to hold a government to account and the second, but equally important, is to attempt to re-establish public confidence. It is evident from the public reaction to the Hutton report that it has failed to re-establish public confidence. That is partly because its terms were set narrowly and the noble and learned Lord's interpretation of those terms was itself extremely narrow. Now we have a new inquiry whose terms are also set extremely narrowly. We now understand that the exact narrowness of those terms is not yet fully agreed between the Conservative Party and the Government.
Those are the reasons why my party rightly refused to participate in the inquiry. Perhaps the House will allow me to quote from the last Liberal government's terms of inquiry over British operations in Iraq. They were:
"to inquire into the origins, inception and conduct of operations of war" in Mesopotamia in August 1916. "The origins and inception" are rather broader terms. We have gone backwards in our attitude towards committees of inquiry.
The underlying question, as a number of speakers have already said, is what was the case for war? How strong was the evidence for weapons of mass destruction? What were the other underlying motivations?
There were many other American motivations, explicitly stated in Washington in the year that preceded the intervention: clearly, in the neo-conservative Right, to remake the Middle East, through forcing changes of regime in Iraq and Iran, so removing the main perceived threats to Israel and to America's dominant position in what the Americans call the "Greater Middle East Region"; regime change in Iraq, partly to complete the job not completed in l991 by the Administration of the first President Bush—to which many of those pushing for regime change in 2002 had belonged; in Iran, to restore the prestige the United States had lost in the Iranian revolution and in the failed attempt to rescue American hostages after the revolution.
I recall that there was an active argument in Washington think tanks, and on the op-ed pages, about whether it was correct for the United States to attack Iraq or Iran first. There was a clear belief on the American Right that the Iranian and Iraqi regimes were the main supporters of Palestinian terrorism, of Hezbollah and Hamas, and that their removal would thus lead to Palestinian acceptance of Israeli terms for a settlement. It was stated in many publications in Washington at the time, and by Henry Kissinger, that:
"The road to Jerusalem lies through Baghdad'.
It is a deeply flawed analysis of Middle Eastern politics, but it was one that gained the status of conventional wisdom on the Right of Washington foreign policy discussions between September 11, 2001 and the invasion of Iraq.
It was a drive from the Right to force regime change in those two countries that predated the September 11 attacks. Those attacks, and the successful intervention in Afghanistan that followed, provided the impetus for linking global terrorism with Palestinian terrorism and Saddam Hussein with Al'Qaeda, which noble Lords will recall that the Right attempted to do, to make a plausible case for war.
Our Prime Minister did not share that analysis. I hope that he was well informed about the mixed motivations in Washington that drove their case for war; if he was not, then there were weaknesses at the heart of the British Government. He clearly believed that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime was a threat to peace, to the region and to the world, but it is clear that neither he nor the rest of the British Government shared American perceptions of Iran. It is also clear that many others within the British Government, including the Foreign Secretary, did not share his deeply-held personal conviction, just as there were those within the Bush Administration, notably Colin Powell, who did not share the convictions of the leaders of the Pentagon.
So the Prime Minister had to rest the case for war far more on weapons of mass destruction than his American allies did in order to persuade a more sceptical British Parliament and public. Clearly, that is where Downing Street came unstuck. It had to make uncertain evidence carry more weight than it was capable of bearing. The charge is that the Government stretched the evidence, that it massaged the evidence. On the evidence of the Hutton inquiry, although not in its conclusions, that charge is made.
In his opening speech the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made some rather ungracious references to these Benches, which I felt were close to unacceptable in this Chamber. The Prime Minister, in his speech on
"unified . . . in opportunism and error".—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/03; col. 761.]
It has been an uncomfortable period for us in the run up to war. We were not convinced that the evidence was conclusive; we felt that the Government were putting the worst case evidence in each dossier they produced. I remember a 167-page dossier that, we were told, had conclusive evidence on page 91 that the Iraqi regime still had anthrax. I read that page very carefully. The discussion was about whether the Iraqis had stopped producing anthrax in 1990 or in 1991, and whether under ideal, laboratory conditions, they might have managed to keep some of that anthrax active for another 10 to 12 years. In the presentation that was produced as evidence that they must still have anthrax. Not surprisingly, we on these Benches were not entirely persuaded.
What were the other reasons for going to war alongside the Bush Administration? First, to maintain the closeness of the special relationship, to preserve Britain's claimed position as the bridge between the United States and Europe. Secondly, to gain concessions from the Bush Administration, in return for our support on their approach to war.
It is clear that these hoped-for concessions were: first, legitimation, through the United Nations, in the approach to war; secondly, a constructive and well-planned approach to post-conflict reconstruction, within a multilateral framework, with a vital role for the UN. President Bush repeated the term "vital role" eight times in his press conference after the Belfast bilateral summit; and, thirdly, a parallel commitment to revive the Middle East peace process through the road map. A Government resolution on March 18 last year includes the statement that the other place:
"also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet's road map as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty's Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine".—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/03; col. 760.]
We have gained none of those concessions.
The failure to achieve the aims that Her Majesty's Government hoped to gain through following America's lead, and accepting America's case for war, raises wider questions, far wider than those that the Hutton inquiry or the Butler inquiry are allowed to address within their terms of reference: questions about the strategy of the Bush Administration to Palestine and the Likud Government; questions about the transatlantic special relationship; questions about intelligence co-operation; questions about the renewal of the US/UK agreement on intelligence co-operation; and, indeed, questions about the future of NATO. There is an excellent article in today's Herald Tribune by a leading American that says that it is time for the Americans to reconsider the future of NATO.
There are some broad and difficult issues here that go to the heart of British foreign policy: the value of the special relationship; the Government's attempt to balance between the United States and continental Europe; the terms of British intelligence co-operation with the United States. An inquiry into the origins and inception of Her Majesty's Government's approach to war with Iraq would touch on these issues. Neither Hutton, nor Butler, with their narrowly drawn terms of reference, will do so.
My Lords, I should say at the outset that I am currently the Prime Minister's strategy adviser, on a part-time basis. However, I speak today above all as someone who worked at the BBC for 13 years, and who is deeply troubled to see an institution I so revere suffer the worst setback in its history. I am reassured that the noble Lord, Lord Ryder of Wensum, who is a deeply thoughtful and conscientious person and who I have long known, is holding the reins at this difficult time.
At the root of this crisis was a slipshod piece of journalism. Let us be clear: it was not "mostly right". The central thrust of the story was unfounded. But let us also be clear: the subject of the reporter's inquiry, the Government's dossier, was entirely legitimate. It was the treatment of the story that was deeply unsatisfactory. Faced with a tip-off on a contentious matter, experienced journalists test their sources rigorously. They proceed with watchful scepticism, scrutinising the emerging information from every angle. Through further inquiry, they build up their knowledge. They put the allegations to those involved. Painstakingly, they build up the fullest possible picture.
Had all that happened in this instance, and had an accurate, fair and contextualised story resulted, it would manifestly have been in the public interest. One reason why this did not happen is that the programme itself failed to exercise due editorial scrutiny over its reporter. Moreover, when grave allegations are to be made—and especially when there is a risk of libel—the programme's senior editorial staff need to bring into play the organisation's best editorial and legal minds. That did not happen either.
All organisations make mistakes. But the BBC was damaged in this instance above all by its failure to respond properly after the story was broadcast. When the coverage was challenged, it should have been rigorously investigated by BBC executives. But—transfixed as they were by outside attack—they did not. Rather, we had blind defence and sophistry. We heard the story being supported on the grounds that it was sufficient to report a source, provided that the source was reported accurately, whether or not the story was true.
Indeed, the word most missing during this saga was "truth". Absolute truth in journalism or in any other sphere may be unattainable, but we can all recognise journalism that is honestly engaged in the pursuit of truth—journalism that is rigorous, fair-minded and questioning; journalism that is committed to getting it right.
When the governors finally became involved, they focused on a key principle—the independence of the BBC. They were right to do so, for the independence of the BBC—we will all agree—is sacred. It has been fought for by boards and directors-general since John Reith successfully resisted Churchill's demand for the government to take over the corporation in the general strike. Of course the BBC must be willing to stand up to the powerful. Of course it must investigate and reveal. But the governors' failure—under fire—was not to focus at the same time on another, equally vital, principle: the need to safeguard the integrity of the BBC's journalism, to try to discover whether the story complained of was actually true.
Last week, the governors finally did act. But they took far too long to exert a grip as the crisis rumbled on. They failed for too long to act as the BBC's regulators—and, in the process, they have brought into question the institution's 1920s system of governance.
The story in question in the form it took was at odds with the corporation's own high and stated standards—the standards that history has set it. It should not have happened, and it should not have been defended. From top to bottom a series of grievous errors was made. And it is those errors that damaged the BBC.
The BBC can and, no doubt, will pick its way out of this dreadful imbroglio. But it can do so only by truly coming to terms with—facing up to—what really happened. For some within—still in denial; understandably shocked, bewildered and confused by the crisis—that will be difficult. But I assure your Lordships that throughout the BBC, at every level, there are many who do appreciate the significance of what occurred, who are deeply committed to journalism of the highest standard.
The powerful "Panorama", put out in the week before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton reported, is one testament to that. It is on the firm foundation of its own best people that the BBC can re-stake its claim to offer journalism of challenge and integrity; can embrace the rigour that goes hand-in-hand with robustness.
Your Lordships' support will be needed, too. The BBC has taken tumbles throughout its history. The institution can be infuriating, even for those of us who have led it! But at its best, the BBC has offered a vital, democracy-enhancing national debating chamber, unique in the world. It has nourished our lively, creative, national culture. It has given space to Britain's most innovative talents to express themselves—and, in the process, to engage, stimulate and entertain us. It has extended all our horizons, delving into our history, opening our eyes to the wonders of the arts and science and nature.
The task of the coming months is to rebuild the BBC's confidence, health and strength; to encourage this great institution—of which the noble Lords, Lord King and Lord Ryder, spoke—to pursue its highest purposes: to restore and revitalise its historic commitment to public service.
My Lords, the speech just made by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, is one of the best I have heard in this Chamber in a long time. I also welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder. He also put in context what the BBC has to do from now on. I shall come to the BBC later in my remarks.
It is very difficult to have a debate on the Hutton report because the report is very difficult to debate: it considers a lot of evidence and arrives at conclusions. There is not much to be said about it. So we are having a debate on everything else, such as why the Government went to war. However, that is not what the Hutton report is about. What will the new intelligence committee say to us? That is not what the debate is about either. We are going round in circles trying to find anything other than the Hutton report to entertain ourselves this afternoon. It reminds me of what Macaulay said about the English nation in a mood of hysteria.
Dr Kelly's death was tragic. As far as I could detect at the time and from subsequent evidence, Dr Kelly was shopped by Andrew Gilligan to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee as Susan Watts' source. What he said at seven minutes past six o'clock on
If one concedes that that is the story, and if Dr Kelly had not committed suicide, then everything else we have been discussing—about sexing up, not sexing up, who said what to who and when—would not matter. Imagine a scenario in which he had not committed suicide but had perhaps been reprimanded. There would have been no inquiry. There would have been nothing about which to inquire. There would have been no need to release 9,000 pages of evidence. I should add that I am glad that they have been released as it has been an exercise in open government.
When someone commits suicide, all the evidence has to be examined. The central problem is that behaviour and comments which seemed ordinary before the suicide start to look sinister after it. Quite naturally, finding a patch of ground on which he was in the right, Alastair Campbell carried on fighting. Spin doctors do not often find themselves in the right, but when they do, they fight. I do not blame him for that; this is a political game. Had this man not committed suicide all of that would have been a completely ordinary matter of daily politics to which we gave no further thought.
So the Hutton report is about the death of one person and not about the Prime Minister. Quite a lot of people wanted a one-page report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that started by saying, "The Prime Minister was guilty of taking the nation to war on dubious grounds—period". The Independent, the Guardian and everyone would have been very happy, and no doubt cheering from the rafters. However, I do not think that we have a constitution in which a judge can dismiss a Prime Minister. We have a constitution in which Parliament has to decide such matters.
Even if my right honourable friend had been in the wrong, and even if the noble and learned Lord had said so—we would have had a very different debate in that case; we would all have been talking about the noble and learned Lord, not about a thousand other matters—it would not have been right on that ground alone for the Prime Minister to resign. Prime Ministers resign when they lose the confidence of Parliament. That is the constitution; that is the way in which we do things.
There is a problem, because people are demanding committee after committee and commission after commission. There is the Hutton report; there will be the Butler report. When the Butler report comes out and is debated, people will be disappointed. I tell noble Lords that now. I told people before the Hutton report, "You will be disappointed by it". Once again, people expect the noble Lord, Lord Butler, to say, "The Prime Minister is guilty because he took the country to war on dubious grounds". That is not what the noble Lord has been asked to do, but it is exactly what people expect.
All the people who praised the integrity of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, before he published the report turned round and found all sorts of things wrong with him afterwards, only because he had not told them what they wanted to hear. If people want such a report, why do they not publish it themselves? The Liberal Democrats can publish their own report, have their own judge or many judges, and tell the judges, "Write this report". That would be very nice. Every party can have a report, and we can all be happy ever after. However, the report that we have on hand is not about why we went to war. It is about Kelly and it is absolutely clear that, so far as that question is concerned, the blame all lies on one side.
As my noble friend Lady Ramsay said, sometimes the blame cannot be distributed equally all around. Sometimes one has to say yea or nay. If, instead of what the noble and learned Lord wrote, he had said that the BBC was innocent and the Government were to blame, not one person would have minded. A government who have been in power for seven years become unpopular. When one is in government, one is not there to be loved—one is there to govern. Not being loved should not be a problem. However, there is hysteria abroad that suggests that we resign despite the lack of evidence, as it were.
I therefore think that people should wait either until they get a 15th or 16th commission to report what they want it to report, or for the verdict of history about who and what was the story behind our going to war in Iraq. Incidentally, I supported the Government's stance and have seen nothing to change my view on that.
I want to make one comment about the BBC. I must say that I feel slightly like a foreigner. Excellent though the BBC is, I really think that we make too much fuss about it. When the BBC was a great independent institution, it was because the elite was a single, small elite of white men who had all gone to one of two public schools and one of two universities. That is why it was so solid. We now live in a society with multiple elites. We have lots of genuine differences. We cannot go on having the idea that there should be one great cultural institution that is hegemonic, culturally, so that it reflects the ideals of Lord Reith. Every time I hear his name I want to do something violent, but I shall not.
There is a problem. The BBC is financed by a regressive tax. I would like someone to find a way of financing the BBC by a progressive tax, not a regressive tax. I would like to see the BBC protected for its journalism and its arts, but not for its entertainment. I do not see why I have to pay for BBC entertainment at all. It can go out and compete. We need to think about the BBC; it may be the wrong time to do so, because as soon as one says anything about it people think one is attacking its independence.
Andrew Gilligan was not the BBC. The "Today" programme was not the BBC. The BBC should calm down. It should have done what the noble Lord, Lord Birt, said. Now that it has not done it, it should not take this crisis and make it into a tragedy for itself.
My Lords, I listened with great interest as always to my noble friend Lord Desai, and especially to his final remarks about the BBC. I do not actually know whether Lord Reith went to one of those famous public schools; I had always rather hoped that he went to Glasgow University. I am not sure that he did, but he should have done.
What is notable about the responses to the Hutton report is that they are mainly based on the opinions or prejudices that the commentators and reporters had before the inquiry began. The report did not change those at all. I should therefore like to put my own prejudices on record; they have not changed either. I am not new Labour, as older Members of the House will know, but I have no objection to the Prime Minister, wish him no harm and support him whenever I can. More importantly, I supported the war and still do.
My reasons for supporting the war have nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or weapons of any kind, nor with any of the numerous reasons recited by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. They are quite simple and rely on Iraq's disdain for numerous UN resolutions over a considerable period, and the UN's failure to deal with that. In that respect, the UN came more and more to remind me of the League of Nations, which some noble Lords might remember. It failed in its duty to insist on the resolutions that it passed.
I do not need to recite those resolutions, as they were set out in two very notable speeches last year by my noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale. She was right then and is still right now. I support her entirely. I have known her for 40 years, since I was in the other place and she was a figure in the Foreign Office. We were often joined by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in those days; I am sure that he is still as favourably inclined towards her as he was then.
The problem arose from Gilligan's assertion that the Government had inserted certain information, knowing it to be wrong. It would be hard to think of anything more serious to allege. Gilligan excuses himself by saying that most of his report was true. That might be right, although the noble Lord, Lord Birt, did not seem to agree with that. The claim was deftly dismissed by Michael Gove in the Times yesterday, who said that if he asserted that:
"Greg Dyke was a charming, original, talented tax-dodger that would be mostly true", but that the last word would be a gross libel. Gilligan's assertion falls into a somewhat similar place.
I now turn to the general picture of the journalism of Gilligan. I have been a member of the National Union of Journalists for 30 years plus, not in the glow and glamour of Fleet Street, but in the business and professional press where we try to tell the truth whenever we can. The NUJ has a code of conduct; one might say that it is an ethical code. I think that the president of the NUJ should send Gilligan a copy of the code, as he does not appear to follow it very closely. That goes to the centre of the issue. A good deal has been spoken of the probity and brilliance of BBC journalism but, like my noble friend Lord Desai, I am slightly sceptical about it. I shall not go into that now.
I turn to Dr Kelly and to what is known as the duty of care that the MoD owed to him or is said to have owed to him. Having in my day been both an employee and an employer, I am not sure what "duty of care" means. A good employer safeguards the welfare of his employees as best as he can, but that does not mean that the employee is necessarily entitled to be totally protected should he stray from the path of righteousness. That is an absurd contention, and yet it has been contended throughout the whole event.
If the MoD owed Dr Kelly a duty of care, Dr Kelly also owed a duty of care to his employer. He failed in that and his name was rightly released to the public. Whether the mechanism by which it was released was right or wrong is immaterial. I would have preferred the MoD just to name him, to have come straight out with it, without using a questionnaire approach. Dr Kelly failed in his duty of care to his employer and the result was tragic for him and for his family, but in that respect he was the author of his own misfortune. I do not like to say that, but that is the case.
I have a general point to make on the media. Like the trade unions, the media have become over-powerful and over-mighty. The trade unions were dealt with in the 1980s and I supported the government of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, in doing that, although I sat on the Opposition Benches at the time. For some time the media—originally the press—were referred to by a nickname, the fourth estate. That was all right as long as it was a nickname, but in recent years the media have come to believe it and that is where they have gone wrong. The media believe that they have the right to overturn governments, to harass and possibly to overturn Ministers, and to create on the "Today" programme the political agenda for the day—whatever happens to suit them—and that is wrong.
I conclude by reminding the House of a matter that has continued throughout the war and the Hutton inquiry. The attitude of the press towards the Government and the Prime Minister reminded me of a phrase, which older Members will remember, used by Aneurin Bevan in the late 1940s: he referred to an attitude of the press as the "drip, drip, drip of denigration". That is still going on and it is high time it stopped.
My Lords, in the increasingly bitter war of words that has been waged between the Government and the media since the publication of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, sadly the forgotten man has been Dr David Kelly. That is why I believe we are very grateful to my noble friend Lord Waddington for his very powerful speech, given his knowledge of the family.
I recognise that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, decided that he did not need to make any recommendations. The basis for that belief, in paragraph 472 of the report, is that he had no doubt that,
"the BBC and the Government will take note of the criticisms which I have made in this report".
As my noble friend Lord Strathclyde pointed out last Wednesday, to hear the Government one would think that virtually no criticisms had been made. I echo the words of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde when he said that the Prime Minister believes,
"that the Government have nothing to apologise for and that he proposes no action to change the culture in his Government to avoid what happened to Dr Kelly ever happening again".—[Official Report, 28/1/04; col. 214.]
He asked the Government, and indeed the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Government, to apologise fully and unreservedly to Dr Kelly and his family. The noble and learned Lord took great offence to that. He called it irresponsible, distressing and disappointing. I have to disagree with him completely.
I should like to focus on one point, in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, to ensure that lessons have been learned and that any similar situation will be avoided in the future. We owe it to the family and friends of the late Dr David Kelly to ensure that the agony that he suffered will never be repeated. The report coincides with the introduction of the Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill. Therefore, this is an appropriate moment to reflect on what went wrong, as revealed in the pages of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
In this country we benefit enormously from the impartiality, the independence, the integrity and the objectivity of each and every civil servant. I have said that on many previous occasions and I have had personal experience of it as a Minister. There is an urgent need for very clear guidelines to be set out on where civil servants have access to the media. There is no room for any grey areas. I welcome the steps referred to by the Lord Chancellor at the start of the debate, but I believe that we have to go much further.
My recollection is that when I was a Minister my senior civil servants, with my full confidence and that of my colleagues, enjoyed access to leading specialist correspondents and to Lobby correspondents. That access was always undertaken under very tight conditions, assisted by a highly professional attitude on the part of information officers. But of course we now have a Government in which "spin" is a clean word. Against that background of spin, I believe that the guidelines have become seriously flawed. The general atmosphere of spin, spin, spin has confused the situation and, therefore, we must ensure that the code of conduct for civil servants envisaged under Clause 13 of the Bill places the situation beyond all reasonable doubt.
No, my Lords. Having, on occasions since he left office, heard Sir Bernard, the noble Lord may be correct in believing that he spins a little here and there. But when he occupied that vital office of communicating on behalf of the Prime Minister, I know of no instance when he was guilty of spin.
I pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for his expert handling of a difficult brief and inquiry, with restricted terms of reference. However, my view of the inquiry is that one of the key questions, which was never asked and was therefore never properly considered, is why Dr Kelly's version of events was ever publicised. When he wrote that letter to his immediate superiors on
He was seen by Dr Wells during the afternoon of
"One of Dr Kelly's roles in the course of his work was to speak to the media".
In accepting that, Mr Hatfield told Dr David Kelly that he accepted that he had no malicious intent and that no classified material had been revealed. Mr Hatfield decided that no formal disciplinary proceedings would be initiated. He warned Dr Kelly that he would be writing to him expressing displeasure at his conduct, and that should have been an end to the matter.
Dr Kelly had volunteered valuable information. How much have we heard of the leak inquiry? The information that Dr Kelly had volunteered should, as Dr Wells pointed out, have been made available to the leak inquiry, but it bypassed it and we still do not really know why. I am sure that it was right for his permanent secretary to arrange for the information given by Dr Kelly to be made available within government, better to inform those who had to make decisions about how to handle the allegations made by Mr Gilligan. However, in the Hutton report, Sir Kevin Tebbit says that his advice, presumably to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, was that no attempt should be made to publicise what Dr Kelly had said.
My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord is suggesting that the conversation between Dr Kelly and Mr Gilligan was authorised or unauthorised. That is unclear.
My Lords, it is not unclear. I said that Mr Hatfield's conclusion was that Dr Kelly should not have done what he did but that no disciplinary action would be taken against him, and that Sir Kevin Tebbit said that it should not reach the public domain. So the Prime Minister was wrong to decide that a statement should be issued saying that an unnamed civil servant had come forward. Everyone except the Prime Minister seems to have recognised that as soon as that statement was issued, Dr Kelly's name was bound to come out. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, says that it was not a practical possibility to keep his name secret.
When Dr Kelly received his ticking-off, he had every right to expect that he would be afforded anonymity. As far as I can see, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, never considered whether the information should have been used only to inform the leak inquiry. The decision to rush out a statement was wrong. To have exposed Dr David Kelly to intense media interest is greatly to be regretted and must never be allowed to happen to a civil servant again.
My Lords, I propose to limit my remarks to one specific issue, which is important, although it was dismissed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. That is the potential impact of the Hutton report on freedom of the media. Some of the noble and learned Lord's comments can be read as supporting the restriction of media freedom. At paragraph 280, the noble and learned Lord said:
"the communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society. However the right to communicate such information is subject to the qualification (which itself exists for the benefit of a democratic society) that false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others, including politicians, should not be made by the media".
That passage is repeated at paragraph 291.
The noble and learned Lord seems to be saying that the media must not make allegations of misconduct about issues of public importance unless they are satisfied that they can verify the truth of those allegations. If he means that—it is not wholly clear whether he does—he plainly goes too far. The media, like the Government, must not make allegations that they know or believe to be untrue, but the media—again, like the Government—should be free to make and publish allegations that they believe to be true, even if it later turns out that they are not.
Except in a few cases, such as contempt of court, there is and should be no control by public authorities over the publication by the media of allegations of misconduct. Instead, that is a matter for the civil law of defamation. The party accused of misconduct can protect his reputation by an action in court. But media bodies that act responsibly and in good faith may be protected by the law even if they make allegations of misconduct that turn out to be untrue.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, refers to the Reynolds case and sets out extracts from it in appendix 17. That is indeed an important case; it was a libel action brought by Albert Reynolds, the former Taoiseach, against the Sunday Times, which had made serious allegations against him about the performance of his duties. That case was decided in your Lordships' House by a 3:2 majority on the actual facts, but there was broad agreement on the principle. The principle was that where, on an issue of public importance, a newspaper or broadcaster makes defamatory allegations of fact that cannot be proved to be true, in some circumstances, it is still not liable to pay damages for libel. That is the defence of qualified privilege.
What circumstances give rise to that defence must be decided, so the House of Lords said, on a case-by-case basis, but it is summarised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls, at page 202 of the official report of the Reynolds case. He said:
"The common law does not seek to set a higher standard than that of responsible journalism".
The extracts in appendix 17 are, I fear, selective. They are passages that concentrate on the need to protect people's reputation, but they do not include passages from the same speeches that hold that a newspaper or broadcaster may have the defence of qualified privilege even where the allegation cannot be shown to be true or is shown to be actually untrue. The passages that I have in mind are those from the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls, reported at pages 202 and 204 of the official report and that from the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hobhouse, that immediately follows the extract cited in appendix 17.
In this case, there is no libel action, but the test for the BBC is the same: was it guilty of irresponsible journalism; not, was it making allegations that have turned out to be untrue? Was it guilty of irresponsible journalism? So far as Andrew Gilligan is concerned, the answer is plainly yes, for reasons set out in the report and repeated by previous speakers.
What about Andrew Gilligan's superiors? I am sure that many of your Lordships regularly listen to the "Today" programme. It is live and unscripted, often dealing with up-to-the-minute news. Indeed, those are essential features of the programme. That system can work only if the reporters and presenters on "Today" have a good deal of freedom of action. But the BBC must be able to trust its reporters before it can give them that freedom.
It may be that Gilligan was known to be untrustworthy before
The noble and learned Lord's criticisms of how the BBC handled the issue after
Nothing can possibly be of higher importance than information on the basis of which the country has gone to war. That may be the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. The report does not suggest that Susan Watts acted improperly in broadcasting what Dr Kelly said, even though the noble and learned Lord concluded that those allegations were untrue. It is clear that Susan Watts acted entirely properly and nobody at any stage has suggested anything to the contrary.
The noble and learned Lord cleared the Government of acting improperly in publishing a dossier, even though the allegations about Saddam's possession of chemical and biological weapons, on which the dossier was based, were in all probability wrong. It cannot be right to apply a lower standard to the Government than we apply to the media. The report must not be used to attack the freedom of the media in general, nor of the BBC in particular.
My Lords, in contributing to this debate I intend to stand back a little from the detail of the Hutton report, important though that is for a better understanding of last year's prolonged agony over the Government's dispute with the BBC and its tragic denouement.
For speed-readers and for those with forensic skills, the temptation to delve deep, to apportion blame and to score political points is almost irresistible. As one who does not qualify under any of these headings, I would rather try to set the events covered by the Hutton report in a wider context and to look for lessons to be learned in a somewhat broader perspective.
There are some important questions to be examined, which go wider than the terms of reference of the report itself and indeed will now fall within the scope of the new inquiry announced yesterday. How did all those involved in intelligence gathering and analysis—and that includes the UN's own inspectors—come to overestimate the extent of Saddam Hussein's inventories of weapons of mass destruction? And why did Saddam himself not move decisively to extract himself from the predicament in which overwhelming military force was going to be deployed against him?
It does not seem to me to make much sense now to contest the fact that there was, last year, an overestimation of Saddam Hussein's inventories of weapons of mass destruction, which is not the same thing as saying that there was an overestimate of the danger inherent in his capacity rapidly to reconstitute his earlier programmes and thus of the continuing threat to international peace and security which he represented and of his failure to comply with mandatory Security Council resolutions.
Why did this overestimate occur? Many of the opponents of the war have no hesitation about answering that question, because, they say, the US and the UK deliberately exaggerated the threat and misled their parliaments and people about it. But that rather ignores the fact that the UN and many of the governments who opposed the use of force in March made just the same overestimates.
The difference between the two groups came over the correct response and its timing. Some wanted to give the inspectors more time; others thought that Saddam had had enough time to comply. There is in effect a rather simpler explanation for this overestimate than deliberate duplicity. In 1991, when UN inspectors first gained access to Iraq's WMD programmes, they found that they were far more elaborate and advanced than Western intelligence, before the 1991 war, had ever predicted. Had Saddam Hussein not been so unwise as to invade Kuwait in 1990, he would, by about 1993, have had nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. In 1995 the inspectors discovered, in addition, from the evidence provided by Saddam's luckless sons-in-law, that he had a number of biological weapons programmes, including projects for their weaponisation.
Following such a major series of intelligence failures, which could have had genuinely horrendous consequences, and faced, as they were, with 12 years of systematic Iraqi obfuscation and concealment, is it surprising that intelligence analysts and weapons inspectors were inclined to err on the side of overestimate rather than underestimate?
Why then did Saddam not make a clean breast of it, open every door and every book to the inspectors and convince them he had nothing to hide? That he did not do so is not in doubt. We have Dr Blix's word for that in a whole series of reports. There is every difference in the world between a government who decide definitively to rid themselves of WMD once and for all and co-operate fully with UN inspectors—as the South Africans did over their nuclear programme and as we hope Colonel Gaddafi is now beginning to do—and a government like the Iraqi Government who do not. It took little over a year to finish clearing up South Africa's nuclear programmes—and they were far more advanced than anyone else's had ever been—and 12 years not to do so in Iraq. Perhaps Saddam will give us an explanation for this conundrum, but I doubt whether anything he says will have any credibility.
Meanwhile, it does not seem likely to be too wide of the mark to speculate that Saddam was simply not prepared to renounce these programmes once and for all; and that he was determined to retain the capability to reconstitute them if and when the international community tired of its efforts to deprive him of them. This hypothesis may, retrospectively, cast doubt on the immediacy of the threat posed; it does not cast doubt on its fundamental reality.
One is surely bound to ask also how much significance it is reasonable to attach to the drafting differences in the British Government's September dossier, over which so much agonising went on at the time and on whose significance the whole dispute between the Government and the BBC was based. Does one seriously believe that the effect of the very slightly more cautious wording originally proffered by the intelligence services would, if it had appeared in the published dossier, have fundamentally altered the conclusions drawn from it, or indeed that it should have done so? I doubt it. After all, two months later, the Security Council—most of whose members, and certainly its permanent members, could hardly be expected to treat British intelligence as Gospel truth—agreed unanimously that Saddam Hussein was in breach of his WMD obligations and faced "serious consequences" if he did not immediately remedy that.
What was a mistake, from which we need to learn, was to impart to a document based almost exclusively on covert intelligence, a degree of certainty which no such document can reasonably sustain. Just as intelligence does not win wars, but only helps you to win them, so intelligence cannot be expected to provide certainty, but merely varying degrees of probability or possibility. That is not a reason to ignore it or to discount it. Quite the contrary. When dealing with a totalitarian dictatorship, it is likely to be the best you are going to get and it may have to be a basis for action.
I now turn to the sequence of events covered in the report of the noble and learned Lord, and it is important to remember at each stage that whereas we now, with the benefit of hindsight, read history looking backwards and knowing much that was not known at the time, decision-makers have to live history moving forwards, ignorant of much that we now know. There are two generic issues of process which merit some comment: the way the media separate, or rather no longer separate, the reporting of news from the commentary and opinions they express on it, and the way the e-mail technological revolution has influenced the transaction of government business. Time was when the separation of news from comment was a fundamental part of the professional credo of journalism. It still is in a very few honourable exceptions, such as the Financial Times and the New York Times. But generally the distinction is now ignored, as are the rigorous checks that used to be required as a necessary preliminary to filing a news story. Clearly in a free society both abundant news and a capacity to comment fearlessly are essential, but mingling the two does no one any good. It reduces the respect and confidence we have in journalism. It reduces the value of the media's contribution to the formation of our opinions. It leads ineluctably to the sort of feud which we have seen played out before our eyes in recent months.
No one can, or should, try to force the media to re-establish a Chinese wall between news and comment, but I would hope that they would reflect on whether it is not in their own best interest to do so. In that respect I was greatly encouraged by the most impressive contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, to our debate.
To lament the omnipresence of e-mail and to attempt to turn back that tide would be about as silly and misconceived as the advice of King Canute's courtiers or the activities of the Luddites. E-mail is here to stay, or at least until it too is superseded by the next wave of technical innovation. What seems to have gone wrong, however, is that this major change has occurred without anyone having given thought to its implications for the conduct of government business, and above all for the essential clarity over lines of authority and responsibility.
In the dim and distant past there was, on the one hand, the telephone, which was pervasively used but left no trace unless it was converted into an official document and therefore had no official validity, and, on the other hand, the official written transaction of business, which was regulated by rules and which clearly established lines of authority and responsibility. Into that idyllically clear division plunged e-mail, which was none of those things and falls between every bureaucratic stool. It is recorded, as we are now all too well aware, but is not regulated by any rules of procedure or any discipline. Most dangerously of all, it blurs the lines of authority and responsibility so that Lenin's famous dictum "Who, whom?" becomes rather difficult to construe.
What is surely urgently needed now are clear rules of the road that bring e-mail communications within the ambit of other written communications—not so much a big conversation as a controlled interaction of various policy considerations. Lest I be thought to be a little critical, in particular of No. 10, I should add that I believe that my former department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and others are every bit as much in need of reform in that respect.
It is right that we should debate this report with seriousness and with the intention of drawing lessons from it that will prevent mistakes being repeated in future. But I hope that we will not linger too long over the minutiae and, in some cases, the trivia of what has been uncovered. There is a natural prurience about such matters, which means that we find them endlessly fascinating. But the need to face up to present and future challenges, not least in Iraq, is pressing, and raking over the past is of only limited use in finding the right answers there.
Whatever our views on the origins of the war, there is surely a lot more common ground on the future that we want to help Iraq and its long-suffering people to achieve. Whatever we may think about the marginalisation of the UN—I believe that it was to be deplored—we need now to address our minds to how to increase its effectiveness. I hope that we can turn to those wider issues before too long.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. He and I spent four years in Brussels. He has made a vital contribution to this important debate. I am not easily astonished, but I was by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, who claimed that the Thatcher government, which he served with distinction, were guiltless of spin. I am totally astonished at his version of history. Notwithstanding that, I hope that we can remain good friends.
As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, has said, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was appointed, there was not a whimper from the lips of the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats, let alone their leaders. Yet when the decision—and it is reiterated in its terms of reference—emerged, all sorts of slurs encompassed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, and those acquitted of the death of David Kelly, and many other offences that were germane to them. We have heard it all today.
For eight months the Prime Minister and others had to endure all sorts of calumnies. He was accused of deceit and deception, not least by those who were quick to come alongside him in his denunciation of Saddam Hussein and everything for which he stood. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, acquitted the Prime Minister of those grave charges, and because of that neither he nor others were forgiven by those opposed to those views. The dilemma that confronted the Prime Minister was acute. If he did nothing, permitting Saddam Hussein to remain in unquestioned power, but then Hussein used weapons of mass destruction—which the Prime Minister thought in good faith that he had—in the light of the information provided by the intelligence services, it is right that he would have been held culpable.
In all the circumstances, the Conservative Opposition in another place and here have rushed to conclusions utterly out of kilter with their original views. They have been extremely opportunistic, and what is worse, they even realise it themselves. If the Conservatives had done the decent thing, this debate, in so far as it revolved around the issue of the Prime Minister's bad faith, could have been short-circuited.
None the less, some useful lessons can be learnt. First, it would have been preferable if the Prime Minister—who, in my view, has already acted with the utmost good faith—had said that Saddam Hussein posed threats different in quality, and realistically, from any others and, underlining the words of United Nations Resolution 1441, had to be removed in the interest of mankind. That is what I think the Prime Minister believed. Some may think that the Prime Minister might have been wrong. I do not share that view. In all material respects, I believe that he maintained an honest opinion.
Secondly, the mystique of the intelligence services must, in some respects at least, be dispelled. The public, when it is taken to war, is entitled to much more information than it was given. Of course, certain information must be withheld but not most of it. I hope that the new committee will do precisely that.
It is essential that the BBC be objective and independent. It is widely respected nationally and internationally. That is unquestionably the case now, and I believe that it will remain so despite all the criticisms unleashed on the governors. Everything that I have heard from Ministers since the publication of the report underlines that very fact.
What of the immediate future? A delay of perhaps a year or more in the publication of the report would be unconscionable. There is a very good prima facie case for urging that the report be given within a certain time.
The Intelligence and Security Committee, which has produced its report, has done an invaluable task. I do not concur with all its views, but that is inevitable when one considers the breadth of its considerations. Nor can we overlook that precedentedly no publicity had been afforded to the deliberations of the Joint intelligence Committee.
The British Government decided to depart from that and to publish in September 2002 Iraq's weapons of mass destruction—The assessment of the British Government, otherwise known as the dossier. That was unprecedented and should be applauded.
The history of events that led up to UN Security Council Resolution 1441 is well known. But it needs to be emphasised again and again that Iraq did not comply with all its obligations to surrender its weapons of mass destruction capability and its weapons systems. Indeed, that was acknowledged by the Iraqis themselves.
The Prime Minister had no alternative but to ensure that force—regrettable though that may have been—had to be used. The clear fact remains that Saddam Hussein could not be trusted. Chemical and biological weapons existed, albeit hidden, or secreted away by the regime. I cannot help feeling that much of that is attributable to the fact that the United Nations inspectors were there. What has happened since September 2002 does not have to be underlined by me.
The Intelligence and Security Committee has done a wonderful job. It has assessed the information put before it very clearly. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, within the terms of reference, also carried out a thorough task. The Government should be acquitted of the very grave charges that have been hurled unconscionably at them.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, and I shall come to his remarks on the BBC in a moment.
First, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, on his maiden speech, and above all I wish him well in the job that he now has. He is no stranger to difficulties. He and I worked closely together between 1992 and 1994. A Chief Whip who got the Maastricht legislation though the House of Commons with the majority that we achieved deserves our respect. I am sure that he will serve the BBC well. I was pleased to hear the reassurances that he gave.
My view of the Hutton report and its conclusions is that the Government have been very fortunate and the BBC very unfortunate. Having read the evidence, like the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, I still find the process whereby Dr Kelly's name was revealed to the press extraordinary. I emphasise that I do not believe that the Government were dishonest in the way in which they handled the matter. It was a question not of conspiracy but competence. One could have tried to keep the name secret, although I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that that would have been difficult to do, and probably impossible. However, if that was the judgment, it is extraordinary that, rather than making an open statement of identity to all the media, and having a properly planned process for protecting Dr Kelly—the two go together—there was an elaborate, and totally unprecedented 20-questions procedure, in which the press was invited on fishing trips to reveal Dr Kelly's identity. That is totally objectionable.
It is extraordinary that important decisions that could have a vital effect on the defence department were taken without the responsible Minister—the Secretary of State for Defence—being present. It is extraordinary, too, that the Secretary of State seems to have adopted a pretty hands-off approach to such a major issue affecting his own department.
If I were the Government, I would not feel very proud of the way in which this tragic case was handled. I would not have responded in quite the aggressive manner in which the Lord Chancellor opened his speech this afternoon. The report has been completed; it has been accepted; and we now have the consequences.
I shall concentrate on the consequences affecting the BBC. We have lost two exceptionally able men: the chairman and the director-general of the BBC. I regret that very much. They were outstanding leaders, and the BBC is very much the loser because of their resignations. We are now told that a line has been drawn and that peace has broken out. There is the danger. The relationship between government—any government, not just this one—and the BBC should never be a peaceful one. Of course the BBC has a duty to be as accurate as possible, but it also has a duty to question government, probe their policies and reveal their errors. The BBC is not an organisation whose duty is to relay the message of the government uncritically. Given some of the comments that have been made from—I regret to say—the Government Benches, that point needs to be emphasised.
I note that Ministers now talk of maintaining and supporting the independence of the BBC. Governments are not the natural supporters of fearless reporting and the independence of the BBC. That is not what governments want. They have never supported that in my time at Westminster, and they never will. In the 1980s I remember Margaret Thatcher speaking at a dinner for Cabinet Ministers and their wives at No. 10. She paid tribute to her husband with the words:
"Whenever I was tempted to say anything nice about the BBC Denis persuaded me out of it".
That not unfairly encompasses the view of the BBC in No. 10 in the 1980s.
In the 1990s, as party chairman, I remember being at No. 10 with John Major when the unfortunate head of press relations was instructed to ensure that the BBC immediately changed a report of the Prime Minister's speech. It was a hard task given that the BBC had quoted exactly the words that he had used.
The conflict between this Government and the BBC is nothing new, although 16 letters of complaint from No. 10 about the coverage of the Iraq war was not only excessive but clearly counter productive. It explains the BBC's reluctance to correct. I do not disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Birt, said on that point, but we need to remember the context of a corporation under a continual barrage from No. 10. Perhaps the noble Lord is a better man than most to take that message back to No. 10.
In resisting the pressure of governments, the BBC must be able to establish that its standards of reporting are high. We should remember that, whether in broadcasting or the press, mistakes will be made given the speed of journalism. Even when elaborate precautions are taken, media organisations can get it wrong. Hitler's bogus diaries come to mind. There is a need to guard against journalists or editors hardening up a story beyond its true worth, which seems to be what Mr Gilligan did. He had rather a good story on the doubts about information in the dossier, but he then pushed it several stages too far.
I am concerned about the suggestion that the BBC in future should only report the news rather than at times initiate it. That would be profoundly wrong. My first editor on the Times was William Haley, a former director-general of the BBC. He was perhaps austere, but he was an upright and principled man. His definition of the purpose of any media organisation was that it was there to expose. That is the media's duty. Neither Haley nor I mean exposing the trivia of an affair between a Minister and an actress. I mean exposing issues such as unacceptable hospital conditions, famine in poor countries, and, yes, the deficiencies of government.
Mr Gilligan may have overstated his story but that does not invalidate the process. Programmes such as "Today" must continue to make the news as well as report it. Not to do that leaves it a broken-backed programme without influence or purpose.
Overarching all that is the decision on what kind of BBC we want. Some want a much-reduced BBC; some want it for their own commercial interests. Over the coming months, we will have to judge. The Government, in my view unreasonably, criticised the BBC for its coverage of the Iraq war. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, repeated that charge today.
I really wonder whether the Government or the public would prefer the kind of coverage transmitted in the United States. One news channel operated with the national flag flying in the corner of the screen and martial music played as troops advanced. Would we prefer that? Or, as in another case, would we want military attacks delayed so that the advancing troops can act as a backdrop to a newscast by an influential correspondent? They both happened in the Iraq conflict.
If one good thing has come out of this sad and tragic affair, it is this. Here, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and I totally disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Desai. The opinion polls show clearly that there is much more support for the kind of BBC we have than some commentators and some politicians believe. As we now enter the period of debate on licence renewal, I think that the public have delivered a clear message to the politicians; that is, proceed with care. Do not tamper irresponsibly with an organisation which some of us still believe is one of the world leaders in broadcasting.
My Lords, I need to declare an interest before I make a short intervention in this important debate. I serve as rapporteur for Iraq, as WHO's special envoy particularly for that region, and I also serve as chairman of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation. In all of those capacities I have paid many visits to Iraq, to the neighbouring countries and to the region. Inevitably, I have received hospitality of some variant or another from a number of organisations and governments. Wherever I can I try to pay my own way, but I am often offered kindness and hospitality. I hope noble Lords will take that and set it aside from the comments I am about to make.
I support the findings of the Hutton report. I appreciate his work and I pay tribute to him and his staff. However, I ask the Government to look again at the European Convention on Human Rights, which, in 1998, was to act as a lodestar. Of course, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, made the point that accuracy of information is an imperative for the media. But he did not go further and point out that the print media are not covered because the Government are in breach of the relevant article of the ECHR.
The Broadcasting and Television Act 1956 demands a duty of accuracy and a separation of fact and opinion on radio and television. I guess that is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was thinking of when he referred to the need for accuracy. Alas, it does not cover the print media. I wonder whether noble Lords recall the hounding of Dr Kelly by the print media and the fact that the family had to move house at once when his name was released. They knew that they had to run; they went to a house in Cornwall. Does that kind of thing really give the Kellys the right to privacy and family life in the United Kingdom? I ask the Government to think again and cast their minds back to that important article in the European Convention on Human Rights. Perhaps that might have made a difference.
As I said, I have paid many visits to Iraq. I should like to voice my personal sorrow on the death of Dr Kelly, whose work was so vital and so important. I regret the fact that he did not receive the Nobel Prize. The work of his team, the work of David Kay, and the continual work of the Iraq Survey Group, under Charles Duelfer, is of great value and importance nationally and internationally. It is of importance to the United Kingdom; it is of importance to the region. We are referring to a regime that assaulted its own people, attacked its neighbours and was preparing to attack outsiders.
In his report, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, referred to the continued controversy and debate surrounding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But I think that there can be no serious doubt that Saddam Hussein possessed and sought to develop weapons of mass destruction throughout the whole of the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. Indeed, there is evidence that he was doing so in collaboration with foreign terrorist organisations.
Newly unearthed extensive video evidence that I have received on my latest visit to the region shows collaboration between Saddam Hussein (on video) and a leader of an international terrorist organisation. Masoud Rajavi, leader of the MKO, is shown with Saddam Hussein discussing various actions locally, domestically and internationally. They are shown plotting and money being given in payment for services rendered and in payment for services to be rendered, which are discussed very explicitly. The evidence clearly shows international terrorist organisational work between Saddam Hussein and outside organisations. Another set of videos shows collaboration between international terrorist organisations and the head of the Iraq secret police.
Witness reports from non-Iraqis show descriptions of the transport and concealment of what clearly were non-conventional weapons, the involvement of non-Iraqi Arabs, and, I believe, the involvement of the Taliban as well. I personally have received witness reports that describe the construction, by non-Iraqi Arabs, of secret military facilities, and the burial of what appear to be weapons of mass destruction. I have witness reports confirming republican guard training of non-Iraqi Arabs. There is also evidence of foreign collaboration in the suppression of ethnic minorities—both Kurd and Shi'a. That evidence is clear throughout the 1990s and into the early 21st century.
I have a further request for the Government. It is clear that, certainly across the Atlantic, there was insufficient intelligence on the ground. Would the Government consider more investment in the BBC World Service; for example, in the Arabic and Farsi services? Would the Government consider more investment into the British Council; not a terrorist organisation, not a secret police, but, none the less, a mechanism of understanding different cultures more effectively, and other ways in which the United Kingdom used to be stronger? I recall that investment into the BBC World Service was diminished—under a Conservative government, I am sorry to say—under the last chairman, Sam Younger, now on the Electoral Commission. I recall fighting that battle very hard and unsuccessfully in the other place. We should put more investment into the BBC World Service, in particular into the services in this very troubled region.
I do not think that the Government went to war because of weapons of mass destruction. If I recall correctly, we went to war because Saddam Hussein and his regime continued to defy UN conventions. Resolution 1441 rings loudly in my memory. We acted boldly as a nation. I believe that we were right. But the question now is when pre-emptive strikes should be needed. What are the rules? What are the guidelines?
Last week, in the European Union and the European Parliament, we had Kofi Annan with us. He told us about the special working party that he has set up. He agrees that the role of the United Nations somehow has been marginalised in the present conflict. He does not want that to happen again. Therefore, he has set up a working group. I hope that the British Government will be forward in giving evidence to that working group. It is to attempt to set up the guidelines for when pre-emptive strikes may be needed in the future and could be supported by the United Nations Security Council. The role of the United Nations is vital.
It is a tragedy that the UN is no longer in Iraq because it cannot see the genuine deep-rooted joy and satisfaction of the ordinary Iraqi at being released from the reign of terror of Saddam Hussein. I hope that once the next investigation, under the noble Lord, Lord Butler, is over, perhaps we may return to the question of when is it right to intervene. When is it right to intervene in order to assist others at their time of tragedy? I believe that we did the right thing in Iraq. I hope that colleagues, too, will share that view.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, with all her experience on the ground, as it were. I agree with everything she said on the subject of Dr Kelly himself and the contribution which he made.
However, I hope that she will forgive me if I do not follow her into that wider ground and concentrate instead on the report itself. Its central question—and it is a narrow one—is whether the Government knew, or probably knew, that information in the dossier was wrong. Whether the 45-minute claim was in fact wrong is of course a separate question, outside the terms of reference of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, which will now be addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Butler. However, there is a third question which may or may not be answered by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, depending on how one construes his terms of reference, about which we will probably hear later. I do not find the terms of reference even to be grammatical. They seem to contain too many "betweens", but no doubt all will be explained in due course.
Whether the noble Lord, Lord Butler, covers that point or not, I hope that we in this House will not forget the fundamental question, which is whether the Government made the right judgment at the time. In that respect, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. That question should be the subject of continuous debate in this House and can be the subject of debate now. We do not have to wait until the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has reported.
On the central question of whether the Government probably knew that the 45-minute claim was wrong, it is now quite clear that they did not. Nobody really suggests that they did. A further question was rightly raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, about the position of John Scarlett, against whom also a very serious accusation was made; namely, that he allowed an allegation to be put into a JIC document which he knew not to be true or to be unjustified. That was another serious allegation and, again, we all now know that nothing was put in the dossier with which the JIC did not fully agree.
There are of course other questions on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, might have reached a different conclusion. He might have done so in particular on the naming of Dr Kelly or the manner in which his name was mentioned. We now know that that was the point on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, changed his mind. At first, he thought there was some ground for criticism, but in the end, he decided there was not. His view was that once Dr Kelly had written his letter of
However, on the central question of whether the Government were dishonest in what they put into the report, I like many others have read all the evidence. On that evidence, there is no conclusion to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, could have come other than that the Government did not lie.
What was the defence which the BBC put forward? That is set out fully in paragraphs 276 and 289. There were three grounds for its defence. All were addressed in the important maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, and echoed in the equally important speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birt. In view of what they said, the matters can be dealt with very briefly. First, it was said that Mr Gilligan was reporting only what his source had told him. The trouble with that defence is that that was not the case. He was not just reporting what he had been told; he was adding his own conclusions. That conclusion led to the grave allegation against the Government. Secondly, it was said that even if Mr Gilligan was wrong, it was early in the morning; it was off the cuff; it was unscripted; and he should be forgiven. Perhaps Mr Gilligan should be forgiven, but far less forgivable was the subsequent treatment of his report by the BBC. On
The BBC's third line of defence was that it was entitled to say what it said in the interests of press freedom. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made that point and seemed to be saying that the BBC should be allowed make false allegations that impugn the integrity of others, especially of politicians, in the interests of press freedom. I entirely disagree with the noble Lord's claim that that is in accordance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We will not argue a question of law now. I shall simply wait—
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I did not mention Article 10 in my speech. I referred to the important decision of your Lordships' House in the Reynolds case and to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls.
My Lords, I too have read the speeches and not just the extracts. My view is that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was entitled—indeed, bound—to reach the view that he did on the basis of the law as it now stands.
In the final minute of my speech, I shall comment on the reaction of the press. I found it extremely depressing. I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said on that subject. The tone of the press is so different from that of six months ago. Then it was roses, roses all the way as far as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was concerned. He was a wise and upright judge, a second Daniel come to judgment, who was going to give Alastair Campbell a bloody nose and the sooner the better. The great misfortune of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was that he reached a conclusion that was the exact opposite of what the press were hoping for. Articles were then written. I shall not refer to the article of my noble friend Lord Rees-Mogg, but I shall refer specifically to an article in the Spectator by Rod Liddle and to another article by Sir Max Hastings, in the Daily Mail, ridiculing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. Those articles of course make good copy. But sometimes I wonder whether journalists realise the harm they cause and the damage they do—not only to the object of their derision, not only to the people who read and perhaps believe what they are told by the papers, but to the profession which they themselves follow.
It is that kind of article, that kind of allegation, that the whole report was a whitewash, which brings journalism into even greater contempt than politics. If anyone doubts that or thinks it is just the view of a judge and not that of a journalist, then I suggest they read a perceptive article by Mr Martin Kettle in yesterday's Guardian on the central question that the judge could not have reached any other conclusion. To call it a whitewash is not proper journalism.
My Lords, I suppose it is one test of civilised behaviour that the decision of a properly constituted umpire should be binding. Certainly as a past president of the MCC, rather naturally I subscribe to that view. Indeed, with one so eminent as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, we have little option. Within his limited remit covering the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death, his findings should be generally accepted and appropriate retractions and apologies made. In the case of the governors of the BBC, they have been.
The fact remains, however, that because of what eventually went into that dossier on so-called "weapons of mass destruction", what was left out, and even more how it was interpreted and subsequently presented to Parliament and elsewhere, not least by implying that the possible 45-minute warning for small battlefield weapons was somehow equally relevant to long-range strategic ones, the British people were left with the distinct impression that the threat from Iraq to this county was infinitely more massive, imminent and alarming than it has since turned out to be or, probably now, ever had been.
We know that the Government were determined to strengthen the dossier to the limit that the Joint Intelligence Committee would accept. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has confirmed this, finding no impropriety in such action. But I suggest that, not surprisingly, the Government wanted to do just this because the other justifications or excuses for invading Iraq would not have been readily acceptable to Parliament, the country and to many eminent lawyers. I refer, of course, to the longstanding series of United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 1441, to which the Government later resorted as the prime explanation for war and perhaps more compelling, if less advertised, to the fact that America was going to war come what may. The view could be strongly held that it would be in our own national interest to be alongside, rather than outside, like the French. Neither of those justifications, whatever their validity, embrace the essential element of totally lawful self-defence on which most of the country wished to be reassured.
So the question remains in the wider context, outside the remit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. Taking into account all the factors: the national interest, the pre-eminence of Parliament and even some political expediency, we must ask whether the Government's determination first to strengthen the raw intelligence when so many in the know had serious doubts, in particular about the likely offensive use of such weapons, and then by implication to misrepresent its significance in relation to strategic weapons, all in order to mobilise public opinion behind an attack to which this country may already have been committed, now opens the Government to the kind of criticism and censure which within the narrow remit of the Hutton report they have so far avoided. On this, I believe that the jury is still out.
Although it would be nice to think that the new inquiry under my noble friend Lord Butler of Brockwell might throw some penetrating light on these very things, I fear that unless we are given real assurances by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor about his committee's terms of reference, it may turn out yet again to be far too limited. Let us be in no doubt about this. Although evaluation would have taken place in the JIC, the interpretation was for Ministers above it.
Finally, having made these accusations, I have to recognise that ultimately, in the real and harsh world, any historical judgment on whether we were right to invade Iraq will certainly not be made on the Government keeping on saying that they were right to do so, nor even on whether the country was taken to war under false pretences, which it may well have been, but on what happens in Iraq and the Middle East over the next one, two or even more years, and the effect that will have on our national interest and on international stability. On that, I believe it is still far too early to make a judgment.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. The happiest compliment I can pay him is to quote another earlier Field Marshal at the conclusion of my speech.
Two days after the Hutton report came out I was telephoned by a Sunday paper seeking my comments on the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, as a man. I explained that although I had met him on a series of occasions in Northern Ireland, he and I had, whether consciously or unconsciously, kept a general distance from each other in our respective offices, perhaps to underline the distinction between executive and judiciary in the Province. I greatly admire him, not least for 30 years' steadfastness during the Troubles and, as a man with three-eighths' Ulster blood, I take particular pride in the speed with which this careful and comprehensive report has been produced. Of the latter quality I give a tiny example.
In a minute from Sir Kevin Tebbit to Mr Hoon set out in paragraph 87, there is in sub-paragraph (3) a small and no doubt inadvertent but substantial slip of the metaphorical pen which brings the reader up short. In sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 430, that error is discreetly corrected without attention being drawn to it in the noble and learned Lord's own conclusions. It is a de minimis point, but it illustrates that the narrative was a real-time narrative and how, in the midst of such fast-moving events even Homer, in the form of a Permanent Secretary, can nod.
My overriding sense of the events described is of a Greek tragedy unfolding with a single individual the ultimate victim, as the title of the report spells out. As in Hardy's poem, "The Convergence of the Twain", subtitled "(Lines on the Loss of the 'Titanic')", one senses the Government and the BBC moving inexorably towards collision, with a single man crushed by this occurrence.
In terms of what has happened since the report, leading up to yesterday's announcement of a new inquiry, your Lordships' House must have felt for the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs—as I infer the Lord Chancellor prefers to be known—when his weekend remarks on not holding a new inquiry were so rapidly overtaken by an absolutely contradictory development. But there was about the truisms he used at the weekend an echo of the Greek chorus in just such an Aeschylean drama. Although mighty forces were patently at work, the opposing human parts were played by Mr Campbell and Mr Dyke, both men of an unyielding disposition. The fact that in the end Mr Campbell was in narrow terms victorious had itself a Hardyesque resonance, for the final verse of the "Titanic" poem reads,
"Till the Spinner of the Years"—
I interpolate that both of the nouns in that line are in the upper rather than the lower case—
"Said 'Now!' and each one hears
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres".
Yet victory unqualified is the wrong phrase, however much the Government initially forgot the wisdom of Slim's wartime aphorism that no news is ever as good or as bad as it first appears. If top-up fees were a Pyrrhic victory on Tuesday, the ghost of Pyrrhus was also present on Wednesday. I do not know whether Lady Bracknell knew who Pyrrhus was, but she was arguably the first observer to recognise the importance of handbags in public affairs. She would certainly have commented on this 24-hour conjuncture.
Pyrrhic the Hutton report is because the BBC, like our Armed Forces, is one of our international jewels. The Government cannot have helped noticing, as some of my noble friends have quoted, in Thursday's Evening Standard that even in the light of the Hutton report the Government fell far below the BBC in public opinion reactions to the terms of the verdicts of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
Those in the BBC who have fallen on their swords have made it much easier for the BBC to reassert itself, as my noble friend Lord Carrington's heroic resignation did similar service for the then-Government in the aftermath of the invasion of the Falklands. But it remains essential that the prompt announcement made about BBC succession on Monday is swiftly followed up by actions and outcomes, as the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, encouragingly confirmed in his admirable speech.
My concentration on the collision should not ignore the individual victim. Because the verdict of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, on the BBC has suggested leniency elsewhere, it is necessary to draw attention to his excoriating judgment, in what I shall neutrally call "judicial language", between paragraphs 430 and 439 on what Mr Hoon described as,
"very carefully established MoD procedures".
If I may be personal, twice when I was a Minister I felt alone in public through my own actions. I acknowledge that I never felt remotely suicidal, but my weathering the storm was immensely assisted by the unwavering support of direct colleagues. I can imagine how much worse it would have been, despite the identification of mitigating circumstances by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, if my sense of loneliness had been increased by feeling, as Dr Kelly clearly did, that my direct colleagues were not doing everything they could to sustain me.
Now we are to have a further inquiry, never envisaged last summer, sprung on us when all the auspices pointed elsewhere, as the Government, for all the conventional mantras about issues being constantly kept under review, must themselves be feeling. International policy in this administration is exemplified by Longfellow's banner with a strange device, which bore the word "Excelsior"—to which the Government have added as the first subtitle, "What works", and as a further one, "What Tony wants"; of which there is an echo in paragraph 228 sub-paragraph 7 of the report.
There is, no doubt, a further subtitle still, in invisible thread, adding the smaller words, "What George wants", but then to be fair a similar Longfellow banner in the United States might also include in invisible thread—but in tiny letters—the same thought: "What Tony wants".
I spoke of the BBC in the same breath as the Armed Forces, for which in such debates universal praise is expressed. Oral orders in the heat of battle do not often come down through history to us, but I quote in conclusion two orders given by that fine fighting solder Sir Colin Campbell—the name is a coincidence—later a field marshal, in a three-year period. First, at Balaclava:
"93rd! 93rd! Damn all that eagerness"; and, secondly, at Lucknow:
"Lie down, 93rd! Lie down! Every man of you is worth his weight in gold to England today".
Against the e-mails that the Hutton report revealed, such admirable consistency and clarity of policy—and indeed of purpose—as that of this other Campbell would serve the Government well.
My Lords, I wish to concentrate entirely on the relations between the Government and the BBC in the light of the Hutton report and particularly on the report's impact on the future of the BBC. I should perhaps declare an interest as a former chairman and present pensioner of the regulatory body of commercial broadcasting in this country as well as the father of a member of the BBC's board of management.
I am particularly happy in concentrating on the BBC to follow the excellent maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder. He did a service to the House by taking the courageous decision to make his maiden speech at this belated stage in the present circumstances. I found great value in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, who brought to our debate his experience as a great director-general of the BBC. Perhaps some of the BBC's problems in the present situation would have been avoided if it had been able to stick to his famous exposition of broadcasting as a mission to explain; a mission to report the news rather than to make the news.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, presided with Olympian distinction and clarity over what amounts to a bitter dispute between two of the nation's major institutions: Her Majesty's present Government and the BBC. As it turns out, the balance of his magisterial report leaves the main body of criticism at the BBC's door. Certainly the Gilligan story is an unhappy one, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, made clear.
However, it is unfair that the totality of the BBC—to use one of the Prime Minister's recent favourite words—should be judged by this particular aberration. The Government and the BBC should realise that great damage has been done to them both by this recent chapter of events. For the nation as a whole, the trust in two of our most important institutions has been seriously damaged and the sooner a line is drawn by both politicians and broadcasters the better.
I therefore welcome the Secretary of State's assurance the other day that this episode does not change the Government's view of the importance of preserving the BBC's independence in the forthcoming charter review. I was glad to hear the Minister on the Front Bench repeat a Statement the other day setting out the careful arrangements for approving the new chairman of the BBC.
It is a recognition that when all passion is spent, the BBC, warts and all—and it has a fair share of warts—is a uniquely valuable national asset. In that tired cliche, it is one of the rare British institutions that is undoubtedly regarded as world-class and does us credit all around the world. Its contribution to the quality of civilised life stretches far beyond the inevitably controversial frailties of current affairs into education, music, sports and all the creative arts. It is the benchmark for the nation's standard in public service broadcasting and indeed for other broadcasters in the country. Compared to the pay-TV subscriptions that I happily now pay to enjoy sports and films, the BBC licence fee—leaving aside the fact that I now receive it for free as an elderly pensioner—remains extraordinary value for money.
The Hutton report may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the BBC if it is able to work with the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, and his ultimate successor, and Mark Byford, whom we all wish well, to deal with some of the consequences of recent events. They should help it to concentrate on sustaining its unique qualities in the multinational world of telecommunications now regulated by Ofcom. In my view, the key area for necessary changes lies in the role of the BBC board of governors in relation to the BBC's programme makers. The first task for the new chairman must be to equip the board of governors to be a more effective regulator and public trustee in the interests of the listeners and viewers. The BBC board of governors has the difficult dual role of being the public regulator, on the one hand, and being the non-executive directors of a huge creative enterprise, on the other.
It is a demanding role but not an impossible one. It is infinitely better than the alternative of transferring the public trustee role to a new and untried Ofcom, most of the regulatory responsibilities of which lie in the field of commercial competition. In any event, Ofcom will have quite a difficult time over the next few years in settling down to its wide range of responsibilities. As the legendary left winger Jimmy Maxton once said about parliamentary and governmental affairs:
"If you can't ride two horses at the same time in this circus you'd better get out of the bloody ring".
That is the advice that I would pass on, in all modesty, to the governors of the BBC.
The Hutton evidence reveals the dilemma very clearly. On page 211, one of the inquiry's barristers said:
"surely the problem here was that the Governors did in fact duplicate what the executives had done instead of forming a view of their own which, if they had been properly informed, might have been very different".
It was on that basis that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concluded that:
"The Governors are to be criticised for failing to make more detailed investigations".
But the Governors were ill provided to make any independent investigations of their own. The lesson is that under the new charter they should be equipped with their own distinct unit that will enable them to establish the public interest independently when the need arises. That would be to adapt the framework that I enjoyed as chairman of the old IBA, where we were proud of the creative work of the companies that held our franchises but we were at arm's length from them when something went wrong and we had to adjudicate on matters such as these. That model could be usefully explored.
I believe that Gavyn Davies was a chairman of quality and integrity who found himself, with his fellow governors, stranded between the bullying harassment of Alastair Campbell and the opportunistic reporting of Andrew Gilligan. In a vivid phrase in his own evidence, at page 211, Mr Davies said:
"There is a gap between what the Board is and does and what the management is and does".
The infant Ofcom cannot fill that gap, certainly without undermining the coherent character of the BBC that has served Britain well over so many generations. It will be for Gavyn Davies's successor to reshape this aspect of the governors' role to preserve the BBC as the world's most trusted broadcasting organisation.
My Lords, following the tragic death of Dr David Kelly, and given its circumstances, there was strong pressure for a public inquiry to be set up and for it to be conducted by a senior judge. Her Majesty's Government acted with the utmost speed. They immediately set up a public inquiry and invited a very senior and highly distinguished judge to conduct it. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, accepted the invitation.
I do not recall any clamour that there should not have been an inquiry; I do not recall any clamour that it should not have been a judicial inquiry; I certainly do not recall criticism of the choice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
We then had the judicial inquiry process in the full glare of publicity. The nation was at one in being highly impressed by the way in which it was conducted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, and rightly so.
We now have had the independent, impartial, meticulous and careful report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. The umpire has given his ruling. Imagine the uproar that there would have been if he had put his finger up when the Prime Minister, or the Secretary of State for Defence, or the No. 10 director of communications had been at the crease and they had not walked. They would have been expected to respect his verdict. Others should do so too.
However, within hours of the publication of the more than 300 pages of closely reasoned report, criticisms of it were being expressed. The criticisms amount to little more than the fact that a judicial approach of rigorous analysis was adopted. What on earth else was or should have been expected, except by those for whom nothing less than a witch hunt would do? I wonder how many of those who reacted to the approach of opinion pollsters had actually read the report when they did so. By contrast, among those who have read the sound and balanced report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, and who did not have preconceived views of what the outcome should have been, I have not detected any serious criticism.
For my part, I did have some reservations about there being an inquiry at all and, if there was to be an inquiry, some reservations about it being conducted by a judge. I often have such reservations. I suspect that we have too many inquiries. And I do have a real general concern about politicians asking judges to conduct politically sensitive inquiries and judges agreeing to do so. Certainly it was necessary for the Secretary of State to draw up tight terms of reference, and it would be wholly inappropriate for a judge then to be expected or entitled to broaden them.
In the present kind of situation there is an acceptable alternative—it is what would have happened in any event—a coroner's inquest, possibly with a jury. If there are perceived to be weaknesses in such a process, then the law relating to inquests should be reformed. If it is felt that some inquests require a more high-powered judicial input, then the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, or the Attorney-General, or the Lord Chief Justice should have the power to appoint a High Court judge or a special coroner. If, however, there are wider political issues which are not suitable for an inquest, then they are not likely to be appropriate for a judge at all.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, as a judge, was given a task. He accepted the burden. He has discharged his role with the utmost skill. We should be grateful to him. We should accept his conclusions and let the sniping cease.
My Lords, I should like to raise the issue of trust. I fear that most of us would have to agree that, for a variety of reasons, the public's regard for the Houses of Parliament and for those who play a prominent role in public life has seldom been lower. While we can argue among ourselves about the rights and wrongs of the Iraqi war, we need to recognise, sadly, that the public have a deep suspicion of the Government's position and, even more sadly, near contempt for the position of the main opposition party. Bizarrely, despite its many mistakes, the public credibility of the BBC remains much higher than both. I have every confidence that the BBC will be able to weather this storm.
The public are no longer as impressed as they might have been in bygone deferential days by inquiries led by senior judges and senior civil servants because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that this is merely a process to enable the establishment to close ranks. It seems to me that the American approach to its inquiry is both more transparent and comprehensive than is envisaged for here, which is a pity.
The two inquiries will be taking place during the run-up to two general elections. If the present level of public cynicism in this country does not abate—and at present I can see no reason why it should—we might see a turn-out on polling day far below the abysmal 60 per cent of 2001. The cynics may argue that the Government do not care very much about this as long as they are returned to power, which is very likely at the present time. But we must remind ourselves of what happened in France last year when public cynicism led to a low turn-out and the Le Pen catastrophe. Of course I am not suggesting that a disaster of that kind could happen in Britain but, in very low turn-outs, extremists who can muster their support stand to gain.
The Government may rightly feel that much of this general cynicism is both unfair and nasty. They have not been given full credit by the press for the most successful period of sustained growth for more than a century; nor is there a proper recognition that, as a result of unprecedented levels of investment, most of our public services are at last beginning to show a real improvement; and Northern Ireland is enjoying peace, albeit uneasily.
It seems a tragedy therefore that the Government, and their supporters such as myself, find ourselves so lacking in public confidence. This is not helped of course by a vitriolic tabloid press which seeks, it appears, to usurp the role of the official Opposition.
If we cannot tackle that public malaise—a combination of J.K. Galbraith's slothful culture of contentment and a deep disaffection with government and Parliament—we are heading into dangerous and uncharted waters. When respect for democratic institutions becomes undermined, so do democratic values of tolerance and social justice.
The Profumo affair 40 years ago, culminating in the now much-discredited Denning report, did great damage to the public's perception of the establishment. But then the issues at stake were trivial compared with the subject of our discussions today. There was a credible opposition in Parliament to provide the public with an alternative—that does not appear to be the case today. I believe that it is unlikely that the public will abandon their cynicism and distrust on the issue of the war after all the inquiries have run their course.
However, there is one issue that can restore some degree of public confidence and which cannot await the outcome of the inquiries—the achievement of peace and stability in Iraq. For that to happen, the Americans, the British Government and our partners in the European Union must stand together and involve the United Nations as the only institution that has the ability and the trust of the world and the people of Iraq to deliver that outcome. The British Government must lead the way in persuading our American friends that their ambivalence and shabby treatment of the United Nations is no longer acceptable.
My Lords, like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, one of my predecessors as president of the MCC, I am not in favour of challenging the decision of the umpire, whether with or without the aid of an action replay. The task of a judge at a public inquiry is lonely and difficult. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, conducted his hearings splendidly and sensitively. In considering his conclusions we should all remember that he had the advantage of assessing the witnesses and weighing all of the evidence. I share the relief at his view that the Government did not seek the inclusion in the dossier of intelligence material which was known to be false. That conclusion seems to me to be fully justified, as it does to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, on the evidence.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, did a service in finding the facts, which I would like to return to and I do not think have yet been fully appreciated. I have some concerns about the balance of the report. The BBC made mistakes and they have paid a high price. But they were put under enormous pressure by Alastair Campbell, who the Prime Minister himself has publicly described as "rough and tough". To me that seems to justify Mr Greg Dyke's remarks that it was bullying conduct. Am I alone in thinking that the days when the type of dealings that Mr Alastair Campbell had near the head of government were conducted by senior permanent civil servants were healthier days that should be renewed?
I want to say how much I admire the BBC for so much of its journalism. I am glad that it was prepared to probe so rigorously the case made by the Government for leading us into what so many of us consider to have been an unnecessary and costly war of choice. Throughout, my own party was very largely fully supportive of the Government. That made it more important that the media, and especially the BBC, should join the Liberal Democrats, so wonderfully led by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in redressing the democratic deficit by making certain that the doubts were heard. I am also glad that Tessa Jowell, over the past few days, has steadfastly said that she will uphold the independence of the BBC and, as I understand it, continue the case for strong public funding. I share the view that it is vital to us as part of our democracy.
For me the central problem flows from the narrow remit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. He pointed that out. He records with deadly precision some of the material which would have remained buried and out of sight but for his inquiry. I found the way in which he set out some changes in the draft dossiers in September 2002 particularly cogent. On
"is prepared to use nuclear and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat".
By the draft of
I shall also give another illustration by reference to the first draft of the foreword by the Prime Minister, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, remarked upon, and which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, drew attention to this afternoon. It included the statement:
"The case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London or another part of the UK. (He could not)".
That was deleted from the final dossier. We were left with the repeated claim that Saddam could launch an attack within 45 minutes. Why? The Prime Minister, as a lawyer, should know that the suppression of the truth risks creating the impression of a falsehood. There was no mention at all that battlefield weapons were what the dossier had in mind. Why?
I have spent time on that claim because I believe that it was crucially alarmist and influential. I vividly remember how it was understood and reported. The Evening Standard said simply,
"45 minutes from attack".
The Government knew that that impression gained wide currency. But what did they do to correct a misunderstanding of their own creation? Nothing. Why? That over-dramatic, over-hyped claim had become crucial in trying to shift a deeply divided nation in favour of the war. It was of a piece with the desperation of the effort to persuade people in early 2003 with the infamous and irresponsible "dodgy dossier".
The scepticism is greater now that an extensive search has discovered no weapons of mass destruction. Yet no one who read the reports of Hans Blix back in February last year should be surprised. He made it plain that the jury was still out and that he needed more time. But the Government ignored him and abandoned their long-standing commitments to the United Nations and followed the lead of the United States into war.
Against that background, I would find it deeply disappointing and unwise if the new inquiry, so hastily set up yesterday, focused only on the accuracy of the intelligence material and where it seems to have gone astray. The Government seem not to appreciate that public disquiet goes much wider than that. Many share the suspicions, which Clare Short and Robin Cook have voiced, that we too slavishly followed the lead of the United States. It is the greatest crisis of confidence in the handling of issues of war and peace since Suez.
Any inquiry should take account of the advice that the Government received as to the legality of the war in international law. My concern was reinforced yesterday when the Government argued that war was justified for breach of Resolution 1441. But in international law the right to use force is a last resort and has to be unequivocally spelled out. Resolution 1441 did not do that. That is why the Government wanted a second resolution, until they realised that it would not pass. The Attorney-General then published a summary of his advice in which he based the ultimate authority for war on UN Resolution 678, passed in 1990, to authorise the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Yet both President Bush senior and Mr John Major publicly stated that this resolution would not have justified them in going to Baghdad. The suggestion that it somehow allowed an invasion for a different purpose 12 years later has been rejected by almost all international lawyers. It is widely believed that Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a very senior Foreign Office legal adviser, resigned because she disagreed. Yet the Government persistently refuse all requests for disclosure of the Attorney-General's full advice. We are apparently entitled to his "view" but not to his "advice", a distinction which seems incomprehensible to me. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has described his view as "straining at a gnat" and for what it is worth I have characterised it as "risible". In his advice, the Attorney-General would have needed to deal with some formidable objections to his view and his advice should at long last be disclosed to the inquiry. There are clear precedents for the Attorney-General's advice to be disclosed to official inquiries.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I find that extremely encouraging. There is so much lack of confidence among international lawyers on the legality of the war that it is crucial that that full advice should be seen.
The clamour for a full inquiry was growing before President Bush gave Mr Blair no option but to follow his lead once again. The substantial plus of this war has been the removal of Saddam, but this was not its aim. Twenty thousand lives have been lost. Iraq is far from being the democratic empire of liberty which President Bush grandiosely promised. WMD have not been found. There are immense doubts and trust is low, as the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, said. That is harmful to us. I hope that my own leader, Michael Howard, is right when he says that the terms of reference can be widely interpreted to look at the use by government of the intelligence. For my money, nothing but a full and wide-ranging investigation can start the healing process.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, has made a formidable case against the legal justification for going to war. In that sense, he has taken the issue beyond the particular inquiry into the Hutton report. One part of it which is relevant is how far there was at the time any justification in the Government's mind for believing in the weapons of mass destruction. I want first to address that background.
Why did people believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction? I commend to noble Lords an article in the current Atlantic Monthly by Kenneth Pollack, a leading Iraq expert and intelligence analyst in the Clinton Administration. The article is reproduced in today's Guardian, and it explains why government and security advisers believed that there were weapons of mass destruction. It puts them in perhaps a slightly more favourable light than the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, suggested.
Mr Pollack describes how in the spring of 2002, 20 former UNSCOM inspectors gathered together and all agreed that Saddam was operating a secret centrifuge plant for separating nuclear fuel. That was the view of all 20 former UNSCOM inspectors.
Before the inspectors went back to Iraq, the intelligence services of Russia, China, Israel, Germany and France as well as Britain agreed with the prevailing view which the Americans had expressed. In fact, President Chirac referred to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as late as February this year. The Germans, who opposed the invasion, were the most fearful and they argued that Iraq might be able to build a nuclear weapon within three years.
All those secret services had been seared by experiences after the first Gulf War. Before the war, it was widely believed that Iraq was five to 10 years from acquiring nuclear weapons. Instead, they found in 1991 that Iraq could have had them within only six months to two years. After that, they found a continuous record of deception and an apparent determination to produce weapons of mass destruction.
Everyone got it wrong. David Kay got it wrong. David Kelly, too, got it wrong. I did not believe the claim about weapons of mass destruction as a reason for going to war. I got it right, but I dare say that if I had been in government and this information had been supplied to me, I, too, might have believed it. Why they got it wrong and when they should have realised will no doubt be a matter for the new inquiry.
I turn to the Hutton report. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, published the evidence given before him on the web, everyone feels qualified to deliver their own report. A thousand alternative Hutton reports have bloomed. Everyone knows exactly what he should have found, just as everyone knows how wrong the England football team's manager has been in his team selection and in his tactics.
According to recent comments, it now seems that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, is an establishment figure; a government stooge; a narrow-minded lawyer, ignorant of politics; and deeply biased against journalists. As a number of speakers pointed out—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, was one—that is in contrast with what was said before his report came out. What a fair-minded man he was then; utterly impartial; independent-minded; and meticulous in his approach to evidence. What a good judge he was and how fairly he conducted the hearing.
Indeed, his record as a judge in Northern Ireland speaks for itself. He based his judgments entirely on the evidence. If it meant freeing IRA men, however dangerous, he freed them. Everything suggested that he would go by the evidence, the whole evidence and nothing but the evidence. And that, I believe, is what he did in his inquiry.
Let me reveal my prejudices. I start with a prejudice in favour of the BBC. I admired its independent reporting during the war. I deplored Alastair Campbell's tendency to bully it into supporting the government line. I dare say that parts of the report are open to criticism and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, mentioned some of them. But overall, Hutton's main findings are convincing. At the heart was the charge that the Government published a vitally important document and probably knew that the key statement in it was untrue. It was a very grave charge. The Hutton report said it was unfounded and that the intelligence chiefs approved the statements in the dossier, as modified, and even if some more junior people had their doubts. Since the charge could not have been more serious, the chairman, the director-general and the governors were gravely at fault in not bothering to check it. I can understand that they resented Campbell's bullying tactics, but that was no excuse.
Why, then, has the report been so viciously attacked? I believe it is because people have been told endlessly that Blair is a liar and they were furious that the Hutton report dared to find he was not. People believe all politicians are liars. The Daily Mail, Rory Bremner and even more sensible people like Max Hastings and Jeremy Paxman tell us that they are. Opposition politicians frequently accuse Ministers of lying. Michael Howard accused the Prime Minister of lying and did not have the generosity of spirit to withdraw the charge.
Most of the press were furious because the Hutton report deprived them of their quarry. Shock horror verdict: the Prime Minister did not lie. I am not impressed by the fact that the public did not believe the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. You do not decide complicated issues of the kind that were before the inquiry by opinion poll. I know from my own experience when I was involved in the Hanratty case. I reached the firm conclusion, contrary to my first impression, that the evidence was overwhelming that he was guilty. I went public on that and was abused about it. At one stage I was described as the only person left in the whole of Britain who believed that Hanratty was guilty—until the DNA tests were done which showed that my view of the evidence was right.
That is why I am delighted by the Hutton report. Most politicians do not lie, although they are far too ready to call their opponents liars. I may disagree with Tony Blair, but I believe that he is an honest man. Ministers seldom lie. Cases like Suez are the rare exception, not the rule.
Indeed I believe that the outcome of the Hutton report will be highly salutary. The BBC's independence will be safer. In future the Government will be more cautious about trying to bully it into conformity and I trust that the licence fee will be renewed.
I hope that the BBC will be more careful to uphold its traditions of accurate and balanced reporting. Programmes such as "Today" and "Panorama" might be less concerned to promote their own agenda. In fact, "Today" had improved since Rod Liddle went—in good time too—and the Gilligan report was not typical. Perhaps even the press may now place accuracy higher on the list of its priorities.
Finally, although this is a separate matter, perhaps the new director-general of the BBC will remember the words of Lord Reith about its mission:
"To apply [broadcasting] to the dissemination of the shoddy, the vulgar and the sensational would be a blasphemy against human nature".
My Lords, for someone who grew up in central Europe in the age of the dictators and who lived through the Second World War in this country, the idea of overthrowing a tyrannical regime through a coalition of the willing, even by pre-emptive action, would have fulfilled a deep-felt yearning and no sacrifice would have been shirked.
The issues we are debating today, relevant and, indeed, grave as they may be, in my view pale before the conviction, shared by our Prime Minister and the President of the United States, that we are engaged in a total war against a world-wide conspiracy of terror. It is a war against an implacable, merciless enemy and a just war. A war in which the issue of weapons of mass destruction, that may until recently have been in the possession of Saddam Hussein, are but one element and not, as the doubters feel, the overriding cause for war.
Of course, every effort must be made to revisit the findings of our intelligence and the relationship between government and the BBC and the media. However, I plead for a sense of proportion and for the need to achieve that unity, internally and among allies, which, had it been prevalent during the period leading up to the Iraqi war, might conceivably have spared us a military resolution and might still have effected regime change.
The message arising from the testimonies of the two Davids, Dr David Kelly and David Kay, seems to be clear. They thought that the war against Saddam Hussein was justified and, indeed, essential for the security of the neighbourhood and the world at large. David Kelly summed it up in a posthumous paper. In his Senate deposition, David Kay revealed that Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in a stage of dissolution and corroding corruption, was an even more dangerous place than we thought.
We must not be blinded by partisan bias, or by bile against the Prime Minister and the President of the United States. George W Bush, after the twin towers tragedy, talked of the "axis of evil". Events have proved that this was not just a figure of speech, let alone a matrix for cabaret turns. However, diverse and divergent in their methods or in their priorities, rogue states, tyrannies and terrorist bands are bound to converge operationally sooner or later in their common quest to harm and harass, demoralise and ultimately destroy, our open society.
In this context, the Hutton inquiry and the relationship between the BBC and government assume considerable significance. If I may once more be permitted to introduce a personal note, I feel that I owe a great debt of gratitude, and possibly the whole direction of my career, to joining the BBC as a twenty year-old journalist on the eve of the war and to having served throughout the war. The high standard of objectivity and accuracy, even in a life and death struggle, was a shining example of journalistic integrity from the top down. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, and must regretfully submit that even cursory monitoring of the BBC news reporting of the war in Iraq, of the controversies about that war and of events in the region, lacked integrity and objectivity. The Andrew Gilligan story is by no means the only controversial issue.
That eminent lawyer, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has judged fairly and convincingly. The right honourable gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, acted, perhaps unwittingly, against the spirit which enjoins a loyal Opposition to show a sense of solidarity in a grave hour of national importance, when facing an existential issue. I hope that the Opposition and the Government will sink their differences and will collaborate in this inquiry into the quality and performance of intelligence.
In conclusion, I hope that all those people, and there are many, who still have great misgivings about the resolve to go to war in Iraq, will pause and reflect upon what would have been the alternative had we allowed Saddam to survive, recover and resume his tyrannical rule, feted as an icon who defied the wicked West, and thirsting for bloody revenge.
My Lords, although it may sound a rather strange thing to say, it is a little too early to comment properly on the Hutton report. So much has been written and said about it, from so many different points of view, that it has become difficult to appreciate the report in all its complexity. We therefore need a little distance in time.
Now that the Government have set up a new inquiry on the gathering and use of intelligence, the findings of the inquiry will shed a new light on the questions that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, addressed or bracketed out, and it will influence how we shall read his report in a few months' time.
It is in this spirit of caution and tentativeness that I wish to raise two simple, but central, questions. First, why has the report aroused so much controversy and failed to reassure a large section of the British public? Not only the media, but also ordinary men and women, and even professional politicians, remain somewhat sceptical about the report and even use such silly and offensive expressions as "a judicial whitewash". Secondly, and more importantly, where do we go from here? What lessons can and should be learned from the findings of the report and the issues that led up to the inquiry in the first instance? I shall address these two questions in that order.
The report became controversial for two kinds of reasons, some external and some internal. Since the inquiry was conducted in public, everyone had access to the relevant evidence and everyone, naturally, reached their own conclusions. Some sections of the media reached their conclusions before the inquiry started. Since the report's conclusions were rather different from those that most people had come to expect, many felt disappointed, even bitter, and began to suspect an invisible, conspiratorial hand. We generally tend to approach life, especially political life, with the assumption that no party to a dispute is ever entirely innocent. Therefore, we expect a public report to criticise all the parties involved. When that does not happen, our instinctive ideas of fairness, as well as our assumptions about public life, come under strain and we refuse, wrongly, to accept the report. We suspect a whitewash.
In Britain, as well as elsewhere, there is a widespread culture of cynicism about those in power, a culture that has, sadly, been nurtured by the media, with at least some contribution by the politicians themselves. A report that gives the politicians the benefit of the doubt and accepts them as men and women of honour and integrity goes against this cynical grain and becomes a target of cynical distrust. We need to fight this corrosive trend.
While these and other external factors account for the dissatisfaction with the report, there are also internal reasons. Like all reports, the Hutton report is underpinned by certain assumptions that influence the inferences that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, made from a given set of facts and the conclusions that he reached. So far as discovering facts is concerned, he is scrupulous and thoroughly objective. He is right to insist that Andrew Gilligan's early morning broadcast on
Everyone should also agree with Hutton's findings that the Prime Minister behaved with impeccable honour, that Gilligan's charges against him were wholly unfounded and silly, and that the BBC should have apologised as soon as the complaint was made.
When facts do not speak for themselves so obviously and need to be interpreted, Hutton, I think, slips into a kind of thinking that can be easily misinterpreted. He talks of "subconscious influence" and of "mitigating circumstances". These sorts of expression, by which he negotiates his way from facts to conclusions, are inevitably subjective and vague. Furthermore, since he generally invokes these factors in relation to the Government but rarely in relation to the BBC or even Dr Kelly, some readers of the report might feel that he was somehow applying double standards or not being wholly even-handed. These critics may be wrong, and I think they are in some respects, but the report itself cannot be entirely absolved of all blame. While welcoming the report, especially its exoneration of the Prime Minister and the Government of the charges that were levelled against them, I am not sure that one can defend or endorse all its detailed conclusions.
Hutton assumes that there were only two sides to the dispute—the BBC and the Government—and that Dr Kelly's death had to do with the behaviour of either or both of these institutions. He ignores the role of the media which aggressively hounded Dr Kelly, door-stepped him, chased him everywhere and made him look like a criminal on the run. Professor Hawton, the professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, told the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that the main reason why Dr Kelly could have taken his life had to do with the loss of self-esteem brought about by a number of factors, the most important being his exposure to the media. Dr Kelly was a private person, but even if he were not he would have found it extremely difficult to cope with the treatment that was meted out to him by the aggressive media.
Some criticism of the behaviour of the media was surely needed, because the media do need to find ways of respecting the privacy and vulnerability of people in public life. I can say that with some personal experience. When my own report on the future of multi-ethnic Britain came out it was grossly misrepresented in the Conservative media and I and my fellow commissioners were hounded and pilloried. We went through a crisis of confidence. I can easily imagine how Dr Kelly would have felt when the press pack started to hound him.
Where do we go from here and what are the lessons we can learn? I want to end with two general suggestions. First, the kind of conflict that we saw between the BBC and the Government should be avoided in future. The conflict did no good to the BBC and alienated large sections of the British people from the political process. Rather than take an aggressively confrontational approach, we need to find ways of exercising timely self-restraint and wisdom. Over the past few years many of our major institutions have been losing their legitimacy in the eyes of the British people; for example, the press, the monarchy, Parliament, the political parties and even the police.
Now the BBC is added to the list, and soon it might be our intelligence services. We cannot go on like this. If we did, we would find all of our institutions discredited or de-legitimised in one way or another and our democracy and public life in general would suffer. All of our institutions need to engage in some form of intense introspection on how they are run and how they behave, both within their own organisations and towards each other.
Secondly, with all the good will in the world, the kind of confrontation that we saw between the BBC and the Government is likely to occur in the future, not only between them but also involving other sections of the media. That would inevitably call for some type of sensible resolution. I am not sure that a judicial inquiry headed by a single judge is the best answer because of the inevitable psychological and moral assumptions that every judge brings to his task. Perhaps we could think of a two or three-judge inquiry to cancel each other's biases and to inspire greater public confidence in the findings of the inquiry. One might even wonder whether a judge is always the best person to conduct such inquiries. We might think of senior trusted public figures who would be intimately familiar with both public life and the world of journalism. We might be able to persuade them to head such inquiries. We might even move away from such public inquiries and turn instead to a suitably strengthened Press Complaints Commission.
Whatever we do, our urgent task now should certainly be to reduce the heat and polemics of our public life and restore a climate of sanity and mutual trust between our institutions so that they begin to see themselves as partners in the collective enterprise of restoring public confidence in our political process.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, referred to the fact that many people feel that the Hutton report was a whitewash. Indeed, over the weekend, I looked at an ITN teletext poll which asked the viewers whether the Hutton report was a whitewash. Of the more than 20,000 who voted, 94 per cent said it was and 6 per cent said it was not. Other polls have shown to varying degrees the same result. However, we should not take it from that that people are criticising Hutton. I believe that people are not criticising him, but were showing instead a complete lack of trust and confidence in government, politicians and our political system as they see it. That is what I think the polls were saying.
At least the Hutton report is seen as a whitewash after the event, unlike the forthcoming inquiry which is seen as a whitewash before the event. While it is not for me to advise the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, I think he ought to take note of what his noble friend Lord King said earlier today and ensure that the terms of reference are completely clear before he continues his support for this new inquiry.
Most people to whom I have spoken say that the Government and Ministers have got off scot-free from the Hutton report while the poor BBC and to some extent Dr Kelly have ended up carrying the can. Bearing in mind the very narrow terms of reference, I believe that that was almost inevitable—although I feel bound to say that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was unnecessarily kind to the Prime Minister and Mr Hoon and particularly kind to Mr Campbell, who as we all know has a reputation as an arrogant bully and who has cast a malignant blight over British politics over the past seven years.
Indeed, what I found most odd and unacceptable in the report was the confirmation that, while Mr Campbell and Downing Street were cleared of sexing up the dossier of
The most disturbing outcome of the Hutton inquiry, however, is the baleful and disproportionate effect that it has had on the BBC, its governors, managers and staff. It was certainly not intended to, but the report has played into the hands of the BBC's enemies, especially those who resent its independence and want to see its wings clipped. Indeed, the Culture Secretary was quick to say that the Hutton report would be taken into account when the BBC's charter came up for renewal in 2006. That must have sent a chill up many spines; it certainly did mine.
Having said that, and as a long-term friend of the BBC and public service broadcasting, which I believe is very good value, I would advise the BBC to have a good look at itself and make some necessary alterations that will help it to retain its support and, indeed, gain more. I am a founder member of Global Britain, which over the past five years through an independent monitoring organisation—Minotaur—has carried out 13 tracking projects of the BBC's output. That research has raised a number of major issues, including that:
"There appear to be few, if any, internal mechanisms for assessment on a systematic basis—in terms of Charter requirements—of coverage of controversial areas . . . Coverage of political affairs does not seem to take into account the important differences between opinion at Westminster and public opinion, with the result that coverage of events does not properly reflect the broad depth of views.
Too much reliance is now placed on BBC reporters becoming the main fulcrum for the presentation of objective assessments as events unfold. They are often not equipped to do so because they do not have the specialist knowledge. This is particularly evident in the live 'two-way'", programmes. The research also suggests that:
"Using the BBC's own correspondents as on-air 'personalities' for discussion and analysis—and even the source of exclusive stories—has become much more prevalent in the editorial process than is healthy.
The emphasis is on glossy, personality-led presentation, often at the expense of accurate and balanced programming. In parallel, the main editorial thrust appears to be towards lines of questioning designed to generate maximum impact rather than establishing the facts.
There appears to be a dearth of intellectual rigour and lack of knowledge or focus at many levels of the editorial process. This seems to indicate poor levels of scrutiny both before and after broadcast. Getting material to air seems more important than balanced and accurate reporting".
There could be various ways of solving those problems, but what must be avoided is putting the BBC under Ofcom or the culture department, or getting rid of the governors altogether. In my view, there should be a few more governors, drawn from a much wider section of the community than at present. It is essential that the governors represent and are seen to represent the owners and customers—the viewers and listeners—and should not simply be there to defend everything that the staff do or wish to do. As the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, said in his excellent maiden speech, it is their BBC if it belongs only to them. The BBC should always remember that.
Although it might be difficult to separate the governors completely from the day-to-day running and administration of the BBC, there is a middle way of ensuring that standards are maintained, by setting up a trust paid for out of the licence fee that would enable the governors to have expert advice from outside the BBC itself.
These are dangerous times for the BBC and freedom of speech generally. I hope that the governors and all those who work for the BBC will take on board criticisms and suggestions made by us and others for a better, more accountable and impartial public service broadcasting organisation.
My Lords, I supported the Government in going to war against Saddam Hussein, and I still support that. There has been much talk about whether stocks of WMD will be discovered, but does anyone doubt that they existed and that Saddam used them? How could we doubt that? If at the last minute, after endless ultimatums that he had received from the UN, we and the United States had chickened out of military action, Saddam and his sons would now be torturing and murdering with renewed zest. Most of all, Saddam would have reopened all his plans to develop by any means, including of course biological and chemical weapons, the terrorising and intimidation of his own people and his neighbours. That would have been a major source of growing instability in the Middle East and a very real threat to the safety of this country.
Thousands of lives were lost as a result of the war, but hundreds of thousands of lives were saved because of it. The death of the sons and the capture of Saddam have been major victories in the war against terrorism and indeed against tyranny in all its forms. I hope that it will not be too long before Saddam is brought to trial. The Nuremburg war crimes trials started in November 1945, less than six months after the end of the war. Less than 11 months later, 10 of the worst Nazi war criminals were executed. I suspect that, until Saddam is dead, many in Iraq will not really sleep easily at night.
I accept the findings of the Hutton report. I believe that it was soundly based and disposes of many of the aspersions on the integrity and propriety of the Government. As we have heard, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was appointed there was little but praise for his abilities, objectivity and integrity. Now that he has shot the hunters' fox, his report is dismissed.
I have confidence in the independent professionalism of the highest levels of the judiciary. Indeed, it is because I believe that it works so well that I oppose the Government's plans to dismantle the present system. We all know that in politics perception is reality, but I do not believe that the British people perceive our senior judges as either biased or incompetent. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, told us, by rubbishing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, we rubbish the judiciary. That does not help justice in this country.
The task of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was to give his judgment based on the evidence. However, many people, particularly the media and the Lib Dems, seem to believe that he was merely a judge taking evidence and presenting it to a jury, and that they are the jury to reach a verdict. I reject that interpretation. I do not feel qualified to be a member of that jury. I am by no means sure that I believe that it is really the right moment to have yet another inquiry, whatever its terms of reference. I am reminded of a letter written to the Times in 1958 by AP Herbert, which read:
"The government, like an elderly hypochondriac, is always asking for a second opinion but never accepts it".
Let me turn briefly to the two main findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, as I read them. First, it is clear that the person responsible for the tragic death of Dr Kelly was Dr Kelly. For him, the pressure proved intolerable. The noble and learned Lord makes it clear that his suicide was not foreseeable and that Kelly was not an easy man to help.
Secondly, I turn to the BBC. The accusation is not that it misused the two words "sexed up" as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, would have us believe. But the BBC made the most serious allegation that I can imagine, that the Government took the country to war under false pretences. I have watched and listened to the performances of the BBC throughout the Iraq affair and I have observed its constant anti-war agenda. There can be little doubt about its agenda. The techniques that it uses include the prioritisation of news items; any item of bad news on the situation in Iraq, however trivial, is automatically turned into the lead story. That is particularly so on Radio 4 and most of all in their flagship programme "Today", which is listened to by the entire political establishment, under its chief presenter, John Humphreys, who also spells out his personal views in his newspaper column.
The BBC has yet to establish the distinction between a presenter and a commentator, or to show objectivity as a first requirement. I exclude the BBC political editor and most of his assistants from that accusation and I believe that the World Service has maintained its integrity and high standards.
As individuals, we all have the right to an anti-war agenda. The commercial media, whether written or broadcast, has the same right. The BBC does not have that right. It is, as the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, said, "our BBC". It is responsible to all the people of this country who support it financially and who are thus shareholders in it. It has, I hope temporarily, failed in a massive way.
I salute Gavyn Davies for his integrity in resigning as chairman. Greg Dyke is another matter. He is said to have shown inspiring leadership. The BBC workers demonstrated their support when the governors, rightly in my view, withdrew their support from him. However, his leadership was of the "happy-clappy" variety and resulted in a breakdown of discipline, amounting almost to anarchy. I am delighted that Mark Byford has taken over. He sounds a good candidate to be a permanent director-general.
I am not prepared to join the pack in savaging the Prime Minister. I do not believe that it is in our national interest to do so. The office that he holds is too important to impugn the integrity of its holder without the clearest evidence. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has acquitted him; I accept his verdict. However, I agree that it may not be the end of the matter. To explain what I mean I shall conclude by quoting from Winston Churchill's tribute in the House of Commons on the death of Neville Chamberlain in November 1940. He said:
"It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour".—[Official Report, Commons, 12/11/40; col. 1617.]
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, comes from a part of the world where pressure, force, the use of violence and profound emotions often serve to inform the truth rather than the facts of the matter. He was used to having to look at the facts of a case in circumstances where, as it would be said in Belfast, "even the dogs in the street knew different".
It seems to me that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, considered this matter he said there were a number of questions. Did the unfortunate Dr Kelly take his life? Yes, he did. Was that something that reasonably could have been predicted as the outcome of the various interventions of others at the time? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, said no, it would not be reasonable to assume that of the other people around. That seems reasonable because we know many people in public life are under extraordinary pressure, but this is not the general outcome. Were there other reasons, thoughts and matters in Dr Kelly's mind as well? We do not know; we cannot know; and we shall never know. It is difficult enough to know what is going on in anyone's mind when they are alive and able to respond; it is absolutely impossible to know what was in the mind of someone who has passed on. That is a tragedy and clearly there was turmoil, but it is a question that we cannot answer.
The next question is whether there would have been an inquiry without the death of Dr Kelly. It seems to me that the answer is no. If the answer to all those other questions is so obvious, what was the purpose of the inquiry? It seems to me that it was because in such circumstances there is almost immediately a public outcry and a demand to search for the guilty or the responsible party.
When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, considered the questions, inevitably he would come to the conclusion that some people may be able to be criticised, but that did not necessarily mean that they were guilty of the death of Dr Kelly. What about the demand to find out about guilt? There are other questions in the community that the noble and learned Lord was supposed to answer in some kind of impossible way. The first question for many people in the community is whether the reason that we went to war concerned weapons of mass destruction or something else.
In introducing the debate, the Lord Chancellor said that in his view, undoubtedly the world is a safer place now that we have got rid of Saddam Hussein. That may be his conviction; it may not be an entirely unreasonable conviction, but it is not necessarily one that I share. I do not believe that people who travel around in aeroplanes feel safer; I do not believe that any of us really look at the world now and regard it as a safer place. Of course, some things are better for the people of Iraq, but that was not the claim that was made. It was claimed that this is a safer world. I hope I am wrong, but I fear that it is a less safe world, not because Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to stay, but because of how he was removed. It is not a matter of whether he was in power or not—no reasonable, fair, just person wanted him to remain in power—but the question is how one should get rid of him. The "how" is the problem.
Many people believe that the Prime Minister had decided at an early stage that he was going to get rid of Saddam Hussein and that he was going to get rid of him, if necessary, by force of arms. Weapons of mass destruction was not necessarily the key issue. We have experience in the community of governments not being entirely forthright about their motives for doing things. We have a press whose approach is to assume that any public figure who says anything about anything is doing so for some ulterior motive. The idea that people enter public life with any real integrity—in or out of government—is not a fashionable view. So the BBC's approach is not just a matter of war and it is not just a matter of the reasons for the war; it is that this is exactly what is done in every circumstance, not just by the BBC, but in general. The assumption is that a public figure is doing something wrong and that it is merely a matter of finding out exactly what it is.
So what Andrew Gilligan did was not really a mistake. It was an inevitable consequence of an approach to journalism. It might not have been Mr Gilligan, Dr Kelly and the war, but somewhere along the line it was inevitable that some tragedy would supervene because of an approach to journalism that is not respectful, courteous or, actually, about finding the truth. That was revealed in an interesting comment made by Mr Dyke, who made clear that it was in the public interest to publish an allegation. It did not matter whether it was true; it did not matter whether the person who made it was prepared to come out publicly to say so. So an anonymous, uncorroborated, unattributable source is enough for any allegation, no matter how serious, to be promoted.
That is not about informing; that is not about educating; that is not about the public interest; that is about exciting people. So much of what now passes for journalism is about whipping up people's emotions and feelings. It is not about giving them information. The boundary between "inform" and "entertain" has disappeared. They are almost seen to be the same thing. The reality and content disappear.
That does not happen only in the press; it happens in other aspects of public life. It happens on the government side; it sometimes happens on the opposition side too. That is a serious problem. It is not about the current Government. The idea that a government might make a decision that they are determined to force through by pressure, persuasion or, frankly, deceiving people—promoting something with a whole lot of colour around it—did not start with the current Government. It started with the previous government, Margaret Thatcher's government, when the idea of working out something together by consensus disappeared.
The responsibility of government was to get an idea and then to press it through. If you can press it through by force, you do. If you cannot, you spin a whole story around it that moves people and builds up their feelings so that they will be prepared to go with you for the moment and allow the matter through. It does not happen by thought, consideration, reflection and some kind of consensus.
Because there is now so little faith in public figures, people turn to other areas where they feel that there is an assurance of truth. They turn to the press and the media. I discovered when I was a junior doctor that it was far more valuable to be in the press and on the radio to convince patients that you were well qualified than to have a dozen degrees and certificates up on the wall. If you are being used, especially by television, but also by radio, you must be an expert, whether or not you are qualified. People believe what is said, especially on television, even more so than on radio.
I turn to intelligence. What is intelligence? We might well wonder these days. Intelligence is a couple of different things. It is about the accumulation of open source, as well as covert, material; but then it is about assessment. It is about the judgments that are made, which are more important than the material obtained. It is about being clear about how soft and mistaken so much of that material is. We have not learnt. We all got it wrong about the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism, but did not learn from that to be a bit more sceptical of intelligence. People think that if it is intelligence, that means that is true; if it is on the BBC, that makes it true. I wish that it were so easy. It is not.
What is key about the Hutton inquiry is that it reminds us all that a confrontational approach to political life that sets aside the truth in favour of what we would like to be the truth and that elevates getting your own way above getting agreement on the basis of the facts. If we do not realise that, the situation can only get worse. If the noble and learned Lord does us one real service, it will be that he calls us back to the kind of careful, courteous, thoughtful, respectful, fact-based approach that he so exemplified in his work in the report.
My Lords, some commentators have been critical of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, because he did not address the question of whether the Government were justified in taking this country into a war to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The noble and learned Lord himself said that that was not within his terms of reference and, in any case, an inquiry into such an issue should be done not by a single judge, however eminent and independent, sitting on his or her own, but by a group of people, including Privy Counsellors from the main political parties and people who are not politicians but who are independent and have the necessary experience of affairs.
That is the sort of inquiry that we were offered yesterday to consider the intelligence aspects of the matter. It is to be chaired by my noble friend and eminent successor Lord Butler of Brockwell. I do not know whether to congratulate him or commiserate with him. At least they waited until the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, had reported before accusing him of a whitewash; they are accusing my noble friend of a whitewash before he has even uttered a word, let alone held a meeting.
I assure your Lordships that my noble friend is no pussycat waiting to lie on his back to have his tummy tickled by the Prime Minister. If he and his colleagues see good reason to be critical of the Government, they will no doubt express that.
To return to Hutton, I rather agree with Gavyn Davies: one may not have chosen the referee, but one none the less accepts his decisions. The noble and learned Lord has read and heard all the evidence, no doubt very carefully and thoroughly, and has come to certain conclusions. Others of us might have reached slightly different conclusions on the same evidence; but few if any of us have steeped ourselves in the evidence or had the opportunity to assess the quality of the evidence and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, said, the quality of the witnesses who gave it, as has the noble and learned Lord. Having studied his conclusions and learnt the lessons, we should move on.
This all started with the "Today" programme on
At that time, it was clearly a very damaging allegation that the Government inserted in the dossier a statement that they knew at the time to be wrong. It is understandable that the Government wanted to counter it and kill it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the Government, in the shape of Alastair Campbell, went in for overkill. He bombarded the BBC with a deluge—or, some say, a blizzard—of letters, telephone calls and e-mails. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, refers to that bombardment, but I am not sure that he has given sufficient weight to the psychological effect that it must have had on the BBC. Coming, as it did, on top of a long period in which the Government had been accusing the BBC of a systematic anti-war bias, the BBC clearly felt that it was being unreasonably harassed and bullied by the Government.
If Alastair Campbell was obsessed about the BBC, the BBC in its turn was obsessed by its sense of being bullied by an overbearing Government. Its first and overriding thought was to resist that pressure, stand by its journalist and maintain the traditional independence of the BBC. That completely took the BBC's eye from the question of substance: whether the allegation complained of was well founded.
It is ironic to think that, had the bullying tactics of Alastair Campbell been less fierce and persistent, the BBC might have been readier than it was to investigate more closely whether there was any substance in the Government's complaints, and to acknowledge that there was when this was found out. If that had happened, we might not be here this evening.
The BBC has, as we have seen, paid a high price for its errors, but the Government cannot be completely acquitted of blame in their handling of the matter. No. 10's obsession with the need to nail the BBC also affected its behaviour in respect of Dr Kelly. Dr Kelly told the Ministry of Defence that he had gone beyond his authority in speaking to Mr Gilligan. He was called to account for that and given a severe reprimand. As far as Dr Kelly was concerned, that should have been the end of the matter. The Government should have stuck to a refusal to disclose the identity of the civil servant who admitted having talked to Mr Gilligan.
The noble and learned Lord evidently accepted the view that in the end it would have been impossible to prevent Dr Kelly being named because of the intense media interest. I can understand that and can understand and approve the Government's wish not to tell an untruth nor to equivocate if faced with a direct question: "Was it Dr Kelly who was interviewed by Mr Gilligan?" All the same, it would have been fairer to Dr Kelly if the Government had maintained a refusal to disclose his name. I fear the decision not to maintain such a refusal was another by-product of No. 10's determination to nail the BBC.
The Ministry of Defence recommended that Dr Kelly should not be allowed to give evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. That advice was over-ruled by No. 10 and the Secretary of State for Defence. But the Ministry of Defence does not seem to have been given an opportunity at the relevant meeting at No. 10, or subsequently, to ask if that decision should be reconsidered.
Dr Kelly was not as accustomed, as some civil servants become, to facing a parliamentary Select Committee. His evidence was, in the circumstances, bound to be a highly charged political occasion. If he was to be obliged to appear before the committee, I believe that, in his own interest, Dr Kelly should have been accompanied by a very senior civil servant, who could have supported him and helped him to deal with the very outspoken—indeed, I dare say offensive—questions that were thrown at him.
Finally, there is the question of records of meetings at No. 10. We are given to understand that the noble and learned Lord was surprised by the absence—from the papers available to him—of records of at least some of the important meetings that took place in 10 Downing Street during this affair. Had such records been available, some of the confusion and misunderstanding that have bedevilled the affair might have been avoided.
When a meeting takes place in No. 10 at which the Prime Minister is present and decisions are made, it is wise—I would venture to say necessary—that a full minute of the meeting should be made for the record. This is not just for the sake of the historian; people who have to act on the decision but were not at the meeting at which it was taken need a clear record—available for reference as required—of the decision taken and the reasons why that decision and not a different decision was taken.
There is also the issue of accountability. Mere memory is fallible, as I know from experience. A contemporary written record of a meeting at which a decision is taken can be an invaluable aid to establishing exactly what happened and to discharging the duty of accountability.
The occupants of 10 Downing Street have generally speaking been meticulous about recording the Prime Minister's meetings. If standards have slipped in this respect, it would be as well for integrity in government and good administration if they were restored.
My Lords, I believe that two of the greatest institutions of our country are the BBC and the Civil Service. The comments of the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, have exemplified some of the advantages we have had in the Civil Service over the past 150 years, and similarly the advantages we have had from the BBC over the past 80 years. They are enormously valuable; in many respects they are the greatest institutions we have in the whole of our country. They are internationally respected and understood to have the probity and the standing which we have come to expect. It is a terribly sad reflection of our times that these two institutions are under the greatest threat. This is deplorable.
Comparisons have been made between the BBC and commercial broadcasters. Comments have been made about the value of the independent reporting of Channel Four and ITV 1 and 2. I acknowledge that valuable aspect. The question that we have to ask is how much of that is due to the standards which are set by the BBC. The BBC is a yardstick and it sets a valuable benchmark. That is a particular value of the BBC and is, I believe, a most important background to the debate.
Behind all this was the fact that there were two well-known Labour supporters—Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke—who came under constant and unremitting pressure from Alastair Campbell. They are both men of great ability and had a dedication to the BBC. They felt that they had to assert their independence, particularly since they were strong members of the Labour Party, and so they had to react in the way they did, partly for that reason, but partly also because of the unremitting nature of the torrential bombardment, as the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, called it, that produced a feeling that their independence was under attack. If the representations had been less vehement, an accommodation could have been reached. They might have handled the situation differently, but their reasons were honourable.
The Hutton inquiry has produced a great deal of information. This was a valuable decision of the noble and learned Lord. He opened all the evidence to the public. When a judge in court comes to a conclusion about which I feel uneasy, I accept the decision because he has seen all the evidence and has heard all the witnesses—so my understanding is much less than his. In this case, with all the evidence, all being in public, and with the interest that one has in the issues, and knowing the people involved, one has been able to follow it all up in very great detail. We should be grateful for this opportunity to follow these investigations as thoroughly as we have been able to do.
Furthermore, because one may have close personal knowledge of many of the people and of the circumstances over so many years, one is able to question, rightly, the conclusions that the noble and learned Lord reached. He gave us so much information that we have as good a right to come to our own conclusions as he has in a number of instances. I shall mention two of these conclusions.
The first is from page 153:
He also says that,
"the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have subconsciously"— subconsciously—
"influenced Mr Scarlett and the other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger".
I am in as good a position as anybody else is to judge sub-consciousness, and that is not my view.
The noble and learned Lord refers to the term "sexed-up". Fortunately, I still have contact with my former constituency. I asked a number of people there what they thought "sexed-up" meant. The general view was that it meant exaggerated or made more interesting by exaggeration. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, does not have that view, but the view of ordinary people is similar to what I have described. "Sexed-up" is not a wrong description of what happened, taking into account the way in which ordinary people use those words.
My Lords, the report states at sub-paragraph 8 on page 153:
"The term "sexed-up" . . . lacks clarity [and] . . . is capable of two different meanings. It could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false".
My Lords, I have read that and much of the Hutton report. The noble and learned Lord concludes that it is a much lighter version than I would have accepted. I would have interpreted "sexed-up" as an exaggeration or an embellishment. This in itself is not particularly bad; it is just an understanding of what happened. That is the interpretation that many of my former constituents made.
On the complaint about the broadcast, at page 213 of the report, the noble and learned Lord made the following argument:
"The Governors were right to take the view that it was their duty to protect the independence of the BBC against attacks by the Government and Mr Campbell's complaints were being expressed in exceptionally strong terms which raised very considerably the temperature of the dispute between the Government and the BBC".
Of course there is a question of errors. But proper representations can be made and apologies for errors sought. Newspapers make errors every day and do not apologise, but the BBC normally does. The situation must be handled sensibly. If one handles it aggressively, one will not get the kind of reaction that one might seek.
Following the new BBC chairman's appointment, I would like to see him or her come before the Public Administration Committee for its approval, in the same way as, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Radice, governors of the Bank of England came before the Treasury Committee for its endorsement.
David Kelly was 59 and coming up to retirement. It would be surprising if his pension and the fear of its loss were not on his mind. For six months, in 1974, I effectively ran the Department of Civil Service, subject to the Prime Minister, who, because of the political situation between the two 1974 general elections, gave me the responsibility of its day-to-day management. I had to deal with issues of dismissal and loss of pensions. It would be surprising if the possible loss of his pension was not prominent in his thoughts. By committing suicide, he would have been able to assure himself that whatever happened his wife would be protected. If that was so, we must accord his decision to end his life a sad but an honourable and an understandable one.
My Lords, I suggest that truth is always complex. It cannot be broken down into neat, watertight compartments. Each element affects and is affected by the others. As the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, reminded us yesterday, with all his relevant experience, the gathering, evaluation and use of intelligence is seamless. It would be naive to pretend otherwise, and that must be recognised in any inquiry.
However, the seamlessness is true of the whole saga of the Iraq war. Real historical perspective would be essential before sound and wise judgments can be made, and even then there will of course be arguments. There will be judgments but absolute answers are another matter. The thirst for instant, absolute verdicts in limited spheres is, I suggest, inevitably destined for frustration, cynicism and controversy. However distinguished and however honourable those asked to make inquiries may be, and however courageously determined they may be in accepting, faced with an issue as complicated and literally intriguing as the war, it is to ask too much to expect the findings of limited inquiries not to raise more questions than they answer. That was true of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton; it will, I suspect, be true of the team led by the noble Lord, Lord Butler.
The key question is whether the war was justified—whether the price in loss and maimed lives, and bereaved and grieving relatives and friends, was a valid price to pay in terms of the outcomes. Apart from the human cost to the allies, thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and wounded in the war. Thousands of young Iraqi service people who had no alternative but to serve the cruel dictatorship were also maimed and killed. As we gravely ponder—as we in a responsible and civilised society should—the untimely and tragic death of a decent and talented public servant, we must remember the thousands who, without choice, suffered and died for the cause we embraced. Their families and friends are entitled to ask whether our preoccupation with Dr Kelly has not become a distraction from the wider question that must be addressed.
We need the most comprehensive insight possible on which to base our judgments, whatever those may finally be. There is a debilitating uneasiness, if not malaise, in our democracy, which centres on trust and credibility. We are all part of it. The political community is seen as closed and self-seeking. Much of the media are seen in the same way. The BBC has been a notable exception, but the BBC will retain its trust only if it invariably operates with the enviably high standards that it has established for integrity, independence and a constant striving for objectivity. Gravitas—let us not be ashamed of the word—is a part of that.
The BBC must be a source of reliable news based on verified information and balanced analysis. It must never be a tool of anybody—especially the government. It will rapidly lose its status if it is drawn into a rat race of being the first with sensational stories. That is not its role, and it is not what the public want. Its hallmark should always be considered reliability.
There is another characteristic, which too many in the political community and the media—even some in the BBC—have in common, and which I am convinced is central to public disillusion and alienation. I am talking about arrogance. If we are to restore public confidence in democracy, humility is indispensable. We politicians should argue our case. We should toughly analyse and criticise the case of others, but always in the context of recognising that nobody—not one of us as a mere mortal—has a monopoly of truth.
There must be mutual respect. The challenge is to convince, not just to win. By convincing we can build the consensus that is essential for social and political stability. The absence of that culture means that there is a predisposition to mistrust findings that are seen as coming from establishment quarters that are inevitably perceived as related to the questionable worlds of politics and media.
I hope that I am wrong, but I fear the same reception for the inquiry led by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, as that, however unfairly, given to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. If a new inquiry is to benefit from the experiences of the previous one, it must be seen to be about a search for truth, rather than just to allocate blame. Even now its composition should be seen to be widely drawn and demonstrably independent of the power circles that I have described.
My noble friend Lady Symons has stressed that the legality of the war was based on the UN resolutions. But the UN resolutions were related to the supposed existence of weapons of mass destruction. If those do not exist, that surely raises questions about the validity of that legal argument. Nobody is suggesting bad faith on the part of Ministers, but it is a question that will not go away.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, did not feel able to deal with it within his remit. The new inquiry may well feel itself unable to face up to it, but it has to be faced. In saying that, I stress that it is a question about legality. There is a difference between legality and justification. That is a big issue, which is central to the whole realm of ethics. I suspect that history will look at justification every bit as closely as legal niceties, if not more so. Justification relates to human costs and measurable results.
While mentioning the United Nations there is another point to be made. Some of us argued that there needed to be a specific United Nations Security Council resolution authorising the war, and that to try to assemble an authorisation from past resolutions and their implications was not convincing. It is not mere legalistic concern. For an operation of that significance, with all its widespread consequences, endorsement by the most representative cross-section of the international community is indispensable. It is that that gives maximum authority. A specific resolution is the formalisation of that endorsement.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was not expected to look at the history. But for the whole story to be convincingly evaluated, sooner or later that will have to happen. In 1991, why did the UN mandate, as formulated—we played a big part in the formulation—not authorise taking Baghdad? What were the underlying anxieties about Iran? What were the concerns to balance that equation? When there was not unconditional surrender, why was the situation played as though there had been, instead of deploying all the skills of imaginative, positive engagement? How far did that play into the hands of Saddam Hussein instead of opening up the situation if—a big consideration—indeed, it was possible to open it up?
All those questions need to be considered if we are to learn for the future. On one specific, I hope that we shall have reassurance from the Government. It is surely important that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his colleagues look at the work of Dr Blix and the UN inspectors alongside their examination of intelligence activity. What was the quality of that work? How seriously was it treated? Why was Dr Blix not allowed to finish his task before a decision was made about war? It is misgivings in that area that lend fuel to the argument that there was a prior decision to go to war in any case.
We live in an age of blame. Like truth itself, responsibilities in the real world are a complex web of interrelationships. Finding scapegoats is the soft option. What matters is a determined search for the whole truth and a determination to learn for the future. Meanwhile, we are where we are. What matters now is to ensure the peace, not just in Iraq or even the region, but globally. That will require generous and vast resources. I suggest that it will also make a return to multilateralism, with the United Nations at its centre an imperative. Lasting peace cannot be imposed. It has to be built. That requires a common effort with a widespread sense of stakeholding and ownership in the process.
My Lords, when one criticises a government in this country, one criticises a government for falling below standards which are never reached by other people, and I accept that the standards of this country are infinitely higher; at the BBC, the present Government, the previous government and, I hope, any future government. We in this country set ourselves very high standards. That does not matter though because when people fall below those standards, we can get quite cross.
Until last year, no man could be tried twice for the same offence. The present Government have altered that. It is a pity that one of the exceptions does not include appeal from the judgments just given. I think that on many occasions some of those judgments have been perverse. It is admitted that Mr Gilligan erred and strayed. He erred and strayed greatly. He erred when he stated that the Government knew that the 45-minute warning was false. No one would believe that accusation. He strayed from the path of righteousness almost into the wilderness with his leaks to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. But reading the evidence to the Hutton committee and its appendices, it is impossible for me to agree with the conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, regarding the celibacy of the present administration.
The Lord Chancellor is on the Front Bench today. Tomorrow he could be on the Woolsack. There is an immense difference in meaning between those two statements. It is equally different when applying those two statements to chemical and biological warfare. The change suggested by Downing Street is shown in the two drafts. The first states that weapons "could" be deployed; the second states that they "are" deployable in 45 minutes. In my view, that is sexing up. The evidence for that claim came from one reliable source, who passed on hearsay evidence.
A 45-minute reaction time implies a fielded capability that should have provided collateral to an otherwise single, uncorroborated source. Iraqi staff officers, some of whom had been well trained in our own staff colleges, knew that to deploy those weapons down to divisional level would require large numbers of men, large amounts of paperwork and a large amount of signalling and e-mailing. Admittedly, a great deal of Iraq's communications in 1991 was carried out on secure fibre-optic lines, but at operational level, signals have to go via wireless telegraphy. That can be monitored. With the allies' total air superiority, there should have been air photographs or satellite evidence. There were none of those. When units move, signals increase. Where was the evidence of that?
"Can we show why we think he intends to use them aggressively rather than in self-defence".
Appendix CAB/11/0025 states:
"we need a device to convey he is a bad and unstable man".
In a paragraph headed "Feel"—the heading itself has sexual overtones—Philip Bassett states,
"our aim should also be to convey the impression that things have not been static".
That appears in Appendix CAB/11/0024. In Appendix CAB/11/0030, Mark Sedwill writes:
"Executive Summary: Looks pretty good. Could be tweaked a bit in places".
Not one single note asks "Are you sure?" or "Have we got this right?" or "Check again". All those notes from officials in Appendix 13 could, in old-fashioned cavalry talk, be described as "hack on": "Never steady the beys, rein in the greys, but always let the 11th Hussars ride through".
If the Government knew and were certain that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction, deployable at 45 minutes' notice, why did they allow soldiers to attack without chemical or biological warfare filters? Of course, if they believed that they did not, it would not matter that there were no filters. However, I do not completely acquit the Government of that belief, which makes the former even worse.
I do have a difficulty, because I supported the war, I support it now, and I am quite convinced that Iraq will be a better place than it was under the reign of Saddam Hussein. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, and Anne Clwyd—I can call her noble too—described the horrors of that reign and brought me round, after elements of doubt, to agreeing with the necessity of the war.
If those reasons were enough in their totality, why did the Government have to behave in that iffy way? Sexing up their own or copying other people's intelligence of doctrinal variety is not good enough. However, I suppose that I must accept, as I have, that it is possible to buy a very good driving pony from a dodgy Welsh horse dealer.
My Lords, I congratulate the maiden speaker on his notable and helpful speech. Often when debates of such seriousness are held in this House, one is genuinely informed and one's mind is shifted in the course of debate. That has been true tonight. However, I have to say that those who suggest that if one disagrees with the judgments reached by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, one is somehow arguing with the referee or subverting the course of justice, that really is misconceived. Judges are human, they are constantly appealed in the normal course of their work and that is the nature of judging. Nothing could have been more difficult than the task with which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was vested in this case. It is no wonder that some of us, while accepting the utter integrity of his judgments, disagree with him in certain particulars.
Perhaps I may concentrate on the issue of sexing up. I do so not to rake over the coals, but because there is real public unhappiness about this report. Others have referred to that and I think it is a reality. The noble Lord, Lord Haskins, spoke of public trust and the importance of trying to restore it. We need to face the fact that, on this occasion, the public had greater access to this inquiry than to any other in history. People could watch it nightly on their televisions and read about it day by day. If ever the great British public has a sense that it is entitled to its own view, this is it. People are, to an extraordinary degree, unhappy.
First, in my view the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, gives an incomplete definition of the term "sexed up". He states on page 144 that it is capable of two different meanings. The first,
"could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable to make the case against Saddam Hussein stronger".
It is this meaning that he ascribes to Andrew Gilligan's broadcast on
His second meaning of sexing up is that,
"the dossier was drafted in such a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as strong as the intelligence contained in it permitted".
But that is not sexing up in normal parlance.
I suggest a third definition, one that he did not mention, which I believe is the one to which the British public relate; namely, that the dossier was drafted in such a way as to exaggerate or over-egg the interpretation of the intelligence contained in it or otherwise to distort its impact by emphasis, omission or presentation.
Having read with care Chapter 6 and the conclusions in Chapter 12, I can say only that, in common with a great many members of the public, I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, under-sexed his conclusions about the impact of Alastair Campbell and his team on the final wording of the dossier. That is a vital matter. Your Lordships will recollect that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, put it in terms of possibility that Mr Scarlett may have been "subconsciously influenced" by No. 10. I summarise. Most people think that that is a severe understatement of what went on.
It was only in the last draft of the dossier, produced on
"I wanted to share with the British public the reasons why I believe this issue [WMD] to be a current and serious threat to the UK national interest".
The foreword goes on to repeat:
"I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that he has made progress on WMD, and that he has to be stopped".
This foreword and the dossier were designed to scare those who read it and the reference to the readiness of WMD in 45 minutes was included in several other parts of the report. Indeed it assumed a greater profile in the successive drafts throughout September, as the report catalogues.
I turn to the whole question of the reality of the threat from Saddam Hussein. This is a particularly important incident referred to at some length by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander. It may help noble Lords and the record if I read the e-mail sent on
"Found my copy. I think it is good.
I agree with Alastair you should drop the conclusion.
Alastair — what will be the headline in the Standard on day of publication?
What do we want it to be?"
We know what it was: "45 minutes from attack".
There is more in this. Alastair Campbell referred to "the threat" in the draft as it then stood:
"Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat".
Jonathan Powell said that this was,
Donald McIntyre is of course a writer on the Independent—
"I think you should redraft the para".
Indeed, the paragraph was redrafted.
While most of us accept the broad criticism by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, of the BBC's inadequacy at top levels concerning Gilligan's failing, what is one to make of his exculpation of the relentless pressure exerted by No. 10 throughout September, which led to the exclusion of reference to there being no danger to Britain from nuclear attack; excluded intelligence that Saddam would use his weapons of mass destruction only defensively; change of qualified statements to unqualified ones; repeated warnings of a "current and serious threat", which was misunderstood, written to be misunderstood and which, having been duly misunderstood by the public, was not the subject of an attempted rectification?
That contrasts starkly with the demands made of the BBC by Alastair Campbell for its misrepresentation. What, too, does one make of the fact that the 45-minute claim was, as other noble Lords, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, have mentioned, never qualified to make clear that it was a battlefield threat only, and that the intelligence on which it was based was a single, uncorroborated source?
Even Gilligan's story of Alastair Campbell's relentless efforts to sex up the dossier had corroboration from Susan Watts's recorded conversation with Dr Kelly. What did Alastair Campbell say about the fact that the BBC was relying on a single source? He said a heck of a lot.
The frenetic exchange of e-mails and drafts between Campbell, Scarlett and Powell between 16 and
My Lords, the theme I wish to develop is that outlined earlier by my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon. He is quite right and astute in saying—if I may paraphrase him—that the situation now reached in the fourth estate of the realm, as the press is sometimes called, has uncanny resemblances to the position of the trade union movement in the 1970s. The perception of its role at that time was one of power without responsibility. I have in mind the famous quote from Baldwin about the press in the 1930s—power without responsibility—which he said was,
"the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages".
In that case, rightly or wrongly, there was some redress through the political process. In many respects the laws dealing with trade unionism were badly handled, but in the case of the media, if the analysis is correct, is there any corresponding way forward? I shall come in a moment to the propositions from the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, with which I disagree.
Let me establish what some leading authorities are saying at the moment about this situation being a crisis for the media. On Saturday, there was an outstanding article by Andrew Gowers, the editor of the Financial Times. He stated:
"The true message of Hutton is that this was a story about journalism, not about the deliberate embellishment of a dossier on Iraqi WMD, against the wishes of the intelligence services . . . That claim . . . was demolished . . . The Hutton report is about a story that was wrong", and so on. He continued:
"No one—certainly not Lord Hutton—is suggesting that journalism must now retreat . . . we have a duty not to 'sex up' what we claim to have found".
In the Times on 3rd January, Sir Harold Evans, a distinguished journalist, stated:
"Something is rotten in the state of relations between government and press in Britain. There is distrust all round—distrust of government by the press, distrust of the press in government, and of the press among the public. It should not fester . . . I believe that good might come from a public ventilation of grievances . . . and an informed examination of the practices, assumptions and ethical standards prevailing in journalism . . . and government-press relations alike".
"There is nothing wrong in demonstrating that there is an inevitable conflict between [government legislators and the media]; that is an essential condition within any democratic society.
But where this conflict degenerates into a cancer of contempt, mistrust and eventually mutual derision between the two, the democratic process is itself threatened. Politicians have become increasingly contemptuous of journalists, and perhaps even of free journalism; and journalists have grown increasingly derisive of politicians and their function. In some cases there is also now a danger of journalists arrogating to themselves a new role"—
I hope the House will forgive his pun—
"—a kind of House of Columns to replace a House of Commons".
The central problem is that we now have new tribunes of the people who, objectively speaking, seek to replace the tribunes of the people in Parliament but without having the same responsibility.
We are all schizophrenic about the media—we need them but are they really trying to catch us out? While wearing one hat, even Dr Kelly himself was apparently, if not encouraged, not discouraged from talking to the media, as an expert, about his knowledge of Iraq. He was perhaps talking about matters to one of his contacts, dropped his guard and certainly said—he may have set out to say it—something that he should not have said. "There but for the grace of God go I", was my thought at the time. Surely we have all been there. It is the idea that we are all in thrall to the press that forces us into these uncomfortable situations.
But it is not a one-way argument about politicians and the press. We, as parliamentarians, have to be very careful about how we put issues to witnesses giving evidence to Select Committees. We also have our responsibilities. There should be some kind of restraint on the way in which the media develop their role in the governance of the country.
I said that I wished to respond to an interesting point made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. As a lawyer, he has pointed out that the reporting of an allegation that one believes to be true but turns out not to be true is legally protected. But I hope that I am not doing him an injustice by saying that he would not wish to declare that that fine legal point is the basis of a proper relationship between the media and governance of the country—because we cannot have a civilised or constructive relationship on that basis.
In conclusion, there should be an open study between leading journalists and leading politicians to see how we can find a way forward. It is not a question of having another Royal Commission. It is to build on what the Hansard Society's commission, under my noble friend Lord Puttnam and its vice-chair Jackie Ashley, is doing to look at how that problem of lack of respect and constructive relationship can be improved. That is an important conclusion from the Hutton inquiry.
My Lords, I must begin with a hereditary interest and I am most grateful to the BBC, because it is, to some extent, responsible for my position here. When my grandfather was in the Cabinet, as Sir William Mitchell-Thomson, he gave the BBC its original charter. When he arrived here, he introduced television with the Selsdon report. All of his diaries and readings that I have tried to find in a suitcase locked in store somewhere in Ealing have warned me about the events that would have happened—and have happened—today. He warned that one must not have sex, religion, finance or politics. We have too much of all of those. He also said that we must pay due attention to the English language. I now say that the first casualty of war was truth and the second was the English language—something that Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote some time ago in the Guardian.
About two years ago, Mr Hoon, in reply to a Parliamentary Question, said that there was no universally-acceptable definition of the phrase "weapons of mass destruction". The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, only a year later, on
One way or another, we are talking about fear and threat of weaponry. The Americans did not define weapons of mass destruction until 1998 but even their law does not seem to apply. We are talking about something of which we know nothing. I often find to my amazement that when I have asked the Government a question they say that there is no definition and tell me to look it up in the dictionary. The most recent example was when I asked for the definition of "vermin". In France, the largest vermin is an animal called a blaireau—a badger. There is no definition of "vermin" in the United Kingdom.
The great and wonderful English language should often be used in legislation and elsewhere to provide definitions. I am a "reporter", if one looks up the definition of the word. I did not realise that—it is an old usage in that one goes out to report upon matters, one writes them down and compiles reports. That stems back from my time in the Navy, when my noble friend Lord Geddes was also there. He was more competent than I, a seagoing officer who had to take a Corona typewriter and type seven carbon copies in a rough sea, where the "o"s and the "a"s perforated the paper, tore it apart and blew overboard. Ever since then I have worked for bureaucracies including the great Midland Bank, where we had to report on absolutely everything.
Part of my time took me to countries of the Arab world—first to Iraq in 1974. I learnt from those countries and others that they have a great knowledge of and an interest in the United Kingdom. I also learnt that much of their knowledge and truth came from the BBC and in particular from the BBC World Service. I was often told, "You don't want to listen to much of the rubbish that is being broadcast in the United Kingdom. That is all politically motivated. But the World Service you can trust".
When I returned from a mission—sometimes a government mission—I would often be asked whether I would go and see those in the World Service and tell them what I had done. If people in the host country had been rude to me—the Iraqis were always extremely rude—I would be extremely rude back and surprisingly enough the World Service would not always edit that out.
I believe that there has been a failure in many of us to understand Iraq. When I first went there, people in the British embassy were not allowed outside and it was probably impossible to gather any reasonable intelligence of what was going on. The Iraqis are masters at disinformation. First, they make everyone look the same and then they make them all speak the same.
I became involved with the Iranians and the Libyans and discovered that many of them play cricket. The other day, one of them referred to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, as being the wicked wicket keeper of the Woolsack. He is portrayed as having to defend fast bowling when it is all off line. He has done a wonderful job and I want to thank him personally for having sat here throughout the debate. That is a great honour to the House and it is much appreciated. I hope that in due course he will realise that my hereditary duty at the BBC came to an end with the House of Lords Act in 1999 when, effectively, we were called "elected" hereditary Peers. I hope that before he leaves this House, if ever he does, he will refer to us with the one word "elected". The Iraqis and others think that we are more important because we were elected. I do not return to how or why.
Here comes one of the worries: weapons of mass destruction. Let us look at the history. We went to war with Iraq but why did we stop? No one has been able to tell me that. I could spend half an hour telling your Lordships why other people think we stopped, but we stopped. Why did we start again? We started something again because we heard about the wonderful weapon of mass destruction called the "supergun" which could bomb everyone out of existence. It was actually fixed in concrete and pointed only in one direction.
Then we experienced something totally unrelated. The United States, which had never been involved at the beginning of any war and had never really been involved in terrorism, had United States aeroplanes flown into buildings by United States immigrants. They were not called "weapons of mass destruction" because under the law they were not. That then led to the desire to hit back at somebody. First, the idea was to hit back at Osama bin Laden. You could hit back at him in Afghanistan—another of my patches. When you cannot get him there, you announce that everyone is linked together in an axis of evil and that they are all hosting terrorists—and attention turned to Iraq again. With that comes the information that they are a threat with their weapons of mass destruction.
What a load of rubbish. A weapon of mass destruction, if it is so defined as gas or whatever—but it is not—is only of value if it can be "weaponised" and delivered. There is no way that most or any of the weapons referred to in government documentation could, with the facilities available in Iraq, be delivered to threaten us or anyone in western Europe.
But we come to the methods of delivery that they had. Of course they had Russian-oriented missiles. I happen to have spent some time in the Ukraine and elsewhere and visited the missile factory there. It was explained to me that in no way would the Iraqis have been allowed to have Scud missiles that could do any harm to the Russians or reach their territory. During the Gulf War, a Scud missile landed and exploded, but had no explosive hits.
I must be careful what I am saying, but I am only reporting what people have said to me. I was told at that time that it took 45 minutes to change the head of a Scud missile. It could be used to drop propaganda or something else. How was it possible to activate it? Look at where the Scud missiles went during that war and think back at how many were camouflaged. Think back to what British troops did during the Tripoli incident when they made cardboard tanks. Again I was told that it took 45 minutes to get a Scud missile up and ready to go.
A lot of disinformation is provided to us by a lot of people, but whatever the reasons I support the Government's decision to go to war and I will support for ever the right of a Prime Minister of this country to make that decision. If after the event people wish to have it justified, so be it. There was a lot of wrong, and a lot of disinformation, and a lot of fear was created unnecessarily. Let us put that behind us and let us get on with the job.
My Lords, I would rather be debating a Motion today that did not just take note of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, but warmly welcomed it. I certainly do. Right at the outset, I express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for his diligence and impartiality in analysing the issues—the basis of the report—and for his well argued and well reasoned conclusions.
The terms of reference were simple and straightforward:
"urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly".
It is a matter of some regret that in today's debate we have heard precious little about that. We have heard an enormous amount about other things that should be the subject of other inquiries and about some that will be the subject of a further inquiry. I regret that we have not dealt with the report.
We all know the genesis of the report. Mr Gilligan made serious allegations that the Government probably knew, prior to its inclusion in the
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, describes the first of those claims quite clearly as:
"a very grave allegation which attacked the integrity of the Government and the integrity of the Joint Intelligence Committee and gave rise to a major controversy which dominated the headlines for many days".
I find it small wonder that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and his staff robustly defended themselves because their integrity before Parliament and before the nation had been seriously challenged. Mr Gilligan's already grave allegations were exacerbated three days later when he could have reflected, and corrected his earlier broadcast, when he wrote in the Mail on Sunday that the Government dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was,
"transformed the week before publication to make it sexier".
As a supporter of this Government, I would have put the worst construction on a government that did not seek robustly to defend their integrity. I am sure that, if I were prepared to do that, the vast majority of honourable Members in this House would do it. I expected and demanded of the Government that they should defend their integrity in such circumstances and do it clearly and robustly. Their integrity was therefore examined, tried and tested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, and the Prime Minister, in advance of his report, conceded the imperative of his resignation should he have been found to have misled Parliament.
I wish that some people who, in advance of the publication of the report, made accusations against my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had the same level of integrity in putting their reputations on the line, or at least that they would be prepared to apologise for the mistakes that they made. I look forward to the possibility that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will remedy, this week, that which he failed to do last week.
The Prime Minister and the Government were not found wanting in the report. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for that which he did.
Today, in the opening speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, I saw two speeches that contrasted ill with the measured, well argued references to the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, that we had from my noble friend Lady Ramsay, or with the impressive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, with his insistence that an imperative part of the inquiry should be the pursuit of truth. For so many people, it was the pursuit of pre-stated political prejudices which led them to serious bitterness when the report did not provide the justification for that which they had decreed in advance.
The two opening speeches contrasted ill also with the directness of the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on the findings on the serious allegations against both the Government and Mr Scarlett. There were other excellent speeches—the clarity of the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and the measured words of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford—but I turn to the opening speeches.
I can understand the emotion that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, feels in relation to a death that everyone regrets. However, he does not improve the quality of debate in this House with hyperbole about Dr Kelly being thrown to the media or being subjected to intolerable pressure. As for being thrown to the media, I have to say to the noble Lord that there was in fact a rather willing victim who put himself in the position of going to the media without the necessary authorisation and in circumstances that led to his being severely reprimanded for that which he had done. When the noble Lord talks about, "Campbell drawing up a JIC report", he offers a very liberal interpretation of language. It almost matches the famous words I remember being attributed to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, about being economical with the truth.
Equally, in her opening remarks, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, tried to have it both ways by saying that she supported Hutton but then appearing to want the decision to be made by opinion poll or media response. In the multitude of opinion polls, many of which were interestingly done on samples of fewer than 500 people, some produced mutually contradictory results. So we cannot nor should we have in this House a welcome for a report by a Law Lord of high repute then being subjected to judgment by media reaction or opinion poll. That would be a travesty of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, also referred to the report in today's Independent concerning Dr Jones. However, I think we should just look at what Dr Jones was actually arguing about. The Hutton report says that Dr Jones,
"did not argue that the intelligence relating to the 45 minutes claim should not have been included in the dossier but . . . did suggest that the wording in which the claim was stated in the dossier was too strong and that instead of the dossier stating 'we judge' that 'Iraq has:—military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them', the wording should state 'intelligence suggests'".
So all that argument in today's Independent was covered in the Hutton report, and it was an argument about the difference between "we judge" and "intelligence suggests". It was nothing to do with the substance of what appeared in the report.
I really am surprised that so much of the debate has concentrated on the supposition that Dr Kelly—a valued civil servant who had given good service to his country and his people and who was obviously a valued member of society—should, in the circumstance in which he had gone beyond his competence at work, necessarily be given anonymity. Kelly spoke to the press. He spoke to them outside his remit without authority, not on technical questions but on questions that appeared to amount ultimately to not much more than political tittle-tattle. If I have a serious criticism of the Ministry of Defence, it is that it should ever have suggested that anonymity was appropriate in those circumstances.
Too many noble Lords wanted an inquiry into the report. They welcomed the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, praised his thoroughness and integrity, and then sought to set new standards of obfuscation in professing to accept the report in full while simultaneously nibbling away at the detail. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. I accept his report in full and I, if not the rest of the House, believe that we owe him our gratitude and thanks.
My Lords, I agree with every syllable just uttered by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson. I would like to start by reading out three quotations from someone who stands completely outside the political fray. They are very significant quotations from last Saturday's Financial Times, taken from a very unusual signed article by the editor. He wrote:
"The Hutton report is about a story that was wrong, defended against furious government complaints by a BBC management that had not bothered to check it, even weeks after it was broadcast, and backed by a board of governors determined to resist external pressure at the expense of obscuring the truth".
The second paragraph that I want to quote states:
"In reply, Mr Davies insinuates that Lord Hutton's conclusions do not fit the facts and mutters about threats to press freedom. And Mr Dyke claims the Gilligan story—though mistaken—was in the public interest and that the governors had no reason to apologise. In so doing, both demonstrate that they have only a passing acquaintance with the basic tenets of good journalism".
The last quotation from Mr Andrew Gowers with which I shall detain your Lordships—the article is worth reading in full—states:
"Against this background, Mr Dyke's contention that the thrust of the story was worth reporting, and that any mistakes were in the detail, defies belief. Worse, it demonstrates the extent to which the BBC has been infected by the poisonous culture that has long since tainted other parts of the discourse between politicians and the media".
We all know how we got into this state. It was because the poor old BBC, for which we all must feel very sensitively, was subject to a blizzard of hectoring e-mails from Mr Alastair Campbell. It is worth inquiring why he saw fit to inundate the BBC with that blizzard of e-mails. It was because in his view the BBC's programmes—not only the "Today" programme—were demonstrating a consistent anti-war bias. There were many times when I was on the point of writing a letter to the BBC, because I was so furious in the evening at some of its programmes. I am glad to say that my wife dissuaded me from doing so the following morning.
It is not only the anti-war bias of the BBC that gets to some of us, but the perpetual anti-American bias. It is so deep that I am quite sure that members of BBC staff do not realise that they are infected by it. I was not in the Chamber, but I watched the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld. I agree with him entirely that it is not only Mr Gilligan about whom we have to complain. I even watched a "Newsnight" programme one night, and took the trouble to get the video of it. It was the night that Uday and Qusay Hussein had been killed by American soldiers. Noble Lords will not believe it, but they were described on "Newsnight" as "those two hapless men". "Hapless"? As the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, remarked a few moments ago, there are questions about some people's appreciation of the meaning of the English language.
It is not only on the BBC that we have such difficulties. On "Channel 4 News" at seven o'clock earlier this week, Jon Snow said to Donald Anderson with the most venom that he could put into his voice, "You can't hide behind the skirts of the French and German intelligence services". He did not know, as the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, pointed out, that the Chinese and the Russian intelligence services had come to the same view. Leaving aside the vulgarity of the language of Mr Snow, that kind of attack demonstrates how little some presenters know of the significance of the underlying facts of this unfortunate affair.
Why did we have this explosion of anger? Here I have to make it clear that I take serious issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, whom I have known and admired for many years. Today she repeated many times that Gilligan was guilty of a serious mistake; she and her party repudiated his serious mistake. That is not the language that I would use. Gilligan was not guilty of a serious mistake; he was deliberately guilty of a foul slander and he saw that it was perpetrated throughout the media. He never apologised until very late in the day. That is not a serious mistake; it is much more serious than that. That is why there was an explosion of anger on the part of those of us who cared for the reputation of our friend.
We were also very angry, not just because of the imputations against my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, but also because it let down the country and the BBC. If Mr Davies had apologised, like the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, did at the beginning and in my view appropriately, we would not have had this trouble. The problem with Gavyn Davies is that he does not like apologising. No one likes apologising. The two most difficult words in the English language are "I apologise". Mr Gavyn Davies simply could not come up with those words. He did not like the man to whom he thought he had to apologise. Mr Gavyn Davies was too unintelligent or too insensitive to recognise that he owed an apology not just to Alastair Campbell, but to the whole country, to everyone who had listened to the BBC broadcast. So he has gone.
I am not a critic of the BBC as an institution. I have no desire whatever to change its charter arrangements. Here we have not a failure of an institution, but a failure of men. The list goes on. We had an extremely supine board of governors that clearly failed to perform its duty. It may surprise your Lordships to know that I have a certain amount of sympathy for Mr Greg Dyke. The board of governors should have said to Mr Greg Dyke, "No, do not go because you have a lot more on your plate and it is understandable that this did not come to your attention". However, they should also have said to Mr Greg Dyke, "We want Mr Sambrook out of this building within the next 15 minutes". In a moment I shall say a little more about Mr Sambrook, the director of BBC radio news.
My right honourable friend Gerald Kaufman will be dilating on this subject and on the way in which Mr Sambrook concealed the facts from the board of governors and probably from Mr Greg Dyke in the course of his remarks at the other end of the corridor. I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to the state of the professional relations between Mr Sambrook and Miss Susan Watts, one of the very few BBC employees who, in my view, comes out of this matter with an enhanced reputation.
I shall quote one or two passages from Miss Watts' evidence. She said of her conversations with Dr Kelly:
"He didn't say to me that the dossier was transformed in the last week and he certainly didn't say that the 45-minute claim was inserted either by Alastair Campbell or by anyone else in government. In fact, he denied specifically that Alastair Campbell was involved in the conversation on May 30 . . . he was very clear to me that the claim was in the original intelligence".
She continued by testifying that the BBC had been primarily interested in getting her to corroborate Mr Gilligan's account, rather than in the merits of her reports. She said:
"I felt under some considerable pressure to reveal my source. I also felt the purpose of that was to help corroborate the Andrew Gilligan allegations and not for any proper news purpose . . . I was most concerned that there was an attempt to mold [my reports] so that they were corroborative which I felt was misguided and false".
"I also place on record my extreme disquiet that a senior BBC executive"— that is Sambrook again—
"has apparently told a journalist at The Telegraph that the BBC believes Andrew Gilligan's source to be my source also and that Andrew Gilligan and I 'got exactly the same story'.
I do not agree that a comparison of the two reports suggests that there is only one area of difference between the information disclosed by my source and Mr Gilligan's source, as was suggested by Mr Richard Sambrook to my solicitor and on which basis he apparently predicates his belief that they are the same person . . . Further, I am very concerned about the process by which the circumstances surrounding my Newsnight report are being drawn into a dispute between the BBC and the Government and consider it inappropriate that my reports be used in this way".
I think I have said enough to make it quite clear that Mr Sambrook is not fit to be supervising anyone in any institution, let alone to be head of radio news at the BBC.
What of the future of the BBC? I entirely agree with the constructive suggestions made by my noble friend Lord Lea, which I shall not repeat. Unlike some of my noble friends, I think that we should have an overt recognition of the political nature of the job of the chairman of the BBC. No one cares especially about the gardening or sports programmes or the theatre department; they are not matters of controversy. It is the public affairs and news programmes with which we have difficulty.
We have some useful landmarks that we could follow in that respect. Down the other end of the corridor, the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee properly reposes with the Opposition and changes hands whenever there is a change of government. That is a line that we might consider with profit. Of course, we must be careful whom we choose. There are certain politicians on both sides of the House whom I consider totally unsuitable to be chairman of the BBC.
I am not much in favour of the chairman of the board of governors who preceded Mr Davies. But I am quite sure that when the BBC was in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Hussey, and my noble friend Lord Barnett, something of this sort would simply never have been allowed to happen. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that things will only get better.
My Lords, when noble Lords read Hansard tomorrow, they will see what a disappointment Members on these Benches have been to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and a number of other noble Lords. None of the seven speeches that have been made from these Benches have rubbished the Hutton report; nor has anyone from these Benches ever accused the Prime Minister of lying.
I start with the statement in paragraph 472 of Hutton that was cited by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral:
"I have decided that it is unnecessary for me to make any express recommendations because I have no doubt that the BBC and the Government will take note of the criticisms which I have made in this report".
The absence of specific recommendations in the report was a mistake. At least initially, it allowed the Government to proclaim Hutton as bringing in a not guilty verdict, whereas we believe that the report and its evidence cry out for immediate action not just by the BBC but by the Government and others.
My noble friends Lady Williams of Crosby and Lord Wallace of Saltaire have already set out in persuasive detail the reasons why my party is not prepared to serve on the Butler committee. I look forward to hearing the clarification by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor asked for by the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord King, of the terms of reference of the committee. I wish to concentrate my remarks on other areas where there is need for urgent action. In so doing I draw on my experience in public relations in the 20 years since I left the House of Commons. There is a self-mocking definition of public relations, which says "give us the truth and we will varnish it for you". So rather than debate the exact meaning of "sexing up", the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and I must agree that there is no doubt that a document which went through several coats of varnish, the document which Parliament thought was the unvarnished opinion of the Joint Intelligence Committee, had several coats of varnish applied by Mr Alastair Campbell.
The lessons from Hutton are very clear. Never again should a political appointee, and especially the Government's political propaganda chief, be so closely involved in the workings of our secret services. The role and powers given to Alastair Campbell when the Government came into power in 1997 were fraught with dangers for the political neutrality of the Civil Service and the integrity of the information services. There is an urgent need for a Civil Service Act to underpin the Northcote-Trevelyan principles of a politically neutral Civil Service promoted on merit.
The Government are in the process of finding a Civil Service head for their information services and have before them the Phillis report and the Public Administration Committee's draft Civil Service Act. They should move quickly on both reports to restore public confidence in these areas.
While looking at Civil Service reform, the Government should also review their "duty of care" responsibilities. The noble Lord, Lord Howie, asked what was meant by "duty of care". The view of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, seemed to be that "duty of care" was very sparse, but it is now standard practice for large companies to have established procedures for helping employees in trauma or stress or under the media spotlight. These would include professional counselling, physical protection from media intrusion, and assistance in dealing with media questioning, as the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, pointed out.
Reading the Hutton report, it is hard to find a specific and consistent duty of care procedure being employed. Indeed, a reading of the evidence suggests that Andrew Mackinlay MP was not far from the truth when he said that Dr Kelly had been hung out to dry. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, observed that Dr Kelly may well have been a difficult man to help. But helping the difficult cases is just why you have such procedures in place.
Another area where there is a need for government action is over Mr Alastair Campbell's assertion that parts of the BBC were operating to an anti-war agenda. That canard was repeated today by, among others, the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, and the noble Lords, Lord Marlesford, Lord Weidenfeld and Lord Gilbert. It was also said the other night by the noble Lord, Lord Jordan. It was that assertion by Alastair Campbell—in its way as damaging to the reputation of the BBC as Gilligan's sexing-up accusation was to the Prime Minister—which coloured and influenced the BBC response to the complaints coming from Campbell.
So I ask the Minister again tonight the question I first asked on
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, identified some grievous faults in the management of the BBC, and as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, pointed out, grievously has the BBC paid for them. But he seemed to take no account of the water in which modern media operations take place. In 1988 Michael Dukakis lost a commanding lead in the race for the White House because he was perceived to react too slowly to attacks on him by the media. From that experience came the technique of rapid rebuttal. It means responding to every critical story, using every channel of complaint, challenging the journalist, his superior and his superior's superior. It is aggressive, in-your-face and it works.
The noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Wirral and Lord Clinton-Davis, clashed over where and when spin started in Downing Street, but what is clear is that after the Labour 1992 defeat, new Labour studied rapid rebuttal techniques—read The Unfinished Revolution by Philip Gould—and Alastair Campbell brought them into Downing Street in 1997. Anyone who saw him before the Select Committee, in his interview when he turned up uninvited at Channel 4 or in his multitude of post-Hutton interviews will have some hint of how that process of systematic intimidation works.
The reality was that the BBC was reacting not to an isolated complaint but to a pattern of behaviour that allowed a genuine complaint to be dismissed as another of Alastair's rants. The real failure of the BBC management was not to have in place a more thorough, fail-safe mechanism to deal with such a complaint from such a ruthless foe.
As I have said, the action needed now is for the Government to respond positively and quickly to the Phillis recommendations and for Mark Byford, the excellent acting director-general, to insist on back to basics in the standards of BBC journalism. In that respect, he will be greatly encouraged in that task by the authoritative maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, which will also create great confidence in the country as a whole.
What I do not find in Hutton is any justification for changes in the BBC that would reduce or undermine its role as the iron pole around which we construct high quality public-service broadcasting. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert: look at Fox News. For some time I have been thinking of suggesting to the House authorities that they should show Fox News in one of the television rooms so that noble Lords can watch it. If noble Lords watch it for an hour, they will see the future if we do not have the protection that the BBC affords us as regards quality of news reporting and standards. In some ways, only in the United Kingdom could one of the world's best-known, most trusted brand names be submitted to such sustained criticism. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, might inquire why, during the Iraq war, Internet users in their thousands in the United States switched to BBC news so that they could find the truth.
Of course the BBC should reform and improve, but so should the rest of the media. I was very impressed by the interventions of my noble friend Lord Goodhart but also by those of the noble Lords, Lord Lea, Lord Hannay and Lord Parekh, who spoke wise words about the nature of the media. They tie in closely with a section on this issue in the Puttnam report, which deals with the worrying, debilitating impact of the media on our national life. In today's Guardian, Mr Martin Kettle writes:
"A month ago, the Phillis report on government communications set out some ways that the post-Campbell political world could clean up its act. These need to be followed through. But do we in the media have an equivalent awareness of the equally urgent need to raise our own game? I do not believe that we have even begun to realise the damage that some modern journalism is doing to the fabric of public and private life".
That is so very true. But I will have real hope only when I see such self-criticism written by Mr Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun.
The noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, reminded us that the two greatest inheritances that we carried into this century from the previous one were our Civil Service and the BBC. The Hutton report shows that both are under threat. That is why the real lessons of Hutton have been spelt out from these Benches this afternoon.
We want a full public inquiry into our reasons for going to war. We want an overhaul of our intelligence services. We want the Phillis recommendations on government communications to be implemented. We want a Civil Service Act to protect the public service ethos of our Civil Service. A clear duty of care procedure should be put in place throughout Whitehall. We want the BBC charter review to be conducted in such a way as to restore public confidence that the BBC will emerge strong and independent of government interference.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has been a little tetchy about the position taken on these Benches. Part of the problem is that he is on the cusp of two careers. He rather takes the lawyer's view. He has the judge's verdict, so he can go back to chambers, throw his wig in the corner, have a sherry and that is the end of the problem. But the political world operates differently. There is another jury—that of public opinion, which will be tested finally at the ballot box.
The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, referred to Suez. Perhaps the most honourable casualty of Suez was Sir Anthony Nutting, who called his memoirs, "No End of a Lesson". The sad and sorry story of Dr Kelly's untimely death has lessons for us all. The Hutton report will be of value only if the Government, as well as the BBC, accept the noble and learned Lord's invitation to learn those lessons and act accordingly. Then, and only then, may, to quote the final lines of the Hutton report,
"a scientist who loyally served not only his Government but also the international community", rest in peace.
My Lords, it has been a long debate, but I am glad to say not as long as I thought it would be a few hours ago. It has included some of our most senior Members of the House—those with wide experience in government and in the Civil Service.
I start by congratulating my noble friend Lord Ryder of Wensum on his excellent maiden speech. Although he sits on the Cross Benches, I hope that I can still call him my noble friend. He has taken on his new role with all the judicious skill that he displayed when he was Chief Whip in another place. Like my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater, I hope that we shall hear from my noble friend again soon. I wish him well in his post in the next difficult few months, and I know that the BBC is in good hands under his chairmanship and the acting Director-General, Mark Byford.
It has been an unusual debate because it has been characterised by strong emotion, deeply held beliefs and— a rare occurrence in my experience—there has been an abundance of scratchiness, or even tetchiness, from the start of the debate this afternoon. Why? The reason is that the issue strikes at the core of the Government's reputation for trust and probity. It deals with the peculiar relationship between Ministers and their political officers, their semi-politicised civil servants in No. 10, the career civil servants and the intelligence services.
It deals with the war between the BBC and the Government, in which Dr Kelly became a pawn and chief victim. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally said, our debate points to the many lessons that need to be learnt right from the start of this sorry episode. There are lessons about the use of intelligence, the way in which Select Committees operate and how government treat their staff. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, reminded us earlier this afternoon that we should remember that the Hutton inquiry was first and foremost about the tragic loss of a gifted and honourable scientist.
The noble and learned Lord completed his report last week, and I accepted its conclusions. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, that one can accept the conclusions of the report and still look at some of the things that were left out, and some of the issues that were not entirely resolved, such as the naming strategy. The noble Lord seems to be really annoyed that we accepted the report's conclusions and supported the war. That is what the noble Lord gets so excited about.
My Lords, it is probably a triumph of hope over reasonable expectation that the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, should say directly that he was hoping that the noble Lord would have the good grace to apologise for some of the comments that he and his party leader made before the report.
My Lords, it would help if the noble Lord would be more specific about the allegations of accusing the Prime Minister of lying. He has read the Labour Party's brief well, but it left out the specific allegations. As part of the post-Hutton fallout, we now face another inquiry—the Butler inquiry—which we welcome.
I believe that the war in Iraq was justified. The Conservative Party has been consistent in offering its support to the Government and to our Armed Forces. We have been equally consistent in calling for an inquiry to be held into the intelligence surrounding the war. It is becoming increasingly clear that there was a discrepancy between the intelligence assessment of the weapons of mass destruction and the reality on the ground.
As already mentioned, David Kay has said that he does not believe that weapons of mass destruction exist or existed in Iraq. I hope that the House agrees that it is possible both to support the war and to want to get at the truth. I am very glad that after so many months the Prime Minister has accepted the case for this inquiry; although after hearing the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor say on a television programme on Sunday that there was no need for a further inquiry, I was stunned to hear that view overturned within 24 hours. At last we have got an inquiry, and I am grateful for that.
There has been much discussion about the terms of reference of the inquiry, so let me be clear about our understanding of it. We believe that the committee can and should consider the way in which the Government used the intelligence with which they had been provided. We believe that that is now included fairly and squarely in the terms of reference. That is why we agreed to them. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will not take refuge in the mantra that it is for the committee to construe its terms of reference. They are the Government's terms of reference. They must know what they intend them to mean.
I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater for raising that. I look to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to confirm my view as clearly and unambiguously as I laid it out. The Government can already show their good intentions as regards this inquiry. As has already been referred to, writing in the Independent today, Dr Brian Jones (described at the Hutton inquiry as probably the most senior and experienced intelligence community official working on WMD) has made a specific request to the Prime Minister to publish the intelligence behind the Government's key claims that Iraq was actively producing chemical weapons and could launch an attack within 45 minutes of an order to do so.
Given that Saddam Hussein has been overthrown, he clearly does not believe that there is any reason or sensitivity for not publishing the intelligence. If there is such a reason, he thinks that it should be stated clearly. What is the response of the Government? As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor acknowledged today, there are specific criticisms of the MoD in the Hutton report, focusing on the way it treated Dr Kelly in relation to the naming process. Paragraph 432 of the report states:
"The principle fault lay in the failure of the MoD to inform Dr Kelly that the press office was going to confirm his name if a journalist suggested it".
I shall not go over the ground again, but I hope that the noble and learned Lord listened carefully to my noble friends Lord Waddington and Lord Hunt of Wirral in their powerful contributions. I trust that right across government, attention will be paid in future to ensure that employees are given the care and respect they deserve, so that, as my noble friend Lord Hunt said, this can never happen again.
There are lessons, too, about the process of government; such as, the lack of documentary evidence of the conclusions of crucial meetings, which was commented on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, in the course of the inquiry and, today, by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, with all the weight of experience that he has at his disposal.
I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will reply to the charge made by my noble friends Lord Waddington and Lord Alexander of Weedon. Should not the Government have gone to greater lengths to avoid the kind of false interpretation that was placed on the 45-minute claim? As my noble friend said, when newspapers published headlines such as "45 minutes from attack" on the day of the September dossier, and "Brits 45 minutes from doom" the day after, should not the Government have made it clear that the claim in the dossier referred to battlefield weapons? That they did not is just one of the reasons why public confidence in the Government is so low. The public feel manipulated by the Government's omission.
My noble friends Lord Alexander of Weedon and Lord King raised also the question of the advice given by the Attorney-General. That is a crucial point. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will confirm that the Attorney-General's advice on the reasons for going to war will be made available to the Butler inquiry.
There are lessons to be learnt about how the operation of Select Committees could be improved. My noble friend Lord King asked why the Intelligence and Security Committee could not obtain the e-mails that were readily surrendered to the inquiry of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. In the previous Parliament, my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth chaired a commission of distinguished parliamentarians and constitutional experts and proposed ways to strengthen democratic control of the executive. What a pity those recommendations were not taken up by the Government.
Finally, I turn briefly to the BBC. The most serious and far-reaching repercussions of the Hutton report in the past week have been for the BBC. I join those noble Lords who have paid tribute to Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke. Notwithstanding the criticisms of them in the Hutton report, they both made a significant contribution to the BBC. That something went seriously wrong in the BBC is not in any doubt, but I share the view of many noble Lords that the BBC, at its best, has no equal in the world. Some institutional changes are now required, which must be properly debated and fully thought through, so that another generation can benefit from the excellent reporting that has been so true in the past.
There is also an essential point of principle here. No one should underestimate the vital role that a free media plays in sustaining a vigorous and healthy democracy. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, himself states:
"The communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society".
There are clearly important lessons to be learnt from the report about how governments run their business. They are lessons for governments of all political parties. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will tell us what lessons the Government have learnt and what plans they hope to put into effect, and when. One view, shared by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is that the Government should commit themselves in this Session to a civil service Bill in order to restore a proper separation between the political and official arms of government. The independence and impartiality of the Civil Service need now to be given statutory reinforcement. If that were done, the tragic death of Dr Kelly might not have been in vain.
My Lords, we have had a very full and impressive debate in many respects. I join noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Ryder of Wensum, on his speech. Two things emerged from it: first, how brave he was to devote his maiden speech to a topic of such public interest; secondly, how mysterious it is that he has been silent during the past seven years when the quality of his speech was so high. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in saying that the country can be confident that the BBC will be in safe hands during the months when he is the acting chairman of that great organisation.
I shall not be able to address my closing remarks to every point that has been made before 10 o'clock, so I shall divide them into three areas: first, the comments on the Hutton report itself; secondly, comments on the forthcoming inquiry—the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord King, have brought us intelligence of what has been said in the Commons in the hope that we might say something different in this House; and thirdly, the position of the BBC.
I turn first to the Hutton report. Three strands emerged in the debate. The first was the strand exemplified by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, and the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, who said, "We appointed a judge. Let us genuinely accept the report". The second strand was represented by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. They said that they accepted the report. They accepted, for example, the conclusion that the Government did not act dishonourably in relation to the naming strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, then delivered a speech describing the Government as "throwing Dr Kelly to the media". Those are not the words of honour. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, made it explicit that she accepts the wording of the report. The report states that it was perfectly proper for discussions to take place between Downing Street officials and members of the JIC. She then made a series of remarks to the effect that she did not regard that as proper; indeed, she regarded it as "sexing up the document". So the second strand comprises those who say that they accept the report, but then operate in precisely the opposite way.
The third strand comprises, as one would expect, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, who are absolutely straightforward: they said that they do not accept many of the findings. The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, put his finger precisely on the point. Because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has published all his evidence, some people think that they can have a shot at forming their own view and putting themselves in a position that might be regarded as superior to that of the noble and learned Lord.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. That was not my proposition. I made it perfectly clear that I accept the main finding of Hutton in respect of Gilligan's untruthfulness about the position of the Prime Minister and the Government on inserting stuff into the dossier in which they did not believe. I repeat, I made that perfectly clear.
My Lords, I was complimenting the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, on his straightforwardness. I understood him to say quite clearly at one stage that some of the findings of the noble and learned Lord were—I think I am using his word—perverse. Of course I do not dispute that he accepts some of the findings, but others he took absolutely head-on.
The best example of the "I accept, but do not really accept" strand arises over the question of whether improper pressure was put on the JIC in relation to material put into the dossier of
We had the spectacle this afternoon of some noble Lords picking over a number of e-mails and remarking, "Well, this or that should not have been agreed. That had a damaging effect in relation to the dossier". I remind noble Lords that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, heard from Mr Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of SIS, Sir David Omand, Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office and former head of the GCHQ and former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Air-Marshal Sir Joseph French, the Chief of Defence Intelligence and Mr Anthony Cragg, the Deputy-Chief of Defence Intelligence. He heard from every single one of those people on whether the JIC honestly thought that the assessment was valid and a fair consideration of the intelligence.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, also had the benefit of looking at the very same e-mails. The reason why, in my submission, judges of the eminence and calibre of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, are appointed to look into such issues is because dispassionately—away from politics, from trying to establish the point of view of a particular political persuasion, from trying to damage the political party in power or to score political points—it is possible to come to a firm and final conclusion about what happened.
I ask those noble Lords in either the second or third category—the second category being those who say that they accept the report, but then take the findings obliquely; the third category being those who seek explicitly to reject the findings—to reflect on the work carried out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord's argument on the e-mails be stronger if in any of those e-mails the Office of the Prime Minister had sometimes said, "Hold on, are you sure about that?" In none of them did it say that: they all said, "Hack on; make it stronger; make it quicker". Those of us who find that section of the report so difficult would be far more sympathetic to the view put forward by the noble and learned Lord if there was a counter-argument by someone saying, "Are you sure you've got it right?"
My Lords, as the noble Earl knows, in the e-mails corrections of fact were made that were neither strengthening nor weakening. I am asking him to consider—and he is a man much admired in the House—
My Lords, that is why I said it. Will he consider the possibility that if he had heard the evidence of those members of the JIC and also considered the e-mails, he might have come to same conclusion as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton? There is a danger in the approach taken to the conclusions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, by so many people in this House and beyond. I am sure that such opinions are held in good faith, but what is the point of appointing a judge who has gone through the evidence in such detail and then seeking to pick away at his findings?
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was exactly as one would expect from an advocate of his power. It was an advocate speech that did not really take on board the work carried out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
I turn to the report's main findings. First, was the document sexed up? It was not, the noble and learned Lord said, in the sense understood by the people listening to the Gilligan broadcast. It was not sexed up in the way described by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and it was not sexed up as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, put it. He said that it was exaggerated, which is not accepted by the JIC.
In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, if "sexed up" means acting consistent with the intelligence available, then it was sexed up in that sense. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds that, but he says that it was perfectly proper to operate on that basis. That is the conclusion that she contests.
With regard to the naming of Dr Kelly, the Government found themselves in the position where two parliamentary inquiries were either going on or about to start in relation to the issue that the Government had wrongly sexed up the document. In effect, Mr Gilligan's allegations were being considered by the two parliamentary committees.
Plainly the most material aspect of Mr Gilligan's report was who was the source of that report. He had told the Foreign Affairs Committee that there was a single source. If the single source, or someone who might be the source, came forward, how was it possible, consistent with propriety, for that fact not to be revealed to the committees? That view was taken by Sir David Omand, Sir Kevin Tebbit, Sir David Manning, all of the officials involved and all the Ministers involved. What conclusion would have been drawn if it were known that the Government knew who the source was and hid that information from the two committees?
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, heard evidence from the chairman of the FAC; the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and from a member of the FAC, Mr Andrew Mackinlay. He also read the evidence from when Dr Kelly gave evidence and noted the series of questions asked by Sir John Stanley about when the Government first discovered that Dr Kelly might be the source.
Once it became clear to the Government that they had to disclose that fact to the committee, the question was not whether his name would be disclosed but how it would be disclosed. The evidence accepted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was that the name was not disclosed in a straightforward, clear and clean way because they were not 100 per cent sure at that stage that it was Dr Kelly. That evidence was accepted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. He described the conduct of the Government as not dishonourable.
His account of events is entirely inconsistent with the account given by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. If one asks oneself the question "Is it plausible that once the name was known to the Government they had to disclose it?", the answer is "Yes, it plainly is". The Government fully accept and must learn from the fact that much more care could have been taken in relation to Dr Kelly, and we apologise unreservedly for that.
Equally, it is perfectly plain that, with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better if the name had been disclosed in a press release at a time identified by the Government and notified to Dr Kelly. But that is not the same as saying that a dishonourable course was followed. I am glad to see Members on the Benches opposite nodding in relation to that. That is why, when asked do I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, said, I must reply "No, I most certainly do not". The implication of what he said is that the conduct of the Government, both Ministers and civil servants, was dishonourable, and I do not believe for one moment that it was.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has quoted Sir Kevin Tebbit, but not as in paragraph 51 where the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, quotes him as saying that he did not recommend to the Government that the evidence given by Dr David Kelly should be disclosed. He wanted it kept secret. That is clearly set out on page 33 of the report. The only point that Sir Kevin added was,
"I do, however, believe it necessary to have defensive material available should the story leak".
It leaked with the authority of the Prime Minister. I do not believe that Sir Kevin anticipated that.
My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I believe that is at an early point in the story. If one looks at Sir Kevin's views as the story develops, he becomes increasingly concerned that the name will leak out and he agrees to the issuing of the press release on
My Lords, it is a very unusual situation. Of course we need to learn lessons from it. In the light of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has said, we have obviously learnt that it would have been much better for a press statement to be issued disclosing the name. There should have been a close discussion between Dr Kelly and officials, and then a time agreed in relation to it. That is the conclusion reached by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.
But again I come back to the point that he has made it absolutely clear that there was no dishonour in what was done. It was a very difficult situation. That was his view and I earnestly ask noble Lords to look at the report and to consider whether or not what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said on a previous occasion was appropriate. The noble Lord, Lord King, also referred to this today. On
"So will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor apologise fully and unreservedly to Dr Kelly and his family on behalf of the Government? When he replies will he also say, without qualification, what the Prime Minister failed to say; "We are sorry that our actions led to Dr Kelly's death and we apologise unreservedly"?".—[Official Report, 28/1/04; col. 216.]
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will now be aware that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, made it absolutely clear, in wording that refers to officials and Ministers alike, just as the wording of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, covers officials and politicians alike:
"I am further satisfied that none of those persons was as fault in not contemplating that Dr Kelly might take his own life".
So when the noble Lord complains of tetchiness, I apologise for that. But one of the things that is of considerable sensitivity on the matter is that those people who did their best in the Government—officials and politicians alike—fear that whatever may happen they will always be accused of causing Dr Kelly's death.
I shall move on to the new inquiry, which we are calling the Butler inquiry. I support all noble Lords who have said, "Let the inquiry take place and let's accept that it has been set up in good faith; and let us not criticise the noble Lord, Lord Butler, before he has even started looking at the issues".
The noble Lord, Lord King, asked a number of questions about the terms of reference. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place and my noble friend Baroness Symons said in this place that of course it will be a matter for the chairman to explore the terms of reference with committee members to decide the appropriate limit of the remit. To suggest that the chairman will not consider the terms of his remit is, with great respect, not sensible.
As far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, picking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear that the terms of reference exclude ground already so thoroughly covered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. I do not think that any of us wants the report to go over the ground that has already been covered. It has been made absolutely clear that it excludes any consideration of whether the Government were justified in taking military action. That conclusion, which has been accepted by the Conservatives, is not a matter for a committee; it is a matter for the elected politicians.
The terms of reference include, among other things,
"to examine any discrepancies between the intelligence gathered, evaluated and used by the Government before the conflict, and between that intelligence and what has been discovered by the Iraq Survey Group since the end of the conflict".
Clearly, Ministers do not gather intelligence. As my noble friend Lady Symons explained yesterday, they do not evaluate it. That is done elsewhere in the Government machine. Ministers and governments do use intelligence, as the noble Lord, Lord King, mentioned. That is plainly covered in the terms of reference and it always has been since the terms of reference were agreed. I understand from looking at Hansard that the right honourable Mr Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, has accepted that the terms of reference are acceptable.
My Lords, before we move on to another interesting and possibly contentious point, the right honourable Michael Ancram's points were made yesterday, if he is quoting Hansard. Since then an issue has arisen. Since the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is being extremely helpful, can he give a straightforward answer to a question? Are the uses made by the Government of that intelligence within the remit of the terms of reference?
My Lords, the terms of reference are explicit in relation to that, so I am not quite clear what the question meant. Before I answered the question, because the terms of reference were explicit, I thought I should think very carefully. The terms of reference, as the noble Lord knows, specifically refer to the use of intelligence by government and I explicitly accept that "government" includes officials and Ministers.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way again. I am sorry that he did not just say, "Yes", because that would have been most helpful. As was made clear by the Leader of the Conservative Party on the radio this morning, the use by the Government of the intelligence is within the terms of reference. The noble and learned Lord knows—he is extremely clever and I respect him for that—that the terms of reference could be ambiguous. So that there is no misunderstanding before the committee starts its work on an extremely challenging task, could he just say, "Yes" in answer to my question: do the terms of reference cover the use of intelligence by the Government?
Yes, of course, my Lords. I have said that three times now. Obviously I was not making myself adequately clear and I apologise. I understand from what the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord King of Bridgwater, said that the Prime Minister said that the Attorney-General's advice would be available. That is not my understanding of what was said in another place. The position is that the Government made it absolutely clear that they will co-operate fully. Noble Lords know perfectly well what the arrangements are in relation to the Attorney-General's advice. For the past 30 years it has not been disclosed, although as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, pointed out on a number of occasions, it has on a few occasions been released—normally in the context of judicial proceedings such as the Factortame case. If and in so far as I am wrong and my right honourable friend said something else, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord King, can rely on what was said in another place.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. In view of all the doubts that have been expressed about the legality of the war, would it not be much better if we did not have to rely on a summary view given by the Attorney-General, but that the window was opened to his full advice so that those of us—and there are many—who think that the war was unlawful in international law will have the opportunity of evaluating his advice and, if that advice is sound, reconsidering our view?
My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, I was a Law Officer. The Law Officers, in their current modern form, have been rightly extraordinarily astute to ensure that their advice is not normally disclosed. If it were to be disclosed as a matter of course, exactly the sorts of blandishments the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, puts so persuasively would be put in every case. My noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith rightly agreed that there should be a summary of the legal basis for using armed force. It was utterly clear what that basis was and international lawyers are able to evaluate and debate the issue fully on the basis of that advice.
I should say, although I do not express it as a concluded view, that the terms of reference of the inquiry are to look at discrepancies in the intelligence and what has now been found in relation to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Superficially, it is quite difficult to see at this particular point the connection between that and the legal advice of the Attorney-General. But no doubt at some stage the connection would be made in a clearer form.
Finally—and I am sorry I have spoken for so long—the BBC. Everyone knows that there was a row with the BBC. Please no one take the view that the Government have any view other than they want to see a strong, independent BBC holding us to account, being the glory of the world in relation to the quality of what it provides. But, equally, if we think the BBC has told the wrong story and maligned us, it does not mean that we cannot object in relation to it. All that we would expect is not that the BBC withdraws in relation to the story, but takes the trouble just to look at it.
The noble Lord, Lord Ryder, in his powerful speech, made it clear that many of the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, in relation to the BBC were on the basis of an acceptance by the BBC of the various problems that have arisen as a result of what has happened. It was not that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, made findings against, in many cases, the wishes of the BBC. There was a mature acceptance of the fact that things could get better. In relation to both the Government and the BBC there needs to be that mature acceptance. That entirely depends upon people accepting the report, rather than trying to cherry-pick bits of it to make political points. The whole point of asking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, to make his report was so that that would not happen.