FOREIGN AFFAIRS – IRAQ DOSSIER – 16 July 2003

[Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Michael Ancram): … We now know that the Prime Minister, albeit inadvertently, misled Parliament, for which he has neither apologised nor explained himself. When challenged, he said that he did not know the document's full provenance. He said that he did not know that it was not an intelligence document when he spoke about it in the House … ]

Dr Julian Lewis: Is it not even more mysterious that in Prime Minister's Questions last week, when the Prime Minister knew that the overwhelming part of the dossier was not intelligence based, he still asserted:

"I am afraid that I do not accept that Parliament was misled in any way at all." –– [Official Report, 9 July 2003; Vol. 408, c. 1151.]?

He tried to embroil the Leader of the Opposition in his argument by asking him if any of the intelligence in that dossier was untrue. But that was not the misleading; the misleading lay in the presentation of a dossier to Parliament as if it were primarily intelligence-based when it was primarily not intelligence-based. So the Prime Minister, in denying that Parliament was misled previously, was actually misleading Parliament deliberately on that later occasion.

[Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Member must withdraw that remark. "Deliberately" and "misleading" are not what I expect to hear from him.]

Dr Lewis: At your request, Mr Speaker, I, of course, withdraw the remark. I only wish I could think of another way of making the same point that would be acceptable to you.

[Mr Ancram: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I have listened to the Prime Minister and I think he believes that an inadvertent misrepresentation of status to the House of Commons is not misleading. I am not accusing him of deliberately misleading, but if one says something that is wrong and people believe it, one has misled. I am prepared to accept, as I said, that he did not know that he was misleading. My charge against him is why on earth did he not know? If he were doing his job properly, he would have known. If this were fiction, our review of the book would be that it was unbelievable.]

* * *

Dr Lewis: The hon. Gentleman [David Cairns] has guessed wrongly. One thing that is worth remembering about the Falklands is that at the time there was a man who was about to become Labour leader – Neil Kinnock – who wholly opposed that expedition and said so publicly at a time when our troops were being deployed.