DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – UK TROOPS IN IRAQ – 8 May 2008

[Mr James Arbuthnot: [...] I do not understand how the figure of 2,500 was ever on the table. How was that figure reached? It was always unrealistic and, I think, meaningless. The suspicion is that it was politically motivated – a figure plucked out of the air. That suspicion needs to be dispelled, if it can be. How on earth did the Secretary of State come to agree with it? I have to express my disappointment that it was ever put forward or supported by the Ministry of Defence. There is a risk that the MOD budget is predicated on the basis that we would be down to 2,500 troops in Iraq by now.]

Dr Julian Lewis: My right hon. Friend refers to the Secretary of State's agreeing with the reduction to 2,500. I remind him that there is widespread suspicion that the first the Secretary of State knew about the reduction was when he heard it announced in the international media.