CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – REPORT OF THE IRAQ INQUIRY – 14 July 2016

Dr Julian Lewis: I was not planning to intervene as I have made my speech, but – this is one of the knock-on effects of the matter we are discussing today – by the time we got to that vote we knew perfectly well that if we had passed that motion, the bombing would have started that weekend. All the planes were ready to go, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman [Alistair Carmichael] is, if I may gently say so, naive enough to believe anything else.

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Dr Lewis: The hon. Gentleman [Roger Mullin] is making a most interesting speech. Before he leaves his list of failures, may I remind him of a point I raised in July 2003? Another failure is that, 13 days after the fall of Baghdad, it was still possible for journalists to go into the gutted headquarters of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and intelligence services and pick up classified documents that were available for anyone to take away. One would have thought that if someone was determined to find out about the truth on WMDs and other matters, those ministries and agency headquarters should have been the first targets to be searched by intelligence teams.

[Roger Mullin: The right hon. Gentleman makes a wonderfully telling point. I like his use of one word in particular: “if”. If they had been interested in finding out the truth about WMDs, these things would have been found much earlier and taken care of much earlier. The fact that there was no planning to do that tells its own tale, I fear. ...]

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Dr Lewis: The Secretary of State has just listed the membership of the National Security Council. While it is revealing that all the intelligence services are individually represented, it is a fact that all the armed forces are represented only by the Chief of the Defence Staff. Will he give consideration to the Defence Committee’s suggestion that the Chiefs of Staff Committee could serve more usefully if it was constituted as the military sub-committee of the NSC?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I heard my right hon. Friend’s speech earlier today, in which he made that point at some length. I caution him against over-complicating the structure we have and setting up sub-committees of it. The armed forces are represented through the Chief of the Defence Staff, who attends not only the NSC, but the officials’ meeting that precedes it.]

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Dr Lewis: I see a slight contradiction in the Secretary of State saying that it would over-complicate the machinery of the National Security Council if the heads of the armed services were allowed to form one of its sub-committees, given that there is evidently no shortage of other sub-committees. The fact remains that it is easier for politicians with bees in their bonnets to sweep aside the views of the Chief of the Defence Staff as a single individual, which appears to have happened in the case of Libya, than it is for them to sweep aside the views of the heads of the armed forces collectively. I wish that the Secretary of State would not be so resistant on this point.

[Michael Fallon: As I have said, the heads of the armed forces are represented on the National Security Council by the Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Chief of the Defence Staff who has been serving up to now is certainly not likely to be disregarded by the politicians who sit on the committee. Both he and his successor – I hope that the House will welcome the arrival of the new Chief of the Defence Staff /Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach/ today – are well able to hold their own against the politicians.]

[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]