HL Deb 07 September 2004 vol 664 cc448-556

3.32 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation concerning Iraq.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is now more than two months since the sovereign Interim Government assumed power in Iraq. As your Lordships will recall, Dr Allawi's Government was put together painstakingly as an interim government representing a wide spectrum of groups in Iraq, with advice from the United Nations. These two months have continued to present enormous challenges to the people of Iraq and their new Interim Government, but not only to them. The international community, close neighbours in the region, and those whose armed forces make up the multinational force, as well as the wider community, are also having to adjust to a new set of circumstances.

First, the Government of Iraq are a sovereign government. They are making their own decisions, on internal issues as well as on their international relationships. They are planning their own future on the basis of the model agreed under UN guidance, so that by the end of 2005 they will have a new constitution, a new government and enhanced security capacity.

Whatever opinions there may be about the rights and wrongs of the military intervention in Iraq last year, the overwhelming view of people of good will around the world is that Iraq should now be a success for its people, for the region and for international stability. But of course doubts remain. There are those who will never be convinced that the decision to intervene was right; or those who will always believe it was a decision that was not taken in good faith. There are those who believe that Iraq's future will be dominated by violence, divisions within the country, coupled with constant friction with its neighbours; and those who believe that Iraq's recent history has undermined international security through provoking increased terrorism. We are all familiar with the arguments. To be honest, I suppose that our debate today will not resolve them, but we shall do our best. I look forward to the maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale, giving us the benefit of his wisdom on the issue.

I suggest that resolution will take not only months—the next months of moves towards a constitution and an elected government—but years, as Iraq's identity as a sovereign state becomes clearer and the nature of its people's chosen government is established. But today I hope that we can discuss at least some of the latest developments on security; on the political process; on Iraq's internal development; on reconstruction; and on Iraq's relationships with its neighbours and others. I shall also touch on some of the issues arising from the reviews we have had of our own involvement in the conflict.

I shall begin with what, I believe, remains the toughest issue: security. Iraq's security is a dominant theme, understandably. Without real security on the ground, it is impossible for democratic institutions to flourish and for daily lives to function. Schools, hospitals, transport systems, economic growth and cultural energy are all affected. But it is also the case that in all those spheres—making people's lives better, democratic inclusiveness, functioning social services and economic prosperity—the appeal of violence as a means to achieve an end is undermined. So security and democracy, civil order and the rule of law are all interdependent. Terrorists know that as well as the rest of us, which is why they attack ordinary institutions so indiscriminately. They attack Iraqis who want to join the police force or to work on oil production or electricity generation. Some terrorist attacks have followed a familiar but horrifying pattern of vicious suicide bombings. Only last Friday, a car bomb outside a police training academy in Kirkuk killed at least 17. Iraqi leaders have been assassinated and the MNF continue to be targets. What is noticeable of course is the way in which terrorists target not only foreign nationals associated with security or reconstruction, but Iraqi nationals who are trying to build a more secure future for their families and society.

The latest round of kidnappings and brutal murders is a further hideous twist. Any country with a presence in Iraq is a target, and any issue, such as secularism in French schools or Turkish efforts to help a neighbour, is fair game to terrorists who will stop at nothing to try to ensure that Iraq's future is as bleak and wretched as its past.

At a different level, Moqtada al-Sadr's rebellion in Najaf has posed an early test for the capability of the Iraqi security forces and the authority of the Interim Government. Prime Minister Allawi's sensitivity towards the sanctity of the Imam Ali shrine for the Shia community and his restraint in using force to quell the rebels have been instrumental in bringing an end to the fighting. The Interim Government, Ayatollah Sistani and other senior religious leaders have shown that they do not accept violence and that Iraq's future will be secured only through peaceful means. But as we have all heard today, there is now fresh fighting in Sadr City. Prime Minister Allawi is now considering how to tackle the continuing insurgency in the so-called "seven towns" of the Sunni triangle.

Having said all that, I must also say that the picture is not universally grim. Prime Minister Allawi is making a determined effort to implement a national reconciliation process through an amnesty law aimed at low level, non-lethal insurgents, while concurrently creating special police units trained and equipped in counter-terrorism and insurgency and forming a new Iraqi National Guard.

There is much to be done tackling border security and tackling neighbouring governments about their own security controls, as well as effective policing in towns and cities. But the Iraqi security forces now number over 200,000 and are gradually assuming full responsibility for restoring law and order. The multinational forces continue to support this effort acting under the mandate in UNSCR 1546 and under the policy of a sovereign government of Iraq.

I pay tribute to the 9,500 men and women of the British Armed Forces serving in Iraq, to those who have served there over the past 18 months, and to the many civilian volunteers who have willingly put their life at risk to help the Iraqi people. Let us not forget that Iraq is a vast country and for many, although there are outbreaks of violence and other setbacks, rebuilding and improving security are evident on the ground.

While the world's attention has been focused on the intense fighting around Baghdad, Kirkuk and the Sunni triangle, British troops, stationed in and around Basra, have played a vital role in improving security and rebuilding southern Iraq. They are providing extensive training and mentoring to the Iraqi security forces in the south and we have other personnel engaged in Iraq-wide training programmes to help meet the challenge of restoring order. I thank the commanding officer and our new Consul General, Simon Collis, and their teams for their dedication and professionalism.

Try as they might the men of violence did not disrupt the transfer of power to the new government. They will now try to impede the political process, a process which, if it goes well, will undermine any claim they make about puppet governments, exclusion from political institutions or the truly Iraqi nature of the future leaders of their country.

The bald fact is that political stability will bring security but without security a political process cannot take root. The national conference in August brought together 1,300 Iraqi delegates across Iraqi society, including members of Sunni tribes opposed to the interim government and representatives of Moqtada al-Sadr. After vigorous debate a broadly representative 100-member national council was elected. Twenty-six per cent of the members are women.

The council has an important role to play in holding the government to account, in advising Ministers and approving the budget. It has already held its first meeting at which it elected a Speaker and agreed operating mechanisms and a work programme. But, of course, the council's task is not an easy one. It must work closely with the interim government to prepare for the January 2005 elections. Those elections are the key milestone in the transition towards election for a constitutionally based Iraqi government by the end of next year. A new constitution is key. By mid-2005 we hope that the transitional government will have a draft constitution ready for consultation with the Iraqi people. Subject to its adoption, constitutionally based elections will be held at the end of next year. The timetable is an ambitious one, but with real commitment by the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Elections Commission and the United Nations, and with the full support of the international community, the groundwork for the elections can be completed on time.

Post Saddam there has been a strong appetite for elections across Iraq, and ad hoc local elections have taken place in a number of cities including Najaf, Salah Ad Din, Dhi Qar, Basra, Ninewah and elsewhere. Iraqi election officials are learning lessons such as the need for effective organisation, effective security and proper funding.

A number of commentators have said that the United Nations should now take a greater role, implying perhaps that leading members of the multinational force have somehow been an obstacle to this. This Government have made it clear that we welcome the UN role but we must be patient and understand that the UN must be satisfied with its ability to fulfil its duty of care to its own staff before it can confidently redeploy to fulfil its full range of duties under the mandate given to it by UNSCR 1546. But I am pleased that this is well in hand and that, throughout July and August, the UN has begun to redeploy in Iraq and that this will continue with the imminent arrival of Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary General's new Special Representative, and his team.

Just as Ambassador Brahimi's patient negotiation with Iraq's political and religious leaders was vital in preparing the handover, so Ambassador Qazi's will be in the next stage of supporting the Iraqi Election Commission. We shall continue to do everything that we can to support that process. We welcome our own diplomatic relationship with Iraq—our ambassador Edward Chaplin now in Baghdad and Ambassador alShaikhly, who is very welcome here in London. We wish them well.

Economic development is the lifeblood of any country. That must be particularly true for an economy which has suffered decades of mismanagement, embezzlement and war under Saddam. Huge debts were accumulated and poverty was endemic in some parts of the country. The economy was starved of investment across all sectors: electricity, water, health and education, as well as oil production, which provides almost all of Iraq's income. However, there has been real progress since May 2003. The International Monetary Fund expects Iraq's economy to grow by 33 per cent this year. The newly independent Central Bank has kept inflation below 30 per cent and the new Iraqi dinar is holding its value internationally. The financial sector is at last beginning to grow again.

However, many areas of Iraq's economy are still in need of major reform. Fuel prices remain hugely subsidised, draining the budget and encouraging smuggling to neighbouring countries; no charges are collected for the electricity and water supplied by the state; food is handed out virtually free to everyone, rich and poor alike; and many inefficient state-owned enterprises are running up great losses. But reforms— and they are much needed—must protect people who are already poor and vulnerable. DfID is providing policy advice on subsidy reduction programmes and the reform of state-owned enterprises.

Iraq's health and education services are also in need of reform and, of course, large-scale investment. The United Kingdom is supporting these sectors, along with others, through DfID's contribution of £70 million to the trust funds set up by the World Bank and the United Nations.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development visited Iraq last week to see for himself progress on reconstruction on the ground. He met with Prime Minister Allawi in Baghdad, other key members of the government and representatives of the UN, civil society and the Electoral Commission. He was struck by the change that had occurred since the handover of power on 28 June. The Iraqis are now clearly in charge, although recent events in Najaf have inevitably dominated the IIG's first couple of months in power.

My right honourable friend was able to see the progress made on reconstruction since his previous visit in February 2004. Forty-five kilometres of water pipes have been laid in Basra and electricity distribution is now more equitable across the national grid. My right honourable friend also announced £50 million of new bilateral projects, in addition to the £78 million that we have already committed. The bulk of that will be spent on building Iraqi capacity and employment creation.

My right honourable friend was left under no illusion: security will be a major factor affecting the pace of reconstruction. However, I know that he joins me in thanking all those who have made tireless efforts on reconstruction and have kept working under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions; military and civilian personnel who are helping Iraqis to build a better future.

I turn to international questions. Iraq is now taking its place in international fora around the world. Its Foreign Minister, Zebari, has become a familiar and welcome participant at the UN, in the Arab League and at EU meetings with regional representatives. He has put Iraq's case clearly and effectively to Iraq's neighbours, on difficult issues concerning security and border controls. Of course, UNSCR 1546 calls on all member states to support the new government in Iraq. The international conference planned for later this year will be an important opportunity for the international community to come together to provide more support for Iraq, which it so desperately needs.

However, the fact remains that the war in Iraq has divided international opinion. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions that he respects the view of those who disagree with the war because of a difference of judgment on the right thing to have done. It may be a decision that will continue to divide opinion for years. However, I hope that the accusation that it was a decision taken in bad faith can be laid to rest. Just before your Lordships went to a well earned summer Recess, we received the Butler report, and I note that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, is to speak later in this debate. The report is thorough; it is detailed, and in places clearly critical of some aspects of the intelligence processes in this country. However, the noble Lord's inquiry, like the three that preceded it, including that by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, found that the allegations of misusing intelligence or being deliberately misleading were wrong and misplaced.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and their teams, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, for their hard work and their contribution to the important debate on terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Let me be clear: the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, raised important questions about intelligence-gathering, intelligence analysis and presentation. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said on 20 July, the Government fully accept the report's conclusions and criticisms and have already taken action to implement its recommendations. I have no doubt that there will be further comment on the report during the debate and I look forward to responding to it in my winding-up speech.

It is important to emphasise that our intelligence services do an outstanding job for this country and have made a significant contribution to exposing the extent of illicit weapons programmes, and the threat they pose, around the world. The joint operations on counter-terrorism, now run across government, are highly effective. This huge effort against terrorism, coupled with our concern to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, are key issues, certainly for us here in the United Kingdom but also for countries across the globe. The appalling and heartrending events in Russia are an horrific and stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of terrorism: terrorists acknowledge no limits to who they attack or the numbers they kill. Our hearts go out to all those who have suffered so grievously in recent days.

While acknowledging this dangerous and turbulent backdrop of terrorism, we must learn the lessons of the past 18 months in Iraq. We need to acknowledge our own shortcomings: what might have been foreseen and was not, and what we can learn about helping countries which wish to come closer to a democratic and peaceful future. While we look back—and it is right that we should do so—I hope, too, that we shall also concentrate on the next 18 months in Iraq. We must look to the future. It is going to be very tough. There will be many setbacks. But the overwhelming majority of people in Iraq believe in their future. They believe in a better, more peaceful and fairer society: a democracy under the rule of law and at peace with their neighbours. Iraqis believe they have a real future now. Let us do our best to help them to that future.

Moved, That this House takes note of the situation concerning Iraq.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

3.51 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for bringing us up to date with the situation in Iraq and wider issues. I certainly look forward to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, as he expounds on and illuminates his fascinating report, and to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale, who has enormous expertise in middle-eastern affairs.

A great deal has happened in Iraq, the wider Middle East and in the wider world of terrorism generally, since we last met here. It all seems to be part of a huge network of connections, examples and copycat activities. Foremost in our minds, as the Minister has reminded us, are the hideous events of the past few days at Beslan, west of Grozny, in the heart of the Caucasus and the continued slaughter in Darfur, about which my noble friend Lady Rawlings may have something to say at the end of the debate. We cannot forget—indeed, one is not allowed to forget—the endless bombings of airplanes, buses, metro stations, the massacres and the shooting down of innocent workers which have filled the daily columns throughout August.

As to Beslan—and I know it is not the main theme of our debate—I have read some rambling comments and articles speculating about the connection, or lack of it, between this almost unspeakable atrocity in Number I School, and the A1'Qaeda and other terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere. I think that misses the point, in a way. People have criticised Mr Putin for claiming that A1'Qaeda is involved. I do not care how many or how few Islamic fanatics were involved in slaughtering children at Beslan. The point is that the new terrorist mentality which we are all up against has now infected extremism everywhere, so that beheadings, kidnapping, torture, the slaughter of women and children and maximum injury to innocent civilians has become the monstrous norm—not just in Iraq, alas, but around the entire world.

I see that President Bush has now redefined what he originally called a "war on terrorism" as a struggle against totalitarian murders, people who cut off heads, bayonet children, shooting in cold blood, almost casually, randomly, to make their case. Terrorism combined with a suicidal mentality—for that is what we are up against—is now a pattern of global crime which, if it is not checked, makes free and open civil society, and normal life, impossible. That was a point wisely made from these Benches right at the start of these events by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon. He is not with us today, but I know we all wish him a speedy recovery from his recent illness and a rapid return, which will certainly take place. Until the people with such mentalities and methods, whether in Iraq or elsewhere, are crushed, we have no society and no security in Iraq or anywhere else.

I turn to the details of the situation in Iraq, where there have been many developments, some positive—to which the Minister has quite rightly alluded—and quite a lot, I am afraid, negative. On the positive side, Moqtada al-Sadr and his rebels were successfully winkled out of the holy mosque at Najaf. Everyone was dreading what would have happened if that had not occurred. Incidentally, I cannot help noting that when Saddam's forces mercilessly bombarded that same mosque in 1991, there was scarcely a murmur from the wider world. This time, one bullet off the golden dome and everyone seems to be in uproar.

There is also the new sovereign government, to whom the Minister also referred, under Dr Iyad Allawi, whom stays firmly in place. They are brave men, all under threat to their lives. They act toughly and clearly. The Iraqi army and police are beginning to gather strength, and a credible national security force is emerging. The country has not yet fallen apart, and some areas are prospering and doing extremely well. Enterprise is flourishing and, of course, elections are in prospect.

On the negative side, the deal with al-Sadr and his Shia minority—because that is what it is—is only temporary. His gunmen are still around and may regroup at the first opportunity, especially if the Iraqi Government try the tactic of wiping them out while Ayatollah Ali Sistani is trying the different approach of conciliation. I foresee many great dangers if that happens. Indeed, there is news even today of more killing in mosques and so on by the Iraqi official forces. Seven more US marines died only yesterday at Fallujah.

Meanwhile, my own reports from the front tell of a very big deterioration in Basra, with our consulate having been under siege. I hope that is better now. The Ba'athist thugs are back in position, wheeling their relatives and friends into all the jobs. There is very little rule of law. There is corruption. Sects and tribes are busy murdering each other. British troops now have less power, in the sense that they are part of the multilateral force, and I am afraid they are inevitably less respected. I believe they have in all instances been driven back from foot patrols into armoured vehicles, making their very difficult job more difficult still. At Al-Amarah, I am told, there have been 450 mortar attacks on British troops in a recent 10-day period. Under these conditions, it is an absolute marvel that our troops have managed to retain control—just—of the Basra region. This reminds us of what a fantastic and brilliant job they are doing. But, I am afraid, there are still too many stories for comfort about inferior equipment and concerns that the armed forces of other countries have better tax treatment than ours and things like that. Meanwhile, there is a lot of rubbish everywhere, and open sewers. Services are better, as the Minister says, but they are still not working. We must be realistic and balanced about what is actually happening.

Are we further forward with our objective of a democratic Iraq as a source of Middle East stability, instead of turbulence and terrorism? Was there an imminent threat in the first place? Are the Saudis and others now pressing ahead with serious reform? It is very hard to give an answer to these questions. There are, inevitably, doubts all around, shared by many sincere people and, dare I say it, possibly even by the Minister herself.

It may be that in Iraq we have stopped Saddam's third try for nuclear dominance. After the first two attempts we may have stopped him building up again that which he appeared to have got rid of temporarily—the stock of chemical and biological weapons. But Iran will get its nuclear weapons inevitably. Proliferation is all too easy, given that people like AQ Khan in Pakistan provide the know-how and send round the catalogues of equipment. It is a very difficult task to stop proliferation. It needs to be brought under control and to have transparency, but it may be impossible to stop it.

The truth is that the new terrorism has its own agenda of which Iraqi developments are only part and which is being driven by a raft of considerations—not least by the Palestine/Israel situation, about which I hope we shall hear more. That is one of the key issues that is still worsening further in a crazy tit-for-tat slaughter.

Turning to the bigger picture, we now have, as the noble Baroness reminded us, the interesting report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. I know that we shall hear more from him but, for me, having had the time to read his report at leisure during August, it contains three main messages. The first is that the report, if read carefully, is a tough indictment of the intelligence services and of the JIC. Rather bravely—perhaps I should say, loyally—the report talks about intelligence "successes", but the text cannot disguise the obvious failures and urgent needs for repairs in our intelligence services.

What went wrong? The answer is, quite a lot. The SIS—that is MI6—and the JIC involvement in the disgraceful dossier episodes revealed "serious weaknesses" in the process, although Ministers carry much of the blame for that as well. The report makes clear that it was wrong that the key expert Dr Brian Jones was not shown the nonsense regarding the 45-minute arming of missiles. The key judgments of the JIC put up to Ministers were plain wrong all along—both in March and September 2002—about Iraq having a current CW and BW capability. The JIC, misread the nature of Iraqi governmental and social structures", which is deplorable if it is true—which I am sure it is. One wonders where, if anywhere, these great experts had been and how much history they had read. As for intelligence sources and validation procedures, they were a sorry tale. The report confirms that "a high proportion" of sources were duds and key information from them had to be withdrawn later.

All of that is worrying and it is to be hoped that the reforms will put it right, but it takes second place to the extraordinary distortions imposed on us by the Prime Minister and others and the way in which they took already dodgy intelligence and converted it into apparently hard facts. We were indeed deceived, not deliberately, and that has tainted the whole enterprise. A good case for the original invasion, which many of us adhere to firmly, was messed up not by dishonesty, but by stupendous naivety and undoubted exaggeration. The world is waiting to hear and will go on waiting to hear why those fanciful and misleading distortions came to be uttered by the head of the British Government.

The third main message—which is a mild criticism of report and I am ready to be put down firmly by the noble Lord, Lord Butler—is that the authors are curiously and almost cavalierly dismissive about the real case for getting rid of Saddam; not the one the Government rather clumsily put in the end, but the one about Iraq's promotional links with the rise of hyper-terrorism, for which there is growing evidence, and the glaring fact that Middle East stability matters because the region is still sitting on two-thirds of the world's oil reserves—and the cheapest two-thirds at that. As some of us argued from the outset, before the invasion—and it is not being wise after the event—and as I said at this Dispatch Box in February 2003, it would have been far better if the emphasis had been put from the start on the converging interest between Saddam's Iraq and international terrorism.

I realise that the remit of the Butler inquiry related to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence. But what is the most glaring fact about all the terrorist events since 9/11? It is that none of those horrors had much to do with WMDs—not 9/11, not Bali, not Madrid, not Moscow, not Beslan, not the embassy slaughters, not the sickening hostage taking and beheadings in Iraq or the bombs in Riyadh and Jiddah, or the endless barbarities against innocents through suicide explosions in crowded public places or in aeroplanes. This is the new form which terrorism has taken in the information age. It uses grisly old-style methods but is empowered by the mobile telephone, communications technology and by the mentality which the communications revolution has helped to stoke up and incentivise. The influence of Al-Jazeera TV, which now dominates Arab opinion, not to the exclusion but the downgrading of the BBC's Arab service, is a prime example. Iraq was in the forefront of all of that and I do not know why we have to shut our eyes to that fact. It was the main but largely unstated case for changing the regime there.

We need to see officials and intelligence agencies from all responsible countries working still more closely together on both homeland and international measures to protect us against that backdrop of the new terrorism—whether its sources are in the Middle East or elsewhere. The operations of those agencies are now closely interwoven—national and international, "homeland" and international. In my view, stabilising Iraq is just one part of the larger jigsaw of containing the global and local terrorist virus. The kind of intelligence work to which we should now be giving priority is that carried out by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre, which gets an honourable mention in the Butler report, and similar organisations and agencies, and that is where intelligence reform, which is needed, should now be focused—together with the necessary resources.

A free Iraq undoubtedly lies—although some will argue otherwise—on the path to a safer, more stable, Middle East and to the more successful struggle against fanatical terror worldwide. Unfortunately, the Iraqi experience to date—which we hope will turn positive and that the bottle is half full not half empty—tells us, regrettably, that at several levels of government the necessary focus has been severely lacking and that the hand on the helm of our Government is not always as steady, trustworthy or reliable as we hope for and need. That is a matter of the deepest concern to every man, woman and child in this kingdom.

4.8 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for her opening remarks. This debate has attracted an extraordinarily high level of interest in this House. I agree particularly with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we much look forward to the maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, and to the undoubtedly expert contribution that will be made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and others in your Lordships' House.

Before I plunge into the debate itself, perhaps I should say first how much we welcome the new ambassador to this country from Iraq and we hope that he will follow carefully the proceedings of this House and the other House—we are sure that he will. Secondly, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in saying a word about the unspeakably awful happenings in Russia at the weekend. There are some occasions when the very values upon which humanity itself stands begin to be washed away. That was such an occasion. All of us feel totally inadequate in being able only to offer our profoundest sympathy to the parents and families so bereaved as a result of that terrible occasion.

Perhaps I may add one more word. I hope and pray that in responding to such terrible outrages we understand that if we ourselves destroy those same humanitarian values there will be nothing left to hope for. This is a moral as well as a political challenge, and it should be seen in that light.

Fourteen months ago, when the Prime Minister advocated the invasion of Iraq in his speech to the other place, he set out objectives that he asked us to bear in mind and to consider embracing them in a new United Nations resolution. It seems appropriate 14 months on to remind the House of those objectives: an international reconstruction programme; the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people on a transparent basis; an appropriate post-conflict administration in Iraq that would be dedicated to the concepts of human rights and the rule of law without distinction between the peoples of Iraq. The speech had all the oratorical brilliance of which the Prime Minister is so capable. It was the basis of a humanitarian crusade and the basis of the argument that we were absolutely right to go ahead with the invasion of Iraq.

In May, the military victory was complete and President Bush could have said that the military mission was accomplished. However, he did not add that qualifying adjective, but said only that the mission was accomplished.

Since that time we have had four inquiries in this country, culminating in the brilliant report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. In the United States there have been innumerable congressional investigations, many of which are still continuing. What has come out already is that Iraq was invaded on the basis of misleading intelligence, misleading individuals, such as Mr Chalabi, and on a set of assumptions that have not been borne out in fact or in history. Those include the strongly held belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and moreover, was developing further such weapons. That was based on the belief that there was a close link between A1'Qaeda and the Government of Iraq. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, all the evidence is that there was no such link, and even the United States Administration have recognised that.

In addition, we had the confident claims of the neo-conservative elements in the American Administration that military victory in Iraq would be followed by a great welcome by the Iraqi people for the incoming invading forces, and that establishing a new regime would be relatively straightforward and easy. Sadly, the promise of that stable and democratic Iraq has turned into a grim and deeply dispiriting irony.

So far, for all those events that I have outlined—I shall not repeat them—not a single senior person has been found accountable; not one. From the atrocities in Abu Ghraib prison through to the maladministration of the Iraq development agency, which I shall discuss shortly, no senior person been made accountable either by the British Parliament or the United States Congress, even though there are clear indications that at the most senior level there must have been some recognition of the atrocities against prisoners both in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and even though there is clearly official recognition in the report of the inspector general of the CPA on how financial development has been conducted that there must be senior people who, at the very least, are answerable for serious mismanagement. It is not much of a lesson to a country, which we have said we wish to bring to democracy, that we ourselves are utterly incapable of finding anybody accountable for what has gone wrong.

That is an issue not only in Iraq. I draw attention again to the Butler report. It is not only a matter of shaky intelligence being exaggerated, but what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, had to say in his report—and my colleague and noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham will have more to say in this regard—about how government business was conducted. There were no minutes at meetings; decisions were not registered; the Cabinet was excluded from a good deal of information that it should have known. There was clearly a misunderstanding, or at least a failure to recognise that experts were risking their careers to give desperate warnings. Dr Jones was only one of those experts who were either simply ignored or had their recommendations and evidence dismissed or set on one side. It was not a happy period for our Government and their proper machinery.

We were given two further promises. First, we were told that there would be a more stable and secure Iraq. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, has already said some of the things that I wanted to say, so I shall limit my speech as much as I can. The chaos, deaths and attacks continue. The largest number of US servicemen and women ever injured occurred last month—August 2004. So much for a reduction in the levels of tension. Sixty-six American soldiers lost their lives, as did four British soldiers. Since then there has been the further attack on American marines near Fallujah. We are very far away from achieving security in Iraq.

In attempting to try to build some kind of security, the new interim Iraqi Administration has already fallen into some of the ways of coercion. They have tried to silence elements of the press and to use coercive measures to get the better of the desperate situation.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of another place, in a brilliant report, said: Iraq has become a battleground for A1'Qaeda". A1'Qaeda was not a serious threat in Iraq two years ago, but it is a serious threat today. That is at the heart of the Liberal Democrat objection to the war. It has not addressed, weakened and undermined terrorism, but tragically—although nobody intended it that way—it has led to the development and expansion of terrorism in the Middle East.

We do not know how many Iraqi casualties there have been because we do not count them. It might have been a good thing if we had done so. Independent reports suggest that there are many thousands, and those many thousands are being added to every week that passes.

Secondly, we promised to reconstruct Iraq's battered economy. The Prime Minister, in our name, pledged the use of Iraqi oil revenue for that purpose, and for the benefit of the Iraqi people. The truth has been different. Even though the US Congress voted for $18.5 billion in addition to the sums from the Iraqi oil revenue, only 2 per cent of the money spent on Iraqi reconstruction has come from those US bilateral funds. Almost all of them remain unspent. Almost all the money came from the Iraqi development agency's funds, which were subject to far less tight controls and regulation than those of the bilateral arrangements of the United States.

The easiest thing for the Coalition Provisional Authority was to switch contracts from one source of money to the other, which it did in case after case. Of some 37 contracts worth $5 million or more assigned for the reconstruction of Iraq, 85 per cent went to American companies, and two thirds of that 85 per cent went to one major company, called Halliburton and its associated subsidiaries.

Halliburton is currently under investigation for allegedly charging more than $1.5 a gallon to Iraqi civilians for oil supplied, as distinct from the 98 cents a gallon that the Iraqi oil company would have charged. If that is true, what an extraordinary thing to do. Not only would the Iraqi oil agency have needed the revenues and used them for Iraqis, it would have provided more employment for a country in which some 60 per cent of people are currently unemployed.

Worse than that, questions about those Halliburton contracts and about the general administration of the Iraqi development agency which were raised by the United Nations international advisory and monitoring body, set up last spring, were not answered. The United Nations is still seeking answers to many of its auditors' questions.

The Coalition Provisional Authority, towards the end of its life, withdrew 1 billion dollars from the remaining funds which, we must not forget, were meant to be for the benefit of the Iraqi people. We do not know where that 1 billion dollars went nor what it was to be spent on. It would be helpful if at the end of the debate the Minister could comment on the CPA's administration of the money.

Even the general accounting office of the US Congress said that the CPA had failed to meet its targets for water, transport and electricity; that all production amounts to only two thirds of the target set for December this year; and that oil exports from Iraq are today at their lowest level since well before the Iraq war.

On every criterion of success, whether that be security, economic recovery or the grounding of democracy in Iraq, we cannot claim success. The evidence points to failure. I agree with what the Prime Minister said in his press conference today—and he said it directly—that the battle now is between the terrorists and the ordinary, decent people of Iraq. Of course, in that battle none of us—none of us—can shrink from supporting the battle against terrorism. But we cannot even pretend that the decisions made by our Government, committed both to the invasion and the implementation of the post-war recovery, and the terrible misjudgments associated with them—admittedly, some of them made primarily by an extraordinarily arrogant American Administration—have nothing to answer for in respect of the outcome in Iraq.

The conclusion was not inevitable. There were alternatives. Looking back, would it not have been much better to have kept Iraq under the control of the UN inspectors rather than embark, as we did, on an outcome which we could not imagine and cannot even now calculate?

In conclusion, we are entitled to ask the Prime Minister: was it for this outcome that so many lives have been sacrificed? Was it for this outcome that so much destruction was permitted? Was it for this that we have now brought about an even more difficult situation vis-á-vis the terrorist threat so movingly described by both the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Howell? Have we any reason to believe that all that price was paid for a better outcome?

4.23 p.m.

Lord Butler of Brockwell

My Lords, I hesitated over taking part in this debate because, if the review that I chaired has done its job, people will feel that they have enough evidence to form their own conclusions about the matters that it covered and can move on—as, indeed, this debate is rightly doing. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said, we cannot wipe out the past; the present and the future matter more.

However, since some of your Lordships clearly want to refer to the review that I chaired, it may be useful if I say something about some of the comments made in its aftermath. I want in particular to thank my noble friend Lord Williamson of Horton, on this first occasion as Convenor, for waiving his high spot in the batting order to allow me to do so.

This is my first opportunity in the House to thank my colleagues on the review. Although our subject matter was such a controversial one, we were a congenial group, my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge being in the van. I particularly thank Mr Michael Mates for his courageous decision to continue serving on the review after the Leader of the Opposition withdrew his support from it. We would have liked to have had a Liberal Democrat representative, but if Mr Mates had withdrawn, the committee would have been politically unbalanced and, I believe, it would have collapsed. That would have been a pity because we have been able, I hope, to perform a useful role.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for her favourable comment on the thoroughness and detail of the report. That would not have been possible, particularly in the time given to us, without a first-rate staff, led by our secretary, Bruce Mann, for whose skill and dedication no praise of mine is adequate. I also want to point out that the members of the staff of the review were all civil servants, predominantly drawn from the departments and agencies which were the subject of the review and where their futures lie. Yet there was never any question in the mind of the committee—nor has any question been raised outside—about their objectivity and commitment. Similarly, the committee was entirely dependent on the co-operation and transparency of the government departments and agencies we were examining. They, too, took immense pains in providing us with a huge volume of documents. There are few countries in the world where such commitment could be so unquestioningly counted on; that is a great tribute to our Civil Service.

In the time remaining, I should like to comment on three aspects of the report which have received attention: first, the suggestion that no one was blamed for the shortcomings and the handling of intelligence; secondly, the report's comments in support of Mr John Scarlett; and, thirdly, the comments on Cabinet government.

On the first, we did not of course say that no one was to blame for the shortcomings. At the press conference, I said that no individual was to blame. Although none of us on the committee doubted, or doubts today, the good faith of the Prime Minister and the Government in concluding that Saddam Hussein had concealed stocks of chemical and biological weapons—and with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that view was shared by most other countries and by Hans Blix—the Government's dossier in September 2002 did not make clear that the intelligence underlying those conclusions was very thin, even though the JIC assessments had been quite clear about that. How grave a fault that was in the context of the lead-up to the war is a matter on which people will and should reach their own conclusions. But we regard it as a serious weakness—a weakness which subsequently came home to roost as the conclusion about deployable stocks of chemical and biological weapons have turned out to be wrong.

That brings me on to the position of Mr Scarlett. The committee was well aware that the consequence of our criticism of the September 2002 dossier, for which the JIC took responsibility, was likely to be—and indeed has been—demands that Mr Scarlett should not take up his appointment as chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. If the report had not said what it did, it now seems to me very likely, perhaps certain, that Mr Scarlett would have found himself unable to take up that post. Suppose that had happened. If so, he alone among the many people involved would have paid the penalty for the shortcomings we identified. That indeed might have satisfied the public's demand that some head should roll, but it would have been unfair in respect of what were collective shortcomings.

But, in my view, there is a wider point than fairness; that is, the national interest. The question whether Mr Scarlett should be the next head of the SIS—a hugely important post particularly in present circumstances—should turn on whether he is the best person for the post, taking into account all the circumstances. That was not a decision for our committee to take; but nor was it a decision which should have been determined by the public desire, however understandable, for some head to roll. If what we said in our report has helped to prevent that happening, I do not regret it.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, among many generous comments on the review, by way of mild criticism about the case for removing Saddam Hussein—there were many aspects to the case for removing Saddam Hussein—the link between the Iraq regime and the spread of international terrorism was not supported by the intelligence. The intelligence, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, was not there on that and indeed the American Government have acknowledged that.

Finally, I come to the comments in the report about Cabinet government. As the report said, we were not suggesting that there is an ideal or unchangeable system of collective government; indeed, one of the glories of the British constitution is its flexibility. Still less were we suggesting that the procedures are in aggregate any less effective now than in earlier times. I would go further and say that, during my time as Cabinet Secretary, I do not think that we cracked the problem of adapting the systematic but somewhat ponderous procedures of Cabinet government set out in the ministerial code to the requirements of a faster-moving, more media-driven world. But the positive features of that system, designed to draw in the expertise available in all parts of the government in a systematic way, and to subject policy decisions to constructive criticism and challenge from those political colleagues with a wider perspective than those grappling with the issues day to day, are still worth pursuing.

Some of the decisions which turned out worst for the governments I served were, in my view, due to bypassing that procedure. I hope that this and future governments will take these points seriously, in the interests not of constitutional nicety but of effective governance.

4.32 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, my overriding concern now is for the security, stability and renewed prosperity of Iraq. Whatever our views about the rightness and wisdom of the war and whatever lessons need to be learnt from the mistakes made in the early stages of the occupation we need at this stage to unite in a determination to bring order out of chaos and long-term stability out of the present turmoil. So I will not rehearse old arguments but will concentrate simply and solely on the present serious situation and on how we might move towards a more ordered, flourishing society.

The present instability and violence in Iraq is very serious indeed. So I would like to begin by paying tribute to all those who are putting their life at risk there in the name of a new, better order. First, our own service men and women, who continue to show their characteristic courage, together with their usual constructive approach to keeping order. Then there are the UN officials and members of NGOs and all those working in the areas of aid and reconstruction. Finally, and not least, there are the Iraqis who are exposing themselves to great risk by being associated with the new regime and by being willing to become policemen or administrators. A new and better Iraq is very literally dependent on the bravery of these and other such people.

The present situation in Iraq is fraught with danger for a number of reasons. There have been—and still are—most obviously, those whom the media have termed insurgents, many of them foreign, who are set on opposing the present Interim Government as an agent of the occupying power by every violent means possible, including suicide bombing. In addition to that, there are other elements that give rise to increasing concern.

First, there is the emergence of traditional tribal loyalties and feuds. It is widely recognised that the creation of Iraq in 1920, on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, was carried out along somewhat artificial lines and that Saddam Hussein's cruel and tyrannical regime battened down many potential conflicts. The situation now is not unlike the break-up of the former Soviet Union, with the eruption into the open of long-standing tensions, though on a smaller scale.

Secondly, there is the rise of criminal elements, exploiting the present chaos, particularly through hostage taking. More than 150 hostages have now been taken in Iraq. Very often, they are taken by one group with a financial motive and passed on to other groups who wish to exploit the hostage for political purposes. I am afraid that the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein, with the anarchic aftermath, bears out a very Hobbesian view of society. But it is important not to despair and to remember that the Hobbesian view, according to which people can be held together only on the basis of strong government, is only half the truth. There is also our human capacity to see the wider good and our powers to persuade and be persuaded in the interest of that common good.

Here I draw attention to all those working with traditional tribal and religious leaders, as well as with potential new political leaders, to find a new consensus for a new Iraq. For good or ill, here religion has a crucial role to play. As is well known, Iraq is composed not only of different tribal and ethnic groups, but of different religious groupings—Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, as well as the 3 per cent of Christians and other minority groups.

People sometimes accuse religion of being the cause of conflict. Sometimes, sadly, it has been just that. But in the modern world it is true to say that religion is more often a marker of identity in a conflict which has begun for other reasons but which can, as such, be exploited by unscrupulous people to exacerbate that conflict. The religious dimension can also be brought into play to emphasise what is held in common between different groupings and what can unite them. Here in particular I draw attention to and commend the work of the Iraqi Institute of Peace and its international director Canon Andrew White of Coventry Cathedral, who has been spending much if not most of his time in Iraq, liaising with different tribal and religious leaders to encourage a common religious vision for the future of Iraq. Through a major conference for religious leaders this month and by setting up six fora dealing with different aspects of society in which religion has a key role to play, that is, I believe, a crucially important element in work for a better future.

It is also highly dangerous work. When Baghdad airport was closed recently and Canon White had to get into Iraq across the borders, his journey involved some 27 security men. I was particularly disturbed yesterday to receive an e-mail which seemed to indicate that a significant section of the Iraqi police force was in fact out of control. In relation to all that, I pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for the strong moral support that she has given to this work as well as the financial backing for it. The work has recently been evaluated by the Foreign Office and is, I know, well thought of. It has the potential to make a crucial commitment and contribution to that area because religion can divide or unite. It is desperately important that in such a fraught security situation it is a force for unity and healing.

I make one further point. It is a mistake to believe that western-style liberal democracy can simply be imposed on a country with a very different culture and religious tradition. We may believe, as I do, with Reinhold Niebuhr and Sir Winston Churchill, that, Democracy is the worst possible system in the world … except for all the others". In that spirit I would like Iraq to be a democracy, but Iraq's traditional tribal and religious forms of government cannot simply be ignored. The hope must be that within Islam there are seeds of democracy, as we understand it, through the traditional emphasis on consensual government and through the traditions of creative interpretation of the Koran, which are there together with the literalist ones. A friend said, not long ago, that what we needed were, appropriate forms of consensual government". Those can be congruous with, and perhaps develop into, western-style liberal democracy, but the task has to begin with recognising a very different cultural and religious context. So I express the hope that the emergence of democracy in Iraq will develop in close consultation with religious leaders in particular, so that what emerges may not be regarded as alien to the culture, but compatible with and, indeed, a flowering of it. But it is clear that, if democracy is to have a long-term future in Iraq, it needs to be appropriated in Islamic terms, not simply imposed in Western, secular ones.

Over the west door of Staunton Harold Church is the following inscription:

So I end by commending the efforts of all those in Iraq who are seeking to do the best things in the worst times and, through their day-by-day activities, giving expression to their hope in what is, for many Iraqis, still a very calamitous situation.

4.41 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I have always made clear that I consider military action against Iraq to be morally, legally and politically justified. Morally justified because no one can dispute the unmitigated evil of the ruthless reign of terror which the Saddam regime practised in Iraq and was able to continue to do so after 1991 because the coalition made the cardinal error of halting military action too soon. It was legally justified because if defiant refusal to comply with 16 Chapter 7 resolutions of the UN Security Council is not a legal basis for action, then I do not know what is. It was politically justified because this unpredictable, dangerous, rogue regime was a menace to its volatile region and, through that, a menace to the world—a menace all the more threatening in the light of new dangers that we all face from new forms of international terrorism.

I know that others start from a different premise. One cannot but be troubled at the moment at the present state of affairs in Iraq. But let some things be said clearly. Military action was brilliantly successful, unexpectedly swift and meticulously planned and executed by the alliance forces, who deserve great credit for that. Many problems predicted did not materialise—the expected flood of refugees, and so on. But the awful problems with which we are all now living are enormous although, I believe, not insurmountable, given time, patience and sustained effort.

Of course, we all wish that some things had been done differently. The abrupt disbanding of the Iraqi army struck many at the time as unwise and fraught with danger, although I understand the thinking behind that, as well as for not acting immediately against Moqtada al-Sadr when the moderate young Shia cleric leader al-Kooie was murdered when, without armed protection, he visited the holy Imam Ali shrine in Najaf on his return to Iraq from the UK and exile. It was no doubt considered more politic to wait until an Iraqi judiciary could deal with it, but one must wonder if swift action on that murder would have caused more bloodshed than the two uprisings that al-Sadr has now led.

We can all hope that the efforts of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani will continue to keep Najaf in some kind of peace, but Moqtada al-Sadr remains a viciously dangerous force and I, for one, hope that the murder of the talented moderate al-Kooie will not be forgotten. All people of good will have to hope that the provisional government of lyad Allawi succeeds in holding his country together and restoring some kind of normality to a society that has not been normal since Saddam took power in 1979.

Listening to people who were currently knowledgeable about Iraq, such as my honourable friend Ann Clwyd, it is clear that there are some good news stories among the unmitigated black reports from the media. I agree with my noble friend Lady Symons and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about that. No one with any sense or experience underestimates the problems, but they can be dealt with, given time, patience and careful investment of resources. The murder of Iraqis trying to reconstruct their society is evidence of the determination of those ex-Baathists, as well as extremists, Iraqi and foreign, who do not want that reconstruction, as my noble friend Lady Symons said.

But let us try to look clearly at the overall picture. There are specific problems with some of the Shia community, especially those connected to al-Sadr, but, with the assistance of the respected leadership of the majority of the Shia, those can be resolved. There are security problems among the Sunni community, especially in the Sunni triangle—readily understandable from ex-Baathists, aided by foreign volunteers, but also from a community accustomed to being in control and fearing the Shia majority. They need reassurance.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan, while not a complete haven of peace, continues to administer itself. Its leaders are so far displaying maturity in playing their part in an integral Iraq and not being tempted into a dangerous move to secession, with all the perils that that would unleash in Iraq, as well as in Syria and Turkey.

There is now an interim government and a national conference has been held, which was concluded on 18 August. That was never intended to be fully democratic or any kind of substitute for the general election scheduled for January, but it did hammer out an agreement on an interim parliament—a new national council—described by my noble friend Lady Symons. As the Economist commented at the time, the throng of clerics, tribal leaders, professionals and veiled and unveiled women at the conference looked a fair cross-section of Iraq". Perhaps it is, as some have said, going to be, for a time, "a rough democracy for a rough country", but let us admit that many did not think that we would be even this far by now.

I conclude with a comment on something that has featured so prominently in Iraq debates: intelligence, its acquisition and processing—a field in which I spent some 22 years. I firmly believe that secret intelligence should never be put into the public domain. I know that that is not in the spirit of the times and I well recall the clamour from the media and others to show us the intelligence. But whatever the fashionable pressures, I think they have to be resisted. If there was one thing that dismayed me about the otherwise excellent Butler report, it was the implication that the next time that intelligence was published, procedures should be different. That dismayed me because I fervently believe that there should be no next time.

In parenthesis, perhaps I may say how much I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said about John Scarlett. I think that it would have been outrageous if the due process of selection of the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service were to have been diverted from choosing the best person for the job. John Scarlett is someone whom I have known for a great number of years and whom I admire for both his professional ability and personal integrity. But the whole point was that the due process should take place without any external interference. The Butler report did exactly the right thing in what it pronounced on that point.

I say that I fervently believe that there should be no next time for the publication of intelligence not because I am not in favour of transparency and accountability, but because I know the enormity of the problems of producing the substance of intelligence reports for an audience unused to reading it and not given any on guidance on how to read it. Much has been written and said about "caveats", but it is much more complicated than it appears. The concept of caveats regarding an intelligence report encompasses a variety of quite different and specific signals designed to give the reader road signs at different, defined points—source description; introduction; field comment; desk comment—all to help the reader understand and evaluate the report without betraying the identity of the source.

Unfortunately, time prevents me from explaining that in any more detail, but all of those together are, if you like, what can be classified as caveats. But there is no way that you can incorporate them into a public exposure of your core intelligence. So-called caveats are just one of the reasons that it is well nigh impossible to put intelligence meaningfully into the public domain.

Another example of where some caveats are necessary, but difficult to spell out, is the chairmanship of the JIC, which has changed greatly over the years. There have been many misunderstandings attached to that title, which might have remained an esoteric subject except that the media have taken to parading it as a powerful credential for the pundits that they produce to criticise the Government on Iraq. For example, in one case, the lady held that office for a bare two months.

Also, until 1983, when the Franks report on the Falklands recommended that the practice be discontinued, the chair was taken automatically by the Foreign Office representative on the JIC—a career diplomat—whose day job was that of an FCO deputy under-secretary, which would include intelligence among its other responsibilities. So the chair of JIC can mean very different levels of experience in intelligence. It all depends on when and in what context people come to be in that position. In this—as in so much connected with intelligence—things are not always what they seem and they are rarely straightforward.

4.51 p.m.

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, I welcome the fact that your Lordships' House chose to debate the issue of Iraq after our Summer Recess. It is essential that at the earliest moment we should send the message to our forces in Iraq that they are not the forgotten army; that they are facing an increasingly dangerous and difficult time; and that the thoughts of this House are with them in the difficult and important task that they are undertaking.

Those of us who wish them every possible success often find it very difficult to keep in touch with what actually is happening and the current situation. My noble friend Lord Howell gave some worrying figures about the amount of attacks that are alleged to have occurred against British forces in Basra and the region during a recent 10-day period. Will the Minister confirm that there is no truth in the rumour that there was a news blackout imposed by the Government during that time of great tension and attack? If that was so, it was wrong and contrary to the spirit that we try to follow in such matters. It would have been unfair to families and to the Armed Forces who are engaged in the situation. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a clear answer.

I pay the warmest tribute to our forces and the way in which they have discharged themselves. Anyone who has had any involvement with them would not be surprised that they have discharged their duties as they have. I also pay tribute to the US forces in the very difficult challenge that they are undertaking. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to "mission accomplished". Today, I think I saw a figure that, since "mission accomplished" was announced, there have been 1,000 fatalities in the US forces. I have no knowledge of the number injured and wounded, but that too will be very substantial.

We have paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his report, from which we all learned quite a bit. I note that the Prime Minister learned something that he had never heard before; namely, that the crucial intelligence on which some of the main claims were based had been withdrawn. The Prime Minister was never informed and it was only when he read the Butler report that he learned of something that had occurred a year before.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, made a powerful defence of the position of Mr John Scarlett, for whom I—as does the noble Baroness—have considerable respect. But since the House rose, allegations have been made that Mr Scarlett sought to influence the Iraq Survey Group report. Apparently, he wrote to the Iraq Survey Group suggesting that 10 possible "nuggets" could be included in their report. I am not sure if the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his colleagues were made aware of that or whether there is any truth in it; it was in a report by Mr Tom Marigold. Obviously, that is a serious matter because it suggests further involvement in what would appear to be the presentation of intelligence, which many might have thought was not appropriate action to undertake in that way. Perhaps the noble Baroness may clarify that.

While the noble Baroness said that the Butler report was carefully studied, is being followed up and acted on, one cannot help but notice that the Government have already acted in contradiction of one recommendation of the report as regards the chairmanship of the JIC. I accept that the Prime Minister has announced that this appointment is an interim appointment. But it is against the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his colleagues. The post of chairman is being held by someone who has experience of dealing with Ministers in a very senior role, who is demonstrably beyond influence and thus probably in his last post. Mr William Ehrman has now been appointed on an interim basis and is doing it on his way to his new ambassadorial appointment.

I have the highest regard for Mr Ehrman, but it is interesting that a key recommendation about the chairmanship of the JIC has been immediately ignored by the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, used to see the reports of the Intelligence and Security Committee: this was a recommendation that we on that committee have made consistently since 1999. We were merely drawing on the advice of Lord Franks at the time, which the Government have consistently continued to ignore. I just make that point.

I feel very much for the position of our troops. While I trust that no one in this House will do anything but offer the fullest support to our forces in their very difficult task, that does not mean we are embargoed from criticism of the Government. I think that the Government have served our forces very unhelpfully. It has been a PR disaster. Mr William Hague made a very good speech on 20 July in a House of Commons debate on Iraq. He said that he thought the policy was correct, but that the Government have ruined the case for doing so. He first coined the phrase "PR disaster".

Against that background, I note that the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee are now reopening their inquiries, which is right in the light of the further information that has come to light. It is against that background that I turn to the events in Iraq. We have all been observers of the tragic events—whether in Najaf or the heightened tension and the much greater violence in the Basra district. I noted that the noble Baroness used a carefully crafted phrase to say the situation was not universally grim. I understand why she said that. It is an understatement of the year for some of the people.

If I am being unkind or unfair about the position, again I say to the Government, and to the noble Baroness in particular, that it is extraordinarily difficult to have an accurate position of what is really going on in Iraq. What is the position about the reconstruction efforts? What is the position about electricity and water supply? What is the position that is faced in the rebuilding of the Iraqi security forces, the police and the Army?

The noble Baroness will know that I have raised that issue on a number of occasions. On the first occasion I was referred to the DfID website, which I did not think was the total answer to the request that I had made. If we are to have public support for what we are doing, it is important that we have proper information from the Government on the situation.

About the only cheerful note that I noted in preparing for the debate was the encouraging letter from the BBC World Service. The efforts of the BBC and its Arabic Service, and the way in which they are trying to communicate British values as well as accurate information, is important.

I have one further point. The current situation is putting great strain on our Armed Forces. In certain areas there is the risk of deterioration. Against that background, I think it extraordinary that the Government should choose this moment to introduce some difficult and damaging cuts to the defence programme, ones that will impact in particular on some of the regiments that may well be asked to face very difficult times. I draw the parallel that we produced Options for Change, but shortly after we announced it Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. We withdrew the programme at that point because we did not want there to be any conflict whatever.

I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate that we must see this through to see order come out of chaos. However, the challenge is not simply that which the noble Baroness spoke of when she quoted the Prime Minister today: that it is a battle between decent Iraqis and terrorists. The problem is that decent Iraqis are not likely to form a cohesive force and that in trying to restore order out of chaos, we cannot get ourselves into a situation where we back individual factions. That, in the end, is something that the Iraqis will have to decide for themselves.

We face a very challenging situation and we have to stand together to see it through. I hope very much indeed that we can secure wider support in the world to help us to do so.

5 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, many of my noble friends on these Benches will deal with where we go from here in Iraq, but at this point in the debate I want to ask how was it that we got here. Paragraph 382 of the Butler report reveals that on 12 March 2003, the Chief of the Defence Staff required confirmation that it was lawful for him to issue the order to commit military forces to action. That was not and is not an irrelevant legal quibble.

The use of armed force by one state against the sovereignty of another state is a crime against peace. Personal responsibility was clarified at Nuremberg, where in his opening statement Lord Shawcross said that, it is both logical and right that, if the act of waging war is itself an offence against international law, those individuals who shared personal responsibility for bringing such wars should answer personally for the course into which they led their states". Saddam Hussein is to face trial on just such a charge, laid against him personally, for the invasion of Kuwait. However, it is not a charge that is limited to the head of state, as the execution of the German Chief of Staff, Field Marshall Keitel, demonstrated at Nuremberg. So the question of legality raised by the Chief of the Defence Staff was not only crucial to him on a personal basis, but was also one that exercised the people of this country, many of whom demonstrated their concerns on the streets of our major cities.

There are two sets of circumstances where the use of force against another state is justified. The first is self-defence, and the Attorney-General has never wavered on this point. Having considered all the evidence, he concluded in his initial advice that there was no threat to Britain or to British interests which justified a preemptive strike on the basis of self-defence against Iraq.

The second justification is the authority of the United Nations Security Council. On this score, for the invasion to be a legal act, there were two questions for the Attorney-General to answer: first, was the United Kingdom authorised by the Security Council to be its agent to carry out such an attack? On 21 April last, I pursued this matter in debate with the Attorney-General, and I summarise my points by saying that the United States and the United Kingdom sought specific authority in October and November 2002 and again in February and March of 2003, and failed absolutely to get the necessary trigger words authorising military action into any resolution. As the report acknowledges, Miss Wilmhurst, the Foreign Office legal adviser, resigned over this issue. Moreover, last week, Mr Cheney denigrated Senator Kerry for saying that he would like to see American troops deployed, only at the directive of the United Nations". Noble Lords will recall the jeers with which the Republican delegates greeted Mr Kerry's correct interpretation of international law.

But the second question was equally important to establish the legality of the war. Was there a breach of a Security Council resolution of such importance and materiality that it was justifiable in fact and in law to invade Iraq? Until the publication of the Butler report we had all assumed that all the relevant circumstances would have been placed before the Attorney-General for him to make an independent and impartial assessment of whether there had been a material breach of the resolutions. That was his duty.

But that is not what happened. His advice, as is disclosed in paragraph 379 of the report, had been that the Prime Minister had to be satisfied that it was possible to demonstrate hard evidence of noncompliance and non-co-operation by Saddam with the terms of Resolution 1441. But if there was such hard evidence, it was not put before the Attorney-General for his opinion.

What happened was this: on 14 March, two days after the request of the Chief of the Defence Staff for legal advice, the Attorney-General sought confirmation that, it is unequivocally the Prime Minister's view that Iraq has committed further material breaches as specified in paragraph 4 of resolution 1441". On the next day, the Prime Minister's Private Secretary informed the Attorney-General that, it is indeed the Prime Minister's unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations, as in Operative Paragraph 4 of UNSCR 1441, because of false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq to co-operate fully in the implementation of the resolution". In other words, no independent analysis and opinion was obtained from the Attorney-General himself. The assessment of the evidence, if there was any, that there was a material breach of Resolution 1441, was that of the Prime Minister rather than of the person charged with the duty to make that assessment. The result is that the Attorney-General can say, "Well, it's not my fault. The Prime Minister decided that there was a breach of the terms of the Resolution. It was not me because I never had to consider it". Meanwhile, the Prime Minister shelters behind the Attorney-General by saying, "I have a legal opinion which says that it was all right", and his advice was based entirely on the Prime Minister's own unsupported assurances. No one was to blame.

What was the basis of the Prime Minister's "unequivocal view"? The officials' advice to Ministers referred to in paragraph 267 of the report had been that any authorisation to use force in the original Resolution 678, which was passed before the 1990 Gulf War, could be revived only if the Security Council— not the Prime Minister—was convinced of a breach by incontrovertible proof of large-scale activity. In their advice officials added that: Current intelligence is insufficiently robust to meet this criterion". That was in March.

The JIC made its initial assessment on 18 December, before the fresh inspections by Dr Hans Blix under Resolution 1441 could be evaluated; he had been in position for only three weeks. No update was sought or received by the Prime Minister when he made his pronouncement of an unequivocal breach of the resolution in March.

The Foreign Secretary, Mr Straw, in his letter of 17 March, justified the Prime Minister's position by reference to the 12th quarterly report of Dr Blix to the UN Security Council. However, in that report Dr Blix said that he wanted more time, and that things were going much better than they had in the past. But he did not get that time.

I must disagree, as I did on 17 March last year when the tanks began to roll, with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale. The war was clearly unauthorised; we were not the agents of the UN Security Council; and it was illegal. Today the Prime Minister approves of an American Administration that professes belief in the pre-emptive strike rather than self-defence and jeers at the need to obtain United Nations authority for military action. That is the ethical foreign policy of New Labour.

One of the things that I have noticed about this debate is the absence from the Government Benches opposite and from the speakers' list of those who cheered the Government on in March 2003, at the time when the decision was made.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Owen

My Lords, those of us who supported in this House the invasion of Iraq have a very special responsibility to question our judgments and to ask ourselves how it could be that a brilliantly successful military operation could have been followed by so great a degree of ineptness and incompetence in the handling of the occupation.

I hope that I am ready to say that I have made a mistake, but I still believe that the toppling of Saddam Hussein was justified. We need to recover from the abysmal record of those early few months—and we are recovering. In that context I agree with the very measured evaluation of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, of where we have been successful and where we have failed.

It is by no means certain that we will recover. It is by no means certain that there will be a successful transition in Iraq. But it is profoundly important that it is successful. There can be few other things on the agenda of the international community that are more important than making a success of this transition.

We are not doing enough—neither quickly enough nor with enough resources and capacity—to train the Iraqi police or military. There can be no better investment than to put that to rights quickly. If it is necessary to have more troops in Iraq to do this, then that need should be met. All our efforts in the short and medium term should be put into shifting from British and American defence forces and building up a capability inside Iraq.

An insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat. We all know that. The word "patience" has been used on a number of occasions. That is the only way in which an insurgency will be defeated. There can be no time scales, there can be no planned exits. However well the Iraqi people build up that military force and that police force and however well the relationships between their religious leaders such as Sistani and the Iraqi Government work out, they will still need a mobile force equipped with helicopters and, if necessary, with aircraft with all the modern capabilities that are mainly attached to American forces. That force could be utilised to act as a constant deterrent to the insurgents from making crippling attacks on the emergence of this democratic government.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford got very close to arguing a case that these countries—and Iraq in particular—cannot have a democracy. We made grievous errors—and I include myself in this—in believing that the Arab world was different from everybody else, and that we could therefore turn a blind eye to what was going on in Saudi Arabia and justify monarchs and regimes for year after year that we knew lacked the support of their people, for which there was not remotely a consensus. We often sought refuge—not only in the Middle East but in Africa too—in tribal customs and tribal leaders and found excuses for not going for that essential discipline: one person, one vote and the ability to throw people out of office. That is what democracy is about.

And so to the future. I hope that this House will demonstrate its commitment to the overwhelming view—although there are notable exceptions—that we must now persist, monitor and watch those decisions being carried out. The first step is the sort of debate that we have had today. I come from a profession that believes that a post-mortem is not much use unless it stops people making the errors that caused death.

We need to start with the intelligence. We have done so in the committee review of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. There are many conclusions and many recommendations tucked neatly away in that document that could easily be forgotten. The noble Lord, Lord King, has mentioned that the Government have already sidestepped the clear-cut recommendation about the chairmanship of the JIC on the justification that this is an interim appointment. It is a scandalous decision not to follow through on their decision to accept the review committee's recommendations and to evade one of its most clear-cut recommendations within weeks.

The question of John Scarlett is a difficult one. I gave evidence on the day that John Scarlett was appointed. I thought that it was an outrageous decision in advance of hearing from the committee. I refused to give evidence until I got an assurance from the chairman that this would not fetter the committee from making criticisms of John Scarlett. To its credit, it did not fetter it and it did make criticisms. It then came to the conclusion that, nevertheless, he should be appointed. I came to the conclusion that I cannot accept its recommendations and then pick and chose between them.

It is of fundamental importance that the authority, competence and trust that we have given MI6 hitherto be restored. We must now give John Scarlett—who was among other things the agent responsible for the most important Soviet agent in almost the whole of the Cold War—and the service that he leads every support in making the necessary changes recommended in the Butler report and in going on to prove, as it has often done in the past, that it is a very effective intelligence service.

I turn to the other recommendations of the Butler report. It is a pity that the committee members did not go further into the question of the conduct of governments in foreign and defence policy. I understand why; it was, after all, an inquiry about intelligence. The committee members had to steer within the intelligence remit, as I had to in my evidence to them. Nevertheless, nobody reading their reports on this matter can be in any doubt that there have to be substantial changes in the manner of cabinet government. We must monitor this particularly carefully.

In previous speeches I have criticised the creation inside No. 10—and therefore within the political and public relations framework of No. 10—of the conduct of foreign policy to the extent that has happened. It is one thing to have Cabinet Secretariats who are answerable to the Cabinet; the present machinery is quite another thing and it has failed miserably over Iraq. Downgrading the Cabinet Secretary—effectively taking him out of the intelligence sphere—and having another person answerable to the Prime Minister with oversight of intelligence has not worked either. I would like to go back to the broad overriding remit of the Cabinet Secretary which has served us well over many decades.

I am worried about receiving an invitation to mark the end of the United Nations department in the Foreign Office after 58 years of continuous service. I am told that this may not be as bad as it seems, as there may be two departments or its function will spread across them.

One of the biggest mistakes that was made over Iraq was the decision to go for a second UN resolution. There can be no doubt about that. Why was that decision taken? The French said, quietly and privately, that they would live with the first resolution. They might not vote for it, but they would not act against it. Some people might say that they did not mean to carry that out. I believe that it was the act of a friendly power. That was the message delivered in Washington. None of the senior Americans wanted a second resolution and—most importantly for those of us who believe in the role of the UN—nor did Colin Powell. Why did we pursue it?

The role of the UN representative is not unmonitored. The existence of the UN department inside the Foreign Office was to monitor the Permanent Representative and, quite frequently, to challenge the judgment of the Permanent Representative across a broad range of government decisions and to come to the Foreign Secretary with recommendations that were not always the same as that of the Permanent Representative.

I think that a strong UN department is essential for foreign policy—never more so than now, when the Security Council ought to be, and often is, working much more effectively than it did during the Cold War. The Prime Minister cannot make these decisions about voting, with the short time span that he can give to these big events. He needs independent advice on these questions. Yet we hear that the Prime Minister was ringing up the Permanent Representative, not just once or twice but day after day, on frequent occasions, as if he could sense whether some small country would vote yes or no in the Security Council. That is a very difficult judgment to make, and what one is told at one time is often quite different another time.

I shall not belabour the point but I hope that the Foreign Secretary will give very careful thought to dismantling a powerful department, which the UN department was, and come to us all, perhaps with a consultation paper, before lie makes that irrevocable decision, after 58 years. It is very important that it carries weight; it is very important to have that department in trying to develop an overall view of our foreign policy. We have an EU department that co-ordinates all matters, as the Cabinet Office used to do—sadly, that is now in the political offices of No. 10. I hope that an equivalent independence, integrity and knowledge base will not be lost for the UN in the Foreign Office.

Finally, on Iraq, I hope that at every stage the Government will send out a message that we are going to stay, that we will be patient and persistent, and that we will see a successful democratic transition in Iraq. In my judgment, nothing would show that better than to put Saddam Hussein on trial before the end of the year and give him a fair trial. It may need to take a long time, such as the trial of President Milosevic.

5.22 p.m.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, since I intend to be critical of the Government's policy in some respects, I shall start by associating myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord King, about the performance of our armed services in Iraq. They are made up mostly of very young men and women. The task they are carrying out—in this, if nothing else, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen—is necessary, thankless and dangerous. It has been carried out, for the most part, with very great care and in the best traditions of the British armed services. I ally myself with all noble Lords who have taken this opportunity to thank them for what they are doing.

It is particularly appropriate, from these Benches, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his committee. I believe that they have done Parliament and the country a great service in their report. As the noble Lord well knows—he referred to it—we on these Benches thought that the terms of reference were too narrow, confined as they were to intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. We still think so. We still regret the absence of a synoptic overview of the origins and operation of what can be seen more clearly every day to have been one of the greatest disasters for British standing in the world since Suez.

Nevertheless, it is right to acknowledge that, far from producing what was widely, and unfairly, predicted to be an establishment whitewash, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, actually stretched the terms of reference as far as he could. In my view, he has produced, within constrained parameters, a powerful and damning report. Some people may say that it does not sound very damning, but that is because they do not speak mandarin—that elegant and carefully nuanced language which no doubt many of your Lordships speak. I confess that I do not, but I have had the benefit of a skilled translator. This is an example from paragraph 611, in which the noble Lord and his colleagues say: we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informal collective political judgment". Or, as my translator put it in the vernacular, "What a shambles".

On the dossier, a close reading of the Butler report, as well as the sadly neglected appendices of the Hutton report, which bear close study, can leave no reasonable doubt that this was a piece of journalistically driven, politically inspired, public advocacy to make the case for the defence of the action which the Prime Minister had already agreed with the United States. It has been a tragedy for the JIC and the whole intelligence community that they allowed themselves to be used as builders' labourers, handing the bricks to those skilled builders of walls of spin who reside in No. 10.

As has been referred to several times in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, very chivalrously threw his protective cloak around John Scarlett. Here, perhaps, the system did close around its own, but I wonder whether even the noble Lord realised what his defence meant and what its significance is. If the JIC information was, at best, filleted and exaggerated and, at worst, misrepresented, and since we are told by the noble Lord—and who would argue with him?—not to blame John Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, for that, it follows that the responsibility lies elsewhere. Where else does it lie but with that serial charmer, the Prime Minister, and his coterie of advisers, whose fingerprints are all over the e-mails? John Scarlett, like others before him, got too close to the sun. Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, his wings are still intact but the whole intelligence community today is the weaker for it.

I come back briefly to A1'Qaeda, to which the noble Lords, Lord Butler and Lord Howell, referred. That is one feature of the report which was "in clear". There was no co-operation between A1'Qaeda and the Saddam regime. This is important, because of the elision and confabulation that the US Administration has made from the beginning of the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq. The Minister will be well aware that public opinion polls in the United States throughout this year have shown that approaching two thirds of the US public, believe that Saddam was somehow involved in 9/11. Yet despite the clear conclusion of the Presidential Commission, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, that that was not the case, as recently as two months ago, Vice-President Cheney was still asserting that there was indeed a connection between the two. Of all the political pressures on the intelligence community emanating from Washington, that which tried to establish this link between A1'Qaeda and Saddam was one of the most malign and distracting. I have good reason to believe that the British intelligence services were not immune to such pressure. That is all the more reason to welcome the clarity of paragraph 484 of the Butler report.

It is clearly high time for a total intelligence review. If we are serious about the so-called war on terrorism—a phrase, incidentally, which I mistrust increasingly; it is time to disaggregate and focus on aspects of terrorism rather than aggregating it as one impermeable mass—we need a comprehensive analysis of what we do and how we do it. Are we, for instance, relatively underinvested in human intelligence? Is there adequate inter-agency co-ordination and liaison? Is there, as other noble Lords have asked, adequate global co-ordination of intelligence agencies? How can members of the JIC be ring-fenced and firewalled from their mates in No. 10, to recall Alastair Campbell's phrase? I agree with other noble Lords that the omens are not good when the committee's advice on the chairman of the JIC was disregarded.

We must ask ourselves again whether our system of parliamentary supervision and oversight is adequate. As has been mentioned often in the House over the past year, it is certainly time to have a Civil Service Act, which would more clearly define the roles of advisers and officials. I look forward to the Government telling us when they will bring that forward.

Finally, the Prime Minister's technique with regard to Iraq, looking ahead to the election, reminds me irresistibly of Basil Fawlty—"Don't mention the war". He tells us quite often that he would like to move on. I have no doubt that he would like to move on. How nice it would be if the past two years could be spun away—if we could spin away our damaged credibility in the world, the abandonment of the road map in the Middle East, and the clear and present danger of Iraq slipping into the hands of one or other set of mullahs and becoming a theocracy rather than the democracy that we all want. The accession to the cause of anti-Westernism of countless new young enthusiasts, who are therefore potentially a pool of terrorists, must concern us all.

Of course, we all want to move on. I agree that we have to stick with this course of action, now that we have embarked on it, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Prime Minister to move on politically without some expression of contrition and regret—an apology, if you like—for having misled Parliament and the public about the reason for going to war. I accept what the noble Baroness said, so let us not call that bad faith, let us call it over-enthusiasm. But whatever the reason, it is quite clear that Parliament and the public have been seriously misled.

The Observer on Sunday, although not necessarily a Bible in these matters, tells us that No. 10 aides are now saying that they would advise an apology from the Prime Minister. I may have sounded critical of the coterie in No. 10 earlier but it cannot always be wrong: in this respect, at least, I think it is right. I sincerely hope that its advice will be taken so that we can all move on and that the wishes expressed by the noble Baroness at the beginning of this debate may be realised.

5.31 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, the valuable report of my noble friend Lord Butler and his committee has done a lot to explain the workings of the intelligence system, and I congratulate them. Delving into the report, I was struck by the expose in Chapter 1. Clausewitz's quote on war at the start of the chapter hits the nail on the head. This chapter is a valuable introduction to the intelligence process. Noble Lords who have held high ministerial or official office will be familiar with the JIC process; others should certainly study Chapter 1.

Assessments do not merely report facts; they try to foretell and foresee the future. The human element is always present and what a reasonable man might do will not be the inevitable choice of a dictator. So there will always be caveats, not solely because the available source material may be sketchy or incomplete, but because of the essential element of judgment about what the target will actually do. One example of this was the judgment about Saddam's intention to use chemical or biological weapons. The Prime Minister and other senior Ministers expressed the view, based on assessments, that that was likely. Noble Lords will recall the Prime Minister's foreword to the September 2002 dossier. He said: Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against an enemy state, but against his own people … his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them". A presumption of use was heavily hinted at.

But, rather like the dog that did not bark in the night, scant attention seems to have been paid to another, by then historical, fact. Saddam possessed WMD during the first Gulf War but he did not use them, even though the coalition forces were invading Iraq as part of their strategy to drive his forces out of Kuwait. In the light of the experience of 1991, why, when Saddam faced once again a similar coalition of nations and another invasion of Iraq, was a presumption of use rated likely by 2002? Indeed, the presumption of possession of WMD now seems demonstrably wrong. But, of course, the UK Government's rationale for embarking on military operations was disarmament, not regime change, although, to give him his due, the Prime Minister said in his Statement: We know, again from our history, that diplomacy not backed by the threat of force has never worked with dictators and never will".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/9/02; col. 5] Nevertheless, I have reservations about a policy of major pre-emptive action against a nation state that is not posing an imminent threat to our interests. In the run-up to hostilities, with our Armed Forces committed, it was not the right time to air them.

I have listened to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, with great interest. There seems to be a presumption, even international agreement, that if the United Nations is confronted by a material breach of a resolution and has authorised all appropriate measures necessary to deal with the breach, this legalises the use of force in all circumstances against the offender. But is a UN resolution directing a country to take steps to correct a material breach within its own territory to be treated in the same way as a material breach of failure to withdraw forces from a neighbour's territory?

In 1991, Iraq was in material breach as its forces were in neighbouring Kuwait. But in the case of its failure to respond to Resolution 1441, Saddam might have argued that, as he had already disposed of his WMD stocks, he could not be in major breach of a resolution requiring him to dispose of them. Noble Lords will recall that the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General required the Prime Minister, to be satisfied that there were strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations", in order to underpin the legality of pre-emptive action.

I also noted that the Chief of the Defence Staff, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, was concerned about the legal position before ordering military action, as has already been mentioned. I fully share his concern to be satisfied about the legality of preemptive action. I suggest that, in the relative calm of the present military situation, greater clarity about a policy of pre-emptive action and its legality is required. Is there a legal distinction between the use of air power to carry out occasional punitive raids and the full-scale assault of another country followed by prolonged occupation? It is a slippery slope and every preemptive operation must have its own exit strategy in place.

I turn to the present unsettled state in Iraq. Regrettably, the terms of reference of my noble friend Lord Butler did not require his committee to examine assessments and papers relating to the post-hostilities phase. The committee only touched on this in the commentary about the machinery of government. I am sure that it was a confident UK assessment that the weight of coalition air effort, followed by overwhelming use of ground forces, would soon overrun Iraqi defences and eliminate all but some sporadic opposition. But the pre-hostilities statements by the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers painted a rosy picture of Iraq following regime change and the removal of Saddam. Was this just blind faith or was it based on a close and careful review of the likely political and other developments within Iraq? Certainly, nothing that was said before hostilities gave any sense of the chaos, and continuing security problems, that still confront the Iraqis today.

In his Statement on 24 September, the Prime Minister said:

Iraq deserves to be led by someone who can abide by international law, not a murderous dictator; by someone who can bring Iraq back into the international community where it belongs, not leave it languishing as a pariah; by someone who can make the country rich and successful, not impoverished by Saddam's personal greed; and by someone who can lead a Government more representative of the country as a Whole while maintaining absolutely Iraq's territorial integrity. We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, liberated from Saddam, they could make Iraq prosperous and a force for good in the middle east".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/9/02; col. 6] Where is that someone who can make Iraq rich and successful and who is representative of the country as a whole? It would be interesting to learn how the Prime Minister was persuaded that the removal of Saddam was going to bring a quick peace and stability and prosperity to a people who had been terrorised for so long. We have seen the difficulties that nations emerging from under the heel of the Soviet Union had in overcoming their fears of repression and a permanent lack of freedom. Surely it was expecting far too much of Iraqis, given the different strands of race and culture within Iraq's borders, to be better at moving from dictatorship to democracy than ex-Warsaw Pact countries. On this, not only the Iraqi people, but the whole world, were misled. It is a serious blot on the Government's and the coalition's handling of the whole Iraqi affair.

5.40 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, my noble friend the Minister was right to recognise the courage of our military personnel and civilians working among the agonies of Iraq; she was right, too, to urge us to look to the future. On one point, I am sure that we shall all be agreed: if we will the ends, we must will the means, and there must be no stinting of resources to ensure the successful building of a future Iraq. It is easy to generate resources for war; it is sometimes much more difficult to generate resources for winning peace. That must not be the case in Iraq; unfortunately, there are indications that it has been the case in Afghanistan.

I hope my noble friend will agree that it would be perverse not to ensure that the lessons of Iraq inform our future conduct of foreign policy as a whole. I briefly make five points. First, it has become clear that it was unwise and misguided to take action on the scale involved, with all its implications, in the absence of a sufficiently widespread global consensus. The importance of a specific Security Council resolution was not some necessary ritual in a religion of multilateralism; it would have represented the seal on the consensus that should have been built.

It is of course argued that that consensus was impossible because of the determination of the French to use their veto. However, on reflection, that may be to misinterpret the position of the French. To their credit, they wanted the UN inspectors to finish the job and report to the Security Council so that the basis for a well-informed debate on what action was required would be there. I have no doubts that inspectors should indeed have been allowed to complete their task. The denigration of the work of Hans Blix and his staff in some quarters of the coalition was deplorable. Fulsome apologies from those responsible would not go amiss.

My second point is that our experiences have underlined that the international rule of law is indispensable for the future of humanity; any tendency to rough-ride over the international rule of law could bring us perilously close to the abyss of global anarchy. The challenge is to make international institutions more effective, not to desert them in favour of the law of the jungle. We must help our American friends to see that the historic role for them, with their unrivalled power, is to contribute that power in helping to build a viable multilateral system.

Thirdly, simply because the regime of Saddam Hussein was so cruel, tyrannical and cynical, it was and remains essential to demonstrate clear contrasts. To go to war with one set of justifications and then to begin advocating a new set when the first set proves invalid is not the way to establish the indispensability of transparency and integrity.

Fourthly, we have learned that intervention can prove complex and full of pitfalls. For example, there is the difficult issue surrounding the internalising of political responsibility, when, whatever the talk of sovereignty, those outside the country have in effect assumed responsibility for its strategic future. There is also the acute need to think through the range of potential consequences of intervention and prepare for them. In the case of Iraq, a great deal, to say the least, has been left to be desired in that respect.

Fifthly, we take our eye off the battle for hearts and minds at considerable cost. Whatever our minimal formal regrets, our failure convincingly to demonstrate real and continuing concern and compassion for the loss of Iraqi lives is lamentable. Thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been killed in the bombing and bombardments; large numbers of Iraqi servicemen, who under the sinister regime had no alternative but to serve, were killed. The inexplicable refusal to register the scale of that loss of life is wrong. It has also provoked alienation, resentment and recruits for the extremists.

The same is of course true of the treatment of prisoners. Abuse is not simply nauseatingly wrong and unprincipled, but drives people in their desperation to extremism. Along with rash and insensitive brutality in Chechnya and the grotesque realities of Guantanamo Bay, it is a recruiting agent for terrorism. A genuine commitment to hearts and minds demands the highest standards, a consistent determination to protect human rights, and civilised sensitivity at all times, whatever the provocation.

The forthcoming consultative conference will have a vital role, but it must be as inclusive as it is possible to be. Difficult, not just more amenable, participants must be there. As wide a cross section as possible must be won to the political process. To drive by exclusion any who could potentially be so won into the arms of the irreconcilable rejectionists and wreckers would be unforgivably short-sighted. The conference must be imaginative and sensitive to history and culture. Realities of power within the existing society will have to be faced, not avoided.

There is no single stereotype for democracy; democracy is not necessarily equivalent to, or inseparably linked with, the free market economy. There are different forms of democracy and accountable government, and both the conference and the power brokers in the wings must be open to that. As we have seen too often in recent years, elections of themselves can prove hollow and even damaging, unless the context for meaningful elections has been generated.

Events in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and in Chechnya, North Ossetia and Ingushetia, are making one reality clear. Peace and stability cannot sustainably be enforced from above, but must be built from sound foundations, upwards. Short cuts, however tempting in pressing circumstances, are fraught with the dangers of counter-productivity.

5.47 p.m.

Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale

My Lords, the Hutton report, the Butler report and other investigations of the war in Iraq have been prompted by the concerns of ordinary voters and Members of Parliament. Those concerns have raised a number of questions, but I shall deal with only one of them, as eight minutes is not a long time.

Within the limits necessary to protect our intelligence sources and services, were people and Parliament properly and fully informed of the facts as believed or known before Parliament made the decision to support the invasion? The Prime Minister to some extent based his advocacy of the invasion, or the American position, on the intelligence services. He said, on 24 September 2002: people will have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services"— not of our politicians— but this is what they are telling me, the British Prime Minister, and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture that they paint is one accumulated over the last four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/9/02: col. 3.] I suspect that, in the uncertain world of intelligence, the Joint Intelligence Committee would not want to be called "authoritative".

The impression surely was that the Government's public statements would be based on the authoritative advice of the intelligence services. There are a number of statements that raise doubt about that—and I illustrate with an example. The September dossier said: Intelligence indicates that as part of Iraq's military planning Saddam is willing to use chemical and biological weapons".

That is a simple statement. But, at that time, the JIC believed that Saddam would use chemical and biological weapons only if he was threatened by internal revolution or external attack. The draft prepared by the JIC said: Intelligence indicates that Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat".

That caveat was left out of the dossier. The two versions are contradictory rather than complementary. The omission of the last clause could significantly change the reader's perception.

The dossier told the truth and it did not lie, but it did not tell the whole truth. It is possible to mislead or deceive by failing to tell the whole truth, as is recognised in the oath that we swear in our courts every day. This leads to the Hutton report. At page 320, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, says: However 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".

He is saying that the dossier was not embellished; it did not have anything added to it. But the Hutton report apparently failed to consider fully that sexing-up could be achieved by omission as well as by embellishment. Would the noble and learned Lord's conclusions have been different if he had considered the possibility that just by omitting the fact that the famous 45 minutes related only to battlefield weapons, it may be thought that the document was sexed up? The omission may have been an oversight, even a slightly negligent oversight, but it could have been part of a pattern of omissions, each of which tended to support the case for war. Which was it? It is an issue that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, did not investigate seriously, as his terms of reference in that area were, to investigate the accuracy of intelligence on Iraqi WMD up to March 2003, and 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".

That is also in Mandarin. What it says is that the noble Lord was not authorised to investigate the use of intelligence by the Government. He was authorised to question the intelligence and compare it with the outturn.

Sir Humphrey, Jim Hacker or someone had drawn up the terms of reference in a way that stopped any questioning at the political door. In those circumstances, when intelligence output did not accurately reflect the essence of the intelligence input, that was OK, which is where we had misunderstandings. The point is this: suppose the Prime Minister had said, soliloquising, as he and his loyal staff saw the first draft of the September dossier, "Will no one rid me of these wimpish words that may reject a just war on Iraq"; and suppose that his closest No 10 colleagues then called in the JIC chairman and asked him for a statement of the current position; and suppose the chairman said, "The JIC believes that Saddam has only small amounts of chemical and biological weapons, much of them no longer dangerous due to decay, and we also believe that he has a very small number of ballistic missiles of short range, which in the past have been very inaccurate", that would have been a simple statement. It sounds as if Saddam is not an immediate and serious threat to his region, let alone the whole world. Now edit that statement by removing some words but not adding any, thereby showing no "embellishment": "The JIC believes that Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, and we also believe that he has ballistic missiles". The revised sentence is true, but creates a different, almost opposite impression to the original JIC draft. The failure to demand the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is clearly open to abuse.

Your Lordships may say that that example is absurd; and indeed it is. But is it really different in kind from removing the JIC caveat on Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, that he would use them only internally or if his regime was threatened?

I hope that the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, will volunteer to complete its excellent report by a small amount of additional investigation. The evidence is easily available to investigate the whole truth of the information provided to MPs and others before the vote on war. That would give a signal for the future that in such matters being economical with the truth is not an acceptable form of conduct.

5.54 pm
Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale, and to congratulate him on your Lordships' behalf on a fascinating maiden speech. He will be well known to your Lordships for his distinguished career in business, but I would like to single out the remarkable support that his foundation, founded in memory of his father Charles, gives to medical research. We all look forward with great anticipation to hearing his future contributions to debate in this House.

A number of us had the opportunity on 14 July to make some preliminary comments on the Butler report immediately after its publication and the Prime Minister's Statement. I would nevertheless like to add a few comments today, having now had the opportunity to read the report in full. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Butler and his colleagues for a clear and balanced report. It is no less than I would have expected from many years of working closely with him both in 10 Downing Street and later as respective heads of the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office.

The Butler report was necessarily limited in scope, as was the earlier report by my noble and learned friend Lord Hutton, by its remit to exclude any questions related to political or diplomatic misjudgments or strategic assessments and priorities. I shall similarly avoid today repeating my earlier comments on the conflicting and dishonest reasons given by Washington for invading Iraq when we did, which has led to many thousands of deaths among Iraqis and members of the coalition forces, a toll that tragically continues to mount week by week.

Unlike the report by the committee chaired by Lord Franks following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, the report by my noble friend Lord Butler deliberately devotes no attention to the legal or political—as opposed to the intelligence—case for going to war, beyond noting the view of officials frequently echoed by ministerial statements, that regime change of itself has no basis in international law.

The report does, however, contain some useful and pointed criticism of the machinery and processes of government, at least one of which, on the relative lack of use of established Cabinet Office machinery, echoes a point made by Lord Franks when he criticised the failure of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, to call meetings of the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee in the weeks preceding the Argentine invasion. When I asked a related Question in this House on 7 October last year, I was assured by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that there had been regular Cabinet discussion of Iraq and the Middle East from September 2002 until "after the conflict"—if indeed the conflict can even now be said to be over. The Butler report makes it clear that those discussions in Cabinet were unscripted occasions without the benefit of the papers that had been prepared by officials for discussion in Cabinet Committee. The Prime Minister told Members of the other place that he accepted my noble friend Lord Butler's report in full, and I hope that, as my noble friend himself said today, he will have paid particular attention to that important procedural point in the conduct of government—on which it would be difficult to find a more experienced exponent than my noble friend Lord Butler of Brockwell. I have commented before on the important point in the Butler report about the relationship between the political and press advisers in No 10 and the intelligence assessment machinery of Whitehall. As a former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, I have been shocked by accounts of discussions of intelligence assessments and of their public relations handling in apparently informal and unrecorded meetings chaired by the then Director of Communications and Strategy in the Prime Minister's office. I also find it curious that the Butler report states as a matter of fact that the dossier, was not intended to make the case for a particular course of action in relation to Iraq"— a point surely contradicted by Mr Jonathan Powell's email, in which he complained that the draft was inadequate to support the Government's case for going to war. If the dossier was not designed to convince us that we should join those in Washington who had long been pressing for military action to remove Saddam Hussein, what on earth was it for?

I do not intend to waste your Lordships' time by rehearsing yet again the extent to which the decision to go to war in Iraq was based not only on what now turns out to be false intelligence, but on the inadequate use of diplomacy and regional and technical expertise. What I deplore is the extent to which the war in Iraq has diverted attention from the wider and more pressing priorities of the Middle East, including the appalling current situation in Israel and Palestine, where the prospect of creating a viable Palestinian state along side a secure Israel appears to be attracting no attention whatsoever in the White House.

I hope that there will be other opportunities before long to debate the problems of the wider Middle East. I ask again at this point: what has become of the road map and the hopes of negotiating a two-stage solution in the next year or two, and what has happened to the assurances that President Bush gave the Prime Minister in Belfast last year that he would put as much effort into trying to solve the Palestinian problem as the Prime Minister had put, was and is still putting, into the problems of Northern Ireland?

6.1 p.m.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale, for a most thoughtful and persuasive maiden speech.

Like my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, I want to concentrate on one particular aspect of the Butler report: the light that it throws on the legality of the war. In fact, it throws a good deal of light on it. Until then, all we had seen in the way of legal advice to the Government was a one-page summary of the views of the Attorney-General published on 17 March 2003 and supplemented by a somewhat fuller statement from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office published on the same day. Both of those documents are set out in Appendix D to the report.

Thanks to the report, we now know a lot more about the legal advice given to the Government before 17 March. I start with the legal advice given to the Government in March 2002 by officials from an unidentified department, presumably the FCO. That is covered in paragraphs 266 to 269. That advice said that neither regime change nor self-defence was a justification for action. Military action could be justified only if Iraq was in breach of Security Council Resolution 687. The advice was that at least one of three conditions must be satisfied before the Security Council could take the view that Iraq was in fact in breach.

The first condition was proof that Iraq was in breach of its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. The report quotes the paper directly in paragraph 267: Proof would need to be incontrovertible and of large-scale activity. Current intelligence is insufficiently robust to meet this criterion". The second condition was a refusal by Iraq to re-admit inspectors after a clear ultimatum from the Security Council. The third condition related to a situation in which inspectors were re-admitted to Iraq and found sufficient evidence of weapons of mass destruction activity or were again expelled trying to do so. In the event, none of those conditions was satisfied.

Resolution 1441 followed, and the inspectors went back into Iraq in November 2002. They found only one significant breach of the restrictions put on Iraq following the first Gulf War. That was the construction of al-Samoud missiles and the engines for them, with a range somewhat greater than the permitted 150 kilometres. Most of those missiles were destroyed by March 2003. It is not suggested that they in themselves justified the war on Iraq.

We next discover from paragraph 378 of the report that the Attorney-General expressed his views of the legal position in a meeting with three senior members of the Prime Minister's staff on 28 February 2003 and put his views in writing on 7 March. The Butler committee saw that advice, and in paragraph 379 it summarised the crucial part of it as follows: It did, however, require the Prime Minister, in the absence of a further United Nations Security Council resolution, to be satisfied that there were strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Security Council and that it was possible to demonstrate hard evidence of non-compliance and non-co-operation with the requirements of Security Council Resolution 1441, so as to justify the conclusion that Iraq was in further material breach of its obligations". That was a vital qualification to the Attorney-General's views. At paragraph 381, the report states that, The Attorney-General decided that it was in the interests of public servants, both civil and military, who would have to carry though any decision to take military action, that a statement should be made in clear and simple terms as to his view of the legal position". The Attorney-General's office then wrote to the Prime Minister's private secretary asking confirmation that it was unequivocally the Prime Minister's view that Iraq had committed further material breaches of Resolution 1441. The private secretary replied that it was. That was the wrong question for the Attorney-General to ask. The right question was raised in his advice of 7 March: did that hard evidence exist?

As a result, the Attorney-General's published statement of 17 March was too clear and simple. It did not repeat his call for hard evidence of non-compliance and non-co-operation; it simply assumed noncompliance. That assumption was based on intelligence, and in that context I believe that paragraph 362 of the Butler report is of critical importance: we are surprised that neither policy-makers nor the intelligence community, as the generally negative results of UNMOVIC inspections became increasingly apparent, conducted a formal re-evaluation of the quality of the intelligence and hence of the assessments made on it. We have noted in departmental papers expressions of concern about the impact on public and international opinion of the lack of strong evidence of Iraqi violation of its disarmament obligations. But those involved appear to have operated on the presumption that the intelligence was right, and that it was because of the combination of Iraqi concealment and deception activities and perceived UNMOVIC weaknesses that such evidence was not found". The committee was saying that, following the failure of the inspectors to find hard evidence of mass destruction, the validity of the intelligence should have been reconsidered. Had it been reconsidered, the Government would, in all probability, have been forced to the conclusion that the evidence of serious breaches of Resolution 687 and 1441 was at best equivocal. That would have been insufficient to justify the war. Why, therefore, did not the Government do what the Butler report says that they should have done? I believe that the Government—I borrow a phrase from the Hutton report—may have been subconsciously influenced by the fact that a change of view would have been extremely embarrassing for them. By March 2003, logistics had taken over from legality. It is plain that the American Government were unwilling to leave their troops sweltering in Kuwait through the summer while the inspectors were given the time that they needed to come to a final conclusion. If the Government had backed out in March, they would have lost all influence with the Americans, who would have gone it alone, while a last-minute conversion by the United Kingdom would not have restored our credit with France and Germany and the other advocates of delay. Politically, we would have been left with the worst of both worlds, and the Government would have had a great deal of egg on their face.

The Butler report does not expressly draw those conclusions from its own findings in paragraph 362, but I believe that those conclusions are inescapable and devastating. Had the Government done what they should have done in reviewing the validity of the intelligence, the Attorney-General would, in all probability, not have been able to advise that the invasion of Iraq was legal, and we would not have gone to war.

6.9 p.m.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

My Lords, it is my pleasure to be the first noble Lord on this side of the House to be able to congratulate my noble friend Lord Wolfson on his excellent maiden speech. Neither of the two noble Lords who previously congratulated him commented on the fact that he has been 15 years in this House without making his maiden speech. It was certainly worth waiting for. Those in my party who know the noble Lord know very well his great skill and his forensic abilities that he demonstrated to the full in his speech. I hope that he will not wait another 15 years before making his next speech.

I first declare an interest in that I am a director of a company which was specifically formed to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, although nothing that I say is likely to enhance the prospects of that company.

At the time I strongly supported the war both in this House and outside, but subsequently I changed my mind because I gradually came to believe that the country was misled about the reasons for the war. Of course, I am not saying that the Prime Minister acted in bad faith. I am not saying that the Prime Minister misled the country intentionally, but that he was so keen to go to war that he seemed to lose all critical faculty. The fact that his motives were right does not in any way modify or justify the consequences.

I watched with disbelief the evidence that unfolded from the Hutton inquiry and read with concern the conclusions of the Butler report. I find it impossible to resist the conclusion that No. 10 was desperate to grasp at any evidence to support a decision that it desperately wanted to make. Like other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for his excellent report. Thanks to him we know that the JIC lamented the fact that the intelligence was sporadic and patchy. His report was struck by the thinness of the intelligence. Thanks to him we know that the policy shift from containment to the more aggressive stance was, not based on any new development in the current intelligence picture in Iraq". Since the time when I supported the war I have reread the Prime Minister's speeches and the intelligence dossier. The intelligence dossier in particular makes ironic reading, not least the chapter entitled, Abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison". The Prime Minister's speeches for war lent almost exclusively on the threat posed by WMD and, indeed, the very Motion on which the House of Commons voted lent extensively on the existence of WMD.

The way that the Prime Minister chose to make his case has had the unintended consequence of making us all less safe and more vulnerable to terrorism. The threat of a catastrophic attack by WMD armed terrorists is certainly real, but the next time the politicians call for military action even more people will refuse to believe them.

Rereading the Government's dossier on Iraq's alleged WMD, I was struck by the very precise estimate that the Government made of the number of people who were killed by Saddam Hussein through the use of mustard gas in the Iran/Iraq war—20,000. The precision of that estimate, of course, stands in complete contrast to the Government's coyness and refusal in response to repeated questions to make any estimate of the number of Iraqis who have been killed in this war—a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I find it very difficult to reconcile the willingness to estimate Saddam Hussein's actions in killing people and our inability to estimate how many people we killed in a war in which we participated and in which we fired the ammunition and in which we know how much ammunition we fired.

To watch last week the Republican Convention in New York was to watch a gathering in denial that seems to have turned this war into a fantasy. We know that the two governments were wrong and out of touch with reality before the war. The question is: are they any more in touch with reality now? The two governments continually assert that the people of Iraq are much better off. Many are but some might question that, particularly the families of the 15,000 to 20,000 dead civilians and military personnel. So, too, might the Christians who have lived peacefully for years in Iraq and now find their churches bombed and fired. Some people in Fallujah might disagree. This was formerly a Sunni city, a near secular city, which today, according to the Washington Times, is a city where Sharia law is now in force, Western haircuts are banned, men are forced to grow beards, women are forced to cover themselves and Sharia punishments are carried out in the city centre.

The invasion of Iraq has been discredited also by the subsequent chaos hugely influenced by Iraqi exiles who have their own agenda. The "American appointed government" control only part of Baghdad; even there its Ministers are car-bombed and assassinated. According to the press, Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Fallujah and Ramadi are all outside government authority. In their efforts to retain and regain control the Iraqi Government re-employ some of Saddam's generals and re-recruit his secret police. Mr Allawi has said that he wants to slash some throats. This has led some Iraqis such as Sheik Mahdi al Sumayda to compare Mr Allawi's new public safety law with the rules that Saddam used to wield.

When the United States transferred sovereignty over Iraq things did not improve. Forty-two Americans died in June, 54 in July, 66 in August. The death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone reached 700 in July, the worst month since the invasion ended.

Last month's national political conference in Baghdad was supposed to provide a broader base for the government than Prime Minister Allawi's narrow exile dominated cabinet. In her opening speech the Minister referred to that and to the wider grouping which met to influence the cabinet. However, her conclusion was not one that was shared, for example, by the Herald Tribune of 23 August, which stated that the whole proceedings were influenced by a familiar cast of characters drawn from the same narrow sources as the first US-appointed Iraqi governing council, and that an opportunity had been lost to draw disaffected Iraqis into peaceful politics.

The question that the Government should ask themselves is why is it that even the Shias of Sadr City—among the people most oppressed by Saddam Hussein—turned against the coalition. This was an area of Baghdad where it was rumoured that Saddam Hussein had dug trenches around the city and filled them full of petrol in order to prevent the inhabitants aiding the Americans. These were the same people who flocked south to fight at Najaf—why?

The other night I watched on BBC2 an excellent programme, "Randall in Iraq". It was simply a programme in which ordinary people in Iraq spoke. It was not unsympathetic to America. It included many interviews with ordinary Americans and Iraqis. However, one point was made repeatedly by the Iraqis. The words were more or less always the same: "When someone does something bad—'bad' was the word that they used—the Americans always take it out on a hundred of us". And so it was in Fallujah where the US military followed similar tactics to the Israelis. It is an approach that is doomed to fail. Each day America creates more terrorists than it is killing.

The Prime Minister says that the world is a safer place today, but Iraq has become a magnet for international terrorism. There was no link between A1'Qaeda and Iraq but there is now. We have unleashed forces of religious fanaticism that were previously contained. We have squandered the sympathy that there was for the United States immediately after 9/11. The Minister says that people will never agree about the war but this is not just an academic question; it is a question that affects Arab opinion right across the world. Not just Arabs, but, increasingly, Muslims have turned intensely hostile towards the United States and the West.

This war has been the worst foreign policy debacle since Suez. No doubt we have to soldier on, as others have suggested, in order to find the least bad answer. I shall support that and the rebuilding of political society in Iraq. However, the Government can hardly be surprised that confidence and trust in those who led us into this disaster have been severely dented.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, it is, I believe, one of the strengths of this House that we should be debating the significant and, in my view, very well marshalled and judiciously weighted report by the noble Lord, Lord Butler and his colleagues, not in the heat of the moment, or a day or two after its publication when tactical considerations and instant reactions predominate, but rather after a period of careful reflection when the waters have calmed a little and a sense of perspective is easier to achieve. I say this not to criticise the other place, but to make the point that these are complex and tangled matters of considerable importance to our own national security, which should not be addressed only by a quick debating response. In concentrating so single-mindedly on systemic issues rather than on the ever-fascinating topic of the responsibility of individuals and the implications for them, the report surely made the right choice. For it is those systemic weaknesses in the way we gather, analyse and present intelligence, and what the Government do to remedy them, which will have a lasting effect, for better or for worse, on the effectiveness of the intelligence and the intelligence services in safeguarding our security.

One of the first aspects to which a sense of perspective surely needs to be applied is the extent of the intelligence failure in respect of Iraq's WMD programmes. That there were failures in the gathering, analysis and public presentation of this intelligence is not in doubt. The report analyses these failures meticulously, and the facts on the ground—or rather, the lack of them—reinforce those judgments. But, to judge from the media hype, this was one of the greatest intelligence failures of the last century. Is that really so? I rather doubt it. Should this rank alongside the failure to spot the Japanese fleet approaching Pearl Harbour, the German divisions marshalling on the Soviet Union's western border or the invasion of the Falklands in 1982? I would suspect not. Indeed, the intelligence failure to spot in 1990 how far advanced were Iraq's WMD programmes—in particular the nuclear programme, which would in all probability have given Iraq nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery by 1993—was of much greater potential risk to us and our allies. What was a mistake, as the report says, was to put more weight than it was able to carry on intelligence material which was patchy and hard to verify. But do not let us now swing from one extreme to another, and say that because intelligence may be patchy we should simply ignore it. When we are dealing with ruthless totalitarian regimes, that may be the only timely intelligence we ever get. Do not let us embrace, as if it were a given truth, the idea that a piece of intelligence which cannot immediately be confirmed by a second source is of no value at all.

It is not only generals, but also diplomats, politicians and journalists who have a slight tendency to focus on the last war and to allow that tendency to distort their view of future threats. Therein lies one of the greatest risks to us from the series of events under scrutiny: that because mistakes were made in this instance, we will undervalue the indications derived from intelligence on future occasions when the use of force has to be contemplated. The report—rightly, in my view—recommends a complete separation between the gathering and analysis of intelligence on the one hand, and its public presentation on the other, the latter being a matter for the Government, with the intelligence agencies' role being limited to checking the facts which the Government plan to make public. But is there now not a risk that reliance on intelligence at all in such circumstances will be treated as flawed and unsatisfactory? In any case where the use of force by this country does have to be contemplated, there will be, as in this case, honest and deeply-felt differences of opinion. But we should surely try to avoid the kind of group-think whereby reliance on intelligence is simply shouted down.

One thing is sure. We have not heard the last of threats to international peace and security from the proliferation of WMD, nor of the risks to the whole international community if these weapons were to fall into the hands of terrorists. In this context, the report most valuably underlines the pre-emptive role that international inspections can play in countering these threats. The credit here given to the work of UNSCOM, of UNMOVIC and the IAEA is overdue, welcome and merited. International inspection regimes are often denigrated as imperfect and easy to circumvent, an opinion expressed in neo-Conservative circles in Washington—most recently today in an article by Mr John Bolton in the Financial Times—and one which has led the present US Administration, unwisely in my view, to resist the establishment of an intrusive inspection regime for biological weapons.

The sensible response, surely, is to strengthen these inspection regimes in the light of experience, and to make them more effective. In the case of Iraq, the evidence now is that while these regimes were indeed inadequate before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, they were a lot more effective thereafter. They were one of the main reasons why, despite Saddam Hussein's continued determination to acquire such weapons systems in the future, there were in fact no stockpiles of them found after last year's invasion. The UN Secretary-General's panel, on which I have the privilege to serve, is focusing seriously on this area of proliferation and will be reporting before the end of this year. It will then be for the member states to decide how best to strengthen the international defences against the proliferation of all these weapons systems. It will, I hope, be seen to be in our own national interest to play a prominent and constructive role in such effort, and urge the US Administration and others to do so too. We cannot possibly afford to shrug our shoulders, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford did, and say Iran will get its nuclear weapons.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I did not say "Iraq". I said "Iran will get its nuclear weapons". It is a very different thing.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for that. But I also said "Iran", and that I do not think we can afford to shrug our shoulders and say that Iran will get its nuclear weapons.

Time does not permit me to say a great deal about the current situation in and around Iraq. I will mention only one point, relating to regional security. For far too long, the Gulf has been an area of instability. Each of the three principal regional players—Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq—have faced off against each other. Now there ought to be an opportunity to set off on a new course, to consider how this sub-region can find a basis for co-operation and confidence building, and could gradually reduce the rivalries and mutual threats which have contributed to the feeling of insecurity which has prevailed. After all, Iraq desperately needs the co-operation of its neighbours if it is to find stability. But its neighbours equally desperately need a stable and unthreatening Iraq if the mistakes of the past are not to be repeated. Clearly, too prominent a role by non-regional powers in any attempt to establish sub-regional co-operation is likely to be counter-productive, but it would be helpful to hear from the Minister how she views the prospects in this respect.

In concluding, I would like to return to the issue of Britain's intelligence assets and the report by the noble Lord, Lord Butler. We often in this House praise the professionalism and courage of our Armed Forces, and rightly so. They are our main line of defence. But they are not the only guarantors of our security and, in the shadowy struggle against the forces of international terrorism in which we are now engaged, it is already clear that the use of military force will be the exception, and that intelligence-based pre-emptive action through police co-operation on a worldwide basis will be the crucial determinant of success or failure. After all, if you reflect on it, the only case of the use of military force so far in the struggle against terrorism took place after the events of 9/11, and after intelligence-based pre-emptive action had proved wanting. So we depend on the professionalism of our security services.

Having worked alongside the intelligence services for more than 40 years, I believe them to be as good as any in the world. But they will not remain so if we do not give them our full support and backing—not just in material terms, although that is vital, but also in terms of political and moral support. Mistakes were made on this occasion, and not only by the intelligence services. They must now be remedied. But, as with our Armed Forces, let us be no more stinting of praise when it is due, than we are of criticism.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones

My Lords, I mentioned earlier that I visited Iraqi Kurdistan this August as a guest of the Kurdistan regional government. In passing. I must say that I admire the impeccable sang-froid of Mr O'Brien and the Minister's private offices. Despite telling them of my plans, asking for travel advice for both Turkey and Iraq in two telephone calls, I was not briefed or rung back. Either they were quite rightly very confident about the region and its security or it is an illustration of just how dispensable opposition politicians are so far as concerns the private offices of Ministers.

Your Lordships need little reminder that the Iraqi Kurds helped the coalition forces during the invasion. They are the only people who gave direct military support, and are one of the few instinctively pro-Western Muslim societies.

The political structure of the region was essentially founded in the period after the no-fly zone and safe haven was imposed by the US and UK—John Major must take a great deal of credit for that—after the Kurds of northern Iraq had suffered appalling hardship at the hands of Saddam Hussein on several occasions, particularly at Halabja and during the so-called Anfal campaign, when 4,000 villages were destroyed by Saddam Hussein's troops.

In contrast to those terrible times, the future is bright for the region. It is probably the only place in Iraq about which one can say that here and now. With little resource other than border tolls and an inadequate proportion of the UN Oil for Food money, the KRG has done wonders in starting to build a modern infrastructure. They have built a religiously tolerant, secular, pluralistic democratic society. It is notable that many of the Cyhaldean Christians retreating from the bombs in Mosul are taking refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. Women comprise 45 per cent of the undergraduates in the region's universities. There is a free press.

It is now by far the most stable and secure part of Iraq. No US or UK soldier has been killed in the region. The transport infrastructure is rapidly improving, with quality roads being constructed. Hawler (Erbil) International Airport is due to open shortly, both for cargo and passengers. Great progress has been made in providing universal education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Kurdistan, even in the smallest village, and in adult education.

There are other building blocks yet to come into place which are important and need to happen, but where the timing is less certain. Agreement will be needed between the PUK, which controls Sulemania province, and the KDP, which controls Dohuk and Erbil provinces, to form a joint administration. Regarding the return of oil-rich Kirkuk province to Iraqi Kurdistan, although not contained in the Transitional Administrative Law, there appears to be an understanding between the KRG and the central interim government on a process for return which should start in the relatively near future with the repatriation of dispossessed Kurds and culminate in a referendum. But the outcome is uncertain and Kirkuk remains unstable—a political battle probably lies ahead.

There appears to be a commitment from international donors and the interim government for the funding and construction of the Beckhma dam, which will have a major impact on agriculture in the region and generate hydro-electricity for the whole of Iraq. But that is a major project costing some 500 million dollars and it is unclear just how much of the money committed by donors to Iraq has yet been received. Agreement on ownership of oil assets and share of oil revenues is also further down the track but, as Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the region, has indicated, that is a matter of negotiation.

In the meantime, there is a degree of trust between the KRG and individual members of the central government in Baghdad because the deputy Prime Minister and foreign Minister are Kurds and because the Prime Minister, Dr Allawi, is very familiar with Iraqi Kurdistan and has many friends in the region. As an act of faith the KRG has been prepared to forgo revenues that previously they had regarded as being essential for the administration of Kurdistan, namely the border tolls, and assign those to central government on the basis that the central government will in future allocate funds fairly to them.

Another building block not yet in place is the future shape of the legal system after the TAL (the provisional constitutional agreement reached before handover by the Central Provisional Authority) gives way to a new permanent constitution and legal system. The contents of the TAL and its acceptance by the members of the transitional government are, however, highly significant: acceptance of Kurdish as an official language; specific recognition of the Kurdistan regional government and its current functions, particularly over policing and security; and the right of the Kurdistan regional assembly to amend laws, except those falling within the exclusive competence of the federal government.

However, there is no guarantee that it will apply after the elections due to be held next year. As the Minister said, a new permanent constitution needs to be agreed. One of the stumbling blocks for the US, UK and the CPA has been the failure to understand the nature of the federal way forward for Iraq. In the UK we have what might be called asymmetrical federalism, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the intended English regions having very different powers; likewise, in Canada. There is no neat solution in Iraq but any constitutional settlement there must recognise the political, social and economic contribution that Iraqi Kurdistan can make to the country and ensure that it retains the degree of autonomy that it has achieved at such a historically high price.

Given so much progress and the co-operation between the KRG and the transitional government, you would have thought that the British Government would be doing their bit to help Iraqi Kurdistan with its development. Yet, as we have heard from the Minister today, they are not even planning to set up a consulate in Erbil. The FCO has, or intends to have, consular facilities in Basra, Baghdad and Kirkuk, all of which are far less secure than Erbil, the administrative centre of Iraqi Kurdistan and its fastest growing city.

Visas are mostly required by business people in Iraqi Kurdistan who wish to come to the UK to do business. In June, UKTI—UK Trade and Investment—sponsored jointly with the Kurdistan Development Corporation a direct investment conference which the KRG Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, attended. Mr O'Brien, the DTI/FCO Minister, welcomed the participants to it. The failure to install a consulate is a complete contradiction of the enlightened approach of UKTI. It amounts to shooting British business in the foot; yet it appears to have been done on cost and security grounds. Is this a case of the FCO, as ever regarding the Kurds and Iraqi Kurdistan, listening to the wrong advice?

Needless to say, I hope that the Government will adopt a more helpful attitude, try to solve some of the problems now facing Iraqi Kurdistan and help it to develop economically. The consulate is one matter; another is using its influence in the EU to ensure that Turkey improves conditions at the Khabur border point with Iraq. When I crossed in August this year I found that essentially nothing had changed since a piece was written in 2001, which describes the run down towns from Diyarbekir to the Kurdistan border, "shabby and threatening border controls", and where,

several check points and controls to be inspected, to have this and that paper stamped and our passports cleared". In summary, the piece said: The strained and Kafkaesque image of the Turkish side of the border control could not have been a greater contrast to the scene that was awaiting me on the Kurdistan side of the Khabur Bridge". I felt exactly the same sentiments. My return journey was, if anything, worse, with border guards describing my literature about agriculture and education as a "problem", because it mentioned the words "Iraqi Kurdistan".

Border traffic is restricted by the Turkish Government to 750 trucks a day. Currently it takes four days for a truck to pass through from the Iraqi side of the border to Turkey. These are not administrative processing problems. The Iraqi Kurdistan side of the border can process 3,000 trucks a day. Currently Turkey, as a threat to Iraqi Kurdistan, is also proposing to build a new border point with Iraq through Turkomen populated territory and to close the existing border. Economic development in the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey is reported by the independent commission on Turkey to be taking place, but it is certainly not very apparent. It appears that the Turkish military is now resorting once again to clearing Kurdish villages in the name of security, continuing an oppressive policy that has been carried out for the past 15 years.

I have visited Turkey many times in the past 30 years and I admire many of the developments that have taken place there. I respect it as a staunch member of NATO and I am keen to see it as a fully fledged member of the EU. In particular, I hope that the EU summit agrees this December to start negotiations for accession. However, it is vital that the UK and other member states make Turkish entry conditional on a change of approach to both its own Kurdish people and the Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan. There are enlightened voices in the Turkish Government and they must be given every encouragement to accord full human rights, a free press, autonomy and economic development to their Kurdish population in southeastern Turkey. Turkish companies are playing a major role in Iraq generally, but particularly in Iraqi Kurdistan, so it is greatly in Turkey's economic interest to recognise the economic potential of the region.

The KRG and the major parties in Iraqi Kurdistan do not have separation from Iraq on their agenda. Kurds elsewhere, particularly in Turkey, are much more interested in economic development than separation. I hope that this Government above all recognise the realities in the way that they treat the region in their policies.

6.39 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

My Lords, a cartoon in one of today's newspapers depicts the supposed evolution of homo sapiens from semi-crawling ancestors on the one hand to a black-hooded terrorist holding a gun against the head of a small child. This debate is inevitably coloured more than slightly by recent tragic events in Beslan, and I shall return to that mal-description of human evolution in a few moments.

Anything worth saying about Iraq seems to have to carry both what might be called a credible particularity as well as some moral depth, as has been clear from all the speeches in the debate, including the distinguished maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson.

I shall briefly address two areas. First, I shall speak about Guantanamo Bay and, secondly, I want to make some observations about the handover of power. I have always been doubtful about our involvement in this war, and I have a profound admiration for members of our Armed Forces of all ranks who had similar doubts, but who went where they were ordered to go—into new darknesses.

On the issue of Guantanamo Bay, the policy of detaining non-US nationals at Camp Delta constitutes one of the most questionable unilateral actions by the US Government in international law. There are now approximately 585 detainees, although in total, about 700 have been held there at various times, including juveniles as young as 13. Detainees include an Australian and four UK citizens. We all know that five were released earlier this year.

Because the US Government have steadfastly refused to describe them as prisoners of war, they cannot claim rights under the third Geneva convention of 1949. Instead, they are detained under a military order issued by President Bush in November 2001, just over two months after 9/11. In practical terms it means that the same military official, or his or her delegate, is responsible for laying the charges against the detainee, selecting the members of the tribunals that will hear the charges—the official commands authority over them—and potentially making the final decision as to the detainee's guilt or innocence from which there is no appeal.

This state of affairs merits the description of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, as, a monstrous failure of justice", which places detainees, beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of the victors". I would go further and suggest that, first, such action infringes detainees' rights to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, in a speech he made in France in June said: While we must be flexible and be prepared to countenance some limitation of fundamental rights if properly justified and proportionate, there are certain principles on which there can be no compromise". Secondly, it infringes detainees' rights to a speedy trial. Thirdly, it violates detainees' rights to a fair trial because they admit evidence obtained through torture—that is a saga in itself. Fourthly, it fails to ensure that the fundamental rights afforded to US citizens are also afforded to non-US detainees.

I shall now make a few observations about the handover of power in Iraq. There have been many occasions in the House when the role of the United Nations has been highlighted as one which could well have delivered more and which needs as much strengthening as possible. The Minister indicated that in her opening remarks, and it has recurred in the debate.

The role of UK forces has been well and favourably reported. It has even been suggested more than once that their softer approach on the ground has helped to build up some degree of trust with local communities in Iraq. But what training have Iraqi troops been given to deal effectively, but in a restrained way with insurgents? Is there a timetable for the final withdrawal of UK troops? There are also some worrying factors that are in danger of clouding public debate and heightening awareness of easily overlooked issues. They include the increasing election climate in the US where involvement in Iraq and elsewhere is in danger of becoming a touchstone for supposed toughness.

In that respect, I can speak for other religious leaders who are becoming a bit tired of accusations that we do not live in the supposed real world when we say things that some find unpalatable. It is not the first time it has happened, but if any noble Lord would like to shadow my work for a week, he will see an interesting line of human nature in my work which is a great privilege and a joy.

Concerns have been expressed by the BBC World Service about the danger of too much government control of the media in Iraq, and the recent bombings of Assyrian and Chaldean Christian churches that represent communities that have lived in what we now call Iraq—an unnatural 20th century invention—since the dawn of the Christian religion. Those bombings make one ask serious questions about that litmus test for a just, sustainable and participatory society—how it treats its minorities.

I shall counterbalance that observation by echoing the words of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, on historic Islam and ways of local consensus that are democratic in ways that do not necessarily coincide with western secular models.

All that makes me come back to the cartoon depicting our—supposed—evolution into an unthinkingly violent animal. The history of human conflict is as old as the history of the human race, however and whenever that is defined. There are always debates about that. It tells us a simple but hard truth, which is that the temptation to become a mirror image of one's attacker can become almost irrestible. But it always has profoundly negative consequences.

I do not think that the Prime Minister lied to us. I share much of what the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said about the Prime Minister's motives and the Butler report. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for his speech, and for his observations on Cabinet government, about which I am sure lessons have been learnt. In any organisation when events move fast, it is sometimes very difficult to keep everybody up to speed. None the less, the lessons are there.

However, I am not a determinist, and I do not think that we are evolving into black-hooded terrorists. Nor do I believe that forgiveness and reconciliation at both local and international levels can be ordered from a department store or the all-night corner shop. In order to know more about those profoundly human qualities, we need to find new ways for the western democracies to engage in dialogue with the Arab world. They are not all members of A1'Qaeda. There is an urgency, too, about the need to rebuild international trust.

I shall quote from an article in the Times by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in March of last year, when he said: So it is not enough to have been critical of the way war with Iraq came about. We need urgently to develop better methods of working together. Too often, the Security Council seems to be incapable of functioning as more than the sorry sum of its frequently disparate parts. Would we be helped, for example, by a standing body, more broadly drawn, and charged with formulating and clarifying options for dealing with such crises? Could we imagine such a group taking in NGOs as well as diplomatic representation, so that issues about humanitarian relict' and social reconstruction could be fully factored in to the main discussion?". I believe that those questions still stand.

Early this morning in my chapel in Fareham, I happened to be reading with my chaplain some words from the prophet Isaiah—a book that is regarded as sacred by all three Abrahamic faiths. It is quite eerie that this canticle was set for Tuesday. It states: They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks". Then I thought of coming here. Those words are part of a description of a world made new, that is not airy-fairy and out of touch with reality, but takes seriously human nature as being capable of both good and evil. I do not think that one could find a better foundation for the long reconstruction of international trust in this debate.

6.50 p.m.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for the singular work he has done on our behalf. It was the fourth inquiry into the veracity and good faith of the Prime Minister. Each of them found our Prime Minister not wanting in those respects and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his committee for what I hope we can take as an opportunity to get on and debate the future of Iraq rather than spending quite so much time going over the genesis of the problem.

In my opinion, it is futile to continue to examine the genesis of the war. It will change none of the fundamentals concerning where we are now and where as a people we need to be. I say that as one who supported the Government and still does. I assume that all of us are now agreed about what we want for a post-war Iraq. We want a free Iraq, run by Iraqis, with the best possible basis for economic progress and the creation of stable democratic institutions.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington has recently rendered singular service in publishing Anthony Cordesman's analysis of the strategic lessons of Iraq entitled The War After the War. I am most impressed by his reading and his argument. He argues that strategic engagement requires objective rather than ideological assessment of the problems which demand action. He goes on to argue that that assessment must include the size and cost of the effort necessary to achieve these decisive strategic goals. Without such a systematic approach, it can be as easy to lose the peace as it was militarily easy to win the initial conflict.

Today, despite many excellent activities—and I commend the role of DfID—it is not yet possible to predict a successful outcome of the combination of, first, the activities of nation-building; secondly, the low-intensity continuing conflict; and, thirdly, the Iraqis' efforts to recreate their nation whose complexity we sometimes overlook. Of its population, 60 per cent are Shia Muslims; 20 per cent are Sunni Muslims; 15 per cent are Kurds; and 5 per cent comprise Turcoman and other groups. It can be further subdivided by tribes, by differing rural and urban lifestyles and by differing religious and secular lifestyles.

It is a country whose complexities have been further exacerbated by serious demographic explosion. In 1980, the Iraqi population was 13.2 million. Today, it is estimated at 25 million and projected to grow by 7 million a decade for at least the next two, taking it to 44 million by 2030. Today, 530,000 people seek to enter the workforce—and there is 50 to 60 per cent unemployment.

Post-conflict security and the whole process of nation-building should have been subjects of clear operational plans, formulated before military action began and subjected to at least as rigorous cost appraisal and risk analysis as the military action. That failure to have a seamless transition from the war to the imperatives of security and nation-building created a power vacuum. That power vacuum left the coalition appearing too often as remaining in conflict with Iraqis; too often as being the enemy; too often as being an unwelcome occupier; and decreasingly as being a force liberating Iraq from tyranny.

In my opinion, the power vacuum made the creation of the provisional government more difficult. That power vacuum has made it more difficult to address what I consider to be the central needs of Iraq—those relating to economic reconstruction. Few governments in the region have over the decades less experience of either a free market or of participating in global competition. Belatedly I believe that we need a grand strategy for security and nation-building and that we must look then to the economy on which Iraq's future will rest.

I want to mention four aspects of that economy. The first is investment. Iraq has no recognisable banking system. Industrial employment was largely in some 250 state monopolies and the military ones have been destroyed. The remainder offer no basis of industrial competitiveness and are unable to compete in any foreseeable way either as exports or with imports.

The second area for economic reconstruction is the country's infrastructure, especially the utilities which have been systematically neglected for more than 20 years. Saddam Hussein favoured obscene consumption by his regime at the expense of his people's need.

The third area for economic reconstruction is the agricultural sector. Historically, it has been run on the basis of a hopeless combination of state planning and subsidies. The results have been and remain appalling. Poor productivity and poor quality have left Iraq importing 60 per cent of its food needs and an agricultural population with no experience whatever of how to finance its farming or how to market its crops.

The fourth area is oil, where the situation is dramatically bad. Today, oil is the only meaningful export earner. The United States Department of Energy estimates that in constant year-2000 dollar prices, the value of oil exports has fallen from 58 billion US dollars in 1980 to 12.3 billion in 2002; probably falling to between 9 billion to 12 billion in 2003, and possibly rising to 15 billion in 2004 and 19 billion in 2005.

Those figures indicate the value of Iraq's oil exports to be about a quarter of the real-terms figure in 1980. Anthony Cordesman estimates that even with an expansion of oil exports to 6 million barrels a day, it is unlikely that real per capita oil income during the next decade can be more than half what it was in 1980 in constant dollars". Against that background, I conclude with the expression of hope that soon we will be able to see a grand strategy; one which does not deal individually with jigsaw-puzzle pieces of Iraq, but deals with that country holistically. It must deal with the stabilisation operations and security; the nation-building operations; the creation of democratic self-government; and with a coherent programme of the various aids necessary for the reconstruction of the economy in the areas of investment, infrastructure, agriculture and oil. Then, I will begin to be confident that we can win the peace as well as we won the war.

6.59 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, we have listened to a most impressively knowledgeable speech which I for one look forward to reading.

I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has resumed his place because he said that those who had cheered on the Attorney-General when we last debated the legality of the war were singularly absent from today's list of speakers. I diffidently draw his attention to the fact that I supported the Attorney-General then and continue to do so.

I may not have cheered him on, but I said that there was more than one view that it was possible to take conscientiously on the legitimacy of going to war. I said that the better view was that of the Attorney's and that if it were not the better view it certainly ought to be. I hold to those views today and without repeating the arguments I want to explain why, notwithstanding the absence of any finding of weapons of mass destruction so far, the legality of the fundamental basis of the case for the Government's invasion of Iraq remains sound.

First, I want to draw attention, as a number of noble Lords already have done, to the lamentable consequences of the way in which the dossier of September 2002 was compiled and the tendentious, not to say disingenuous, manner in which it was subsequently made use of—unfortunately by the Prime Minister among others. There are three aspects of the damage that has been done which we do well to recall.

The first has been that it has managed to make the credibility of the Government a casualty of the Iraq war, almost, some might think, a fatal casualty. That is of enormous importance because the Government need every ounce of credibility they can muster to carry the country and the international community with them through the difficult decisions that have to be taken from now on.

Much has been achieved. We are in danger in this country of neglecting sometimes the success of our actions. I am happy to acknowledge those parts of the Minister's speech that drew attention to them. But credibility has been gravely damaged. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said a few minutes ago that it will be very difficult to justify and to carry the country's support for any use of military force said to be based upon intelligence. That point carries a great deal of wisdom.

Secondly, it is a sorry thing for the Armed Forces—who trusted in the reliability of the case that the Government put forward for going to war, and went on, as we have all acknowledged, to carry out with great bravery and indeed brilliance a dangerous task which the Government imposed upon them—that the legality of the whole thing has been seriously called in question in terms of reliance upon the way in which the dossier was drawn up and subsequently made use of.

Perhaps, above all, that has contributed more than any other factor bar one to assertions—mistaken as I believe they are—that the whole case for going to war was dodgy, and that the legality of this enormously important decision by the Government was shaky to say the least. That other factor is the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction. I emphasise those words "so far" because of a passage in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler—a report to which I like everybody else pay most respectful tribute—which I think has not been mentioned. He said: We believe it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological and chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found. We would do well to remember those words.

I want to focus in the minute or two remaining on the absence so far of weapons of mass destruction because it is now said that that emasculates the whole basis of the legal case for going to war. But it does not. The lawfulness of the actions, whether taken by individuals or by governments, surely has to be assessed in the light of the information available at the time those actions were taken and in the light of the perceptions and deductions that reasonably could have been held, and of fears that reasonably could have been entertained, which those actions were intended to avert. Surely that is ordinary common sense.

Governments, like individuals or bishops, have to operate in the real world. It has become an increasingly unpleasant and terribly dangerous world by reason of the actions of a proportion of mankind. That point has been laboured today. There is no need to go into it more than to say that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, referred to it as the calculus of the threat of terrorism having changed. We all know that it is because of the arrival on the scene of people who do not care a bit about how many they kill. Or rather, they do care, because they desire mass murders and mass destruction. They do not mind if they get blown up at the same time; indeed, in some circumstances they desire it.

That has changed the whole calculus and made it vastly more difficult for governments who, on behalf of their countrymen, have to take a line of maximum protection, and which if they happen to be permanent members of the Security Council with military means have to secure the enforcement of Security Council resolutions. They have to exercise their judgment in that capacity as well. Everybody realises how dangerous the world now is. I found nothing in the report to lead me to reverse the view I have held from the beginning that the Government acted lawfully—as of course they always must.

My last point is that we now know what was actually going on quite irrespective of weapons of mass destruction. We found it in the conclusions set out at paragraph 397 of the report. For shorthand purposes and time I will read just three. The Iraqi Government: Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes … In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities. Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions". To have neglected those circumstances would have been criminal and they fully justify the unequivocal view expressed by the Prime Minister that there was ongoing material and serious breach by Iraq of its obligations under 1441.

I believe that the war was necessary, alas. I am certain that it was legal. It could not have been necessary if it was not legal. It could not have been legal if it was not necessary. The pity of it is that the case, genuinely and conscientiously argued by those who take a different view, has been so unnecessarily strengthened by the way in which the dossier and related matters were handled.

7.7 p.m.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

My Lords, there can he few considering the circumstances surrounding this debate, coming as it does after a weekend of unparalleled, unlawful violence in Russia, who would question the belief that the lawless use of force between and within the member nations of the United Nations is one of the great challenges of our time. It is therefore not a matter about which one needs to apologise if one focuses, as so many have done during the debate in this House, upon the issues of the legality of the war in Iraq. I was grateful to the Minister for her kind words, when opening the debate, that it was all right to look back. Indeed, we needed to look back. Certainly, as she put it, we must learn the lessons. She is in a better position than most of us in this House to chart what is happening on the ground in Iraq. We must pay due deference to her reading of what is happening there. I will return to that point.

For me, the Iraq war is, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, put it, the greatest diplomatic defeat of this country since the 1956 Suez adventure. In many ways, it is a worse defeat than that. To some extent, that situation was recoverable by the intervention of our long-standing friends in the United States. On this occasion, the boot is very much on the other foot.

The terms of reference for the inquiry by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, were regrettably narrow. We are grateful to the noble Lord for interpreting them creatively to allow him to look at some of the issues that were so vexing the public, not least the issue of the Government's purported legal justification for the military invasion.

Perhaps it is a little difficult to dig out what that committee had to say on the subject, but, none the less, it is clear. In paragraph 429 of the Butler report, it is clear that as early as March 2002 British Government officials had advised not only that regime change of itself had no basis in international law but that any offensive military action against Iraq could be justified in Iraq only if Iraq were held to be in breach of its disarmament obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 or some new resolution. Proof of that breach would need to be "incontrovertible" and of "large scale activity". At that time, the intelligence available was insufficiently robust to meet such criteria.

It is a matter of some satisfaction that the committee also recorded its surprise that policy makers and the intelligence community did not, as the generally negative results of the UNMOVIC inspection became increasingly apparent, re-evaluate in early 2003 the quality of the intelligence. In the absence of that re-evaluation, it is plain that the Prime Minister took it on himself to determine the necessity of the action.

In his interesting intervention, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, spoke of the systems of government that allowed advice to be forthcoming when required. It is plain that on this occasion, in the critical three months prior to the war, not only was such advice not sought, it was not proffered. Nor was there any updating action to enable the British Government to claim in the United Nations or anywhere else that the situation merited the response proposed.

It would be wrong to focus entirely on that point. The Iraq war has brought death in uncounted thousands. It is fairly clear that it has sustained and extended support for terrorism in the Middle East—even in Iraq itself—such that it has become, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who opened the debate from the Opposition Benches, the monstrous norm. It is also clear that this war has diverted the international community from addressing the central danger in the Middle East—the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It makes any aspiration to impose, by force or any other means, democracy on another country in that part of the world a vain aspiration.

The greatest sadness and the greatest need in this debate is the requirement that we should recognise how the international legal order has been undermined by that action. Article 39 of the United Nations charter spells out that the Security Council should determine, the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make any recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security". It is spurious to claim that articles decided in the context of the Kuwaiti liberation had any direct bearing on the circumstances that led to the invasion in March 2003.

The requirement now is for the international community to recognise that this system of peaceful resolution of disputes has been challenged by some of the greatest powers among its members. That the law is not universally accepted or universally regarded as acceptable is clear. The Prime Minister was not wrong in his Sedgefield speech to businessmen on 5 March to point out the need for a general debate on the updating of international law to make it capable of dealing with the new threats. But it is not acceptable that he should have taken the law into his own hands with an attempt to describe as legal what was essentially a political justification.

Political justifications may be acknowledged and understood but they cannot be accepted, as was made entirely clear by the International Court of Justice in the Nicaragua case in 1986. It is time that that task was taken on by the international community. No doubt a first step has been taken by the Secretary-General in establishing his high-level panel of which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, is a most distinguished member. But it will require more than that no doubt highly political report. It will require a longer period of persuasion to bring to a conclusion the procedural steps that are required to take away from the nation state the capacity in law to inflict such mayhem as we have seen.

In such crises, the ultimate question is whether the use of force may be justified beyond the cases provided for in the charter—I am thinking of humanitarian cases and drug trafficking—which threaten lives and livelihoods. The question is: who is to make the determination that such action is necessary? That cannot be simply a decision for those with the greatest power to impose themselves on others. We had hoped that that system would have been put to bed by the UN charter, but it needs updating.

7.20 p.m.

Lord Inge

My Lords, given my involvement with the Butler review I had reservations, as did my chairman, about taking part in this debate. However, I should say at the start how much I enjoyed working under his chairmanship, a view that I know is shared by all the other members of that committee. I should also like to say that I strongly support his comments, not least those he made about Mr Scarlett. Mr Scarlett has been through a difficult time, but I am sure that he will have learnt from this testing experience about the way he has to lead what I believe is a remarkable Secret Intelligence Service. I strongly endorse the remarks made about the service by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I also believe that Mr Scarlett will get right his relationship with policy and decision makers. He has to work with them, but not be part of their club.

I would like to make one or two personal comments about the Butler review. The chapter in the report that deals with the nature and limitations of intelligence is a seminal piece of work which should be studied by every policy maker and decision maker dealing with intelligence material. This is particularly relevant given the current security situation we face from the threat of international terrorism. That threat poses the intelligence services of the free world with a huge challenge. We are not dealing with a nation state, but fighting an organisation that is diffuse and scattered, and wishes to cause mass casualties among innocent people. It is not afraid to use weapons of mass destruction. I am not convinced that the threat is fully understood or recognised, and what a challenge it poses. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I think that it would be a disaster if, because of some of the things that went wrong over Iraq, we become reluctant in the future to use military and other force where necessary.

The final point I want to make about the Butler review is not directly related to the committee. However, during my work on the committee I began to recognise starkly the huge responsibility put on our policy and decision makers when a nation looks as though it is going to go to war. I asked myself what were the qualities they needed if they were to look after the interests of the nation. I came to what your Lordships will probably consider to be a rather simplistic conclusion.

The two qualities I felt were most important were, first, that of judgment. I sense you can have judgment only if you have knowledge, which I believe includes a sense of history and an understanding of what it means if you commit your nation's armed forces to military conflict. The nature and limitations of intelligence have to be understood.

The second quality that I felt was fundamental was that of moral courage. Only then will a policy maker or adviser, even if he has the knowledge, have the courage to challenge or perhaps support a decision—which is a very difficult decision—at the highest level.

That is enough about Butler. I shall turn to Iraq in a moment, but first I want to mention post-conflict planning, where there is a major lesson for the future. A part of my military education was that, prior to conflict, a key part of the political and military planning process was to look at the consequences of the use of military force. While I recognise that it is not an exact science, we must consider what will happen and what it is likely that we will have to deal with after conflict has finished. It is clear that in this case that that proper planning process did not take place, or if it did, it was ignored. Equally importantly, it was not adequately resourced in terms of money, people and capabilities. That was a serious planning failure which must be a lesson for the future.

Whether or not one supported the war, noble Lords have already pointed out that the key issue is now to recognise that we are in for the long haul. If we were tempted to walk away, that would be disastrous and have serious and major implications for the security of the whole region. It would send a terrible message to the people of Iraq and give great encouragement to terrorists in that country and beyond. We are in for the long haul, and it will be a time that requires great wisdom and courage. In all this, I should also point to the important role that the media have to play. I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to what our Armed Forces have achieved.

I turn to Iraq today. The Minister gave us a measured and balanced view of the situation in Iraq at the moment, but I have to say that I remain deeply concerned about the security situation—not only because of the threat posed by terrorists, but also because of the limits of the influence of the interim government. It will be a long time before a government in Iraq have any major impact on the country as a whole. Moreover, the capabilities of Iraqi security forces in the form of its police and armed forces are extremely limited. Not only are they badly trained—it takes years to develop effective security forces—but I am also concerned about the effect of the ballooning in the number of private security organisations now operating in Iraq. That cannot be right when seeking to co-ordinate a proper security situation.

I remain gloomy, but we must remember that we are talking not only about Iraq, but also about Iran, the Palestine/Israel problem and the Gulf as a whole. What happens in Iraq will be watched closely by the people of the region.

7.26 p.m.

Lord Watson of Richmond

My Lords, Monday's news of seven United States Marines killed by a car bomb near Fallujah brings to just under 1,000—in fact, 993—the number of American soldiers killed since the war in Iraq began. Over the past two weeks, 500 people have been killed by terrorist actions in Russia. At least 338 people lost their lives in perfectly appalling circumstances in Beslan. The casualty lists in the war on terrorism are lengthening: soldiers, civilians, children, the old and infirm, and the young and strong. There is no sign of the carnage ending. There are moments, perhaps, when the imprudent banner displayed on the United States aircraft carrier, "Abraham Lincoln", and voiced on that occasion by President Bush—namely, "Mission Accomplished"—may seem justified, but only as a respite and not, sadly, as a conclusion.

Nothing—no explanation and no cause—can diminish the crimes of those who have slaughtered so cruelly in Manhattan, in Bali, on Israel's buses and in the schoolhouse in Beslan. Nothing justifies those crimes. But if the mission of ending terror is ever to be accomplished, political processes are vital and must be resolutely pursued. To defeat terrorism, its roots have to be understood, its motivations comprehended and its causes addressed. We have urgently, as an international community, to seek out and dry up the springs of horror. President Bush sees America's role in Iraq and in the wider war as "draining the swamp". But what point is there in draining the swamp if it instantly refills? To eradicate what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to earlier as "hyper-terrorism", we must seek to do more than counter it; no matter how hard or impossible it may seem, we must seek to cure it. How to do this is surely the most difficult challenge we face.

Military action is necessary but clearly not enough. As my noble friend Lady Williams said from these Benches today, it is a fact that one result of the allied invasion of Iraq is that Iraq itself has become a battleground for A1'Qaeda. That was not what was intended, of course, but it is one result.

Two American voices in that country's increasingly anguished debate this summer about Iraq struck me by their candour. A few weeks ago, George Packer wrote in the New Yorker magazine that: The Iraq War, from its inception in Washington think tanks to its botched execution on the ground has always been a war of ideas … By now facts have reduced most of these to rubble, notably the argument that this was a war of urgent national security. Only two serious and competing versions of the war's meaning are left standing—one, that it is a war against tyranny and for democracy; the other, that it is a war of American domination". The other voice that I wish to quote speaks directly to that second point. Earlier this summer, Senator Joseph Biden said, The President must forge with the United Nations, with Europe, with our friends in the Arab world, with Iraq's political leaders … a common plan for Iraq … there are people around the President who will tell him to reject this … that reaching out will make him look weak … an admission of failure … the hour for hubris and arrogance is long past. It's time for leadership. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, said in this debate that there are few more important things on the international community's agenda than to make a success of the transition to democracy in Iraq. He is absolutely right to say this. And to make a success of this, the international community must be involved—militarily, yes—but also in addressing where we can the very springs of terror.

It is for this reason that the effective abandonment of the Middle East road map is so dangerous. Some may argue that it is simply postponed by the US election, but that is almost certainly wishful thinking.

Here the Prime Minister is the pivotal figure—and his and this country's credibility is at issue. The Prime Minster has sought from the start in his relationship with the United States Administration to trade loyalty for influence. To that end he has taken great risks with our standing in Europe. To that end he has discarded the advice of wise friends of this country such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa. To that end he bent all his persuasive skills to take Parliament and the country with him over the nature and, absolutely critically, the timing of the Iraq war.

For such loyalty what does he have to show? He must surely now demonstrate real influence in persuading the Americans to do two things: firstly, as Senator Biden has advocated, to reach out to the international community—including the transatlantic community and Europe—to build a much wider and deeper involvement in, and commitment to, the challenge of nation-building in Iraq; and, secondly, to use America's power and influence with Israel to reinvigorate the Middle East road map for peace.

In another context the Prime Minister coined a memorable and influential phrase. He proclaimed the need not only to attack crime but to attack the causes of crime. So too with terrorism. We must attack terrorism in Iraq and beyond, seek to capture its leaders, cauterise its effects and defend ourselves and others. But we must also attack its roots, demotivate it by addressing the causes of hatred and prove its ultimate futility by showing that political solutions can achieve what terror can only destroy.

7.34 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky

My Lords, it is not my intention to go over old ground. The war in Iraq was a mistake. The reasons given for it did not stand up at the time and stand up even less well today. Nevertheless, we are there and we have to make the best of it.

To do so it is important that we face up honestly to the challenges and be clear about what we want to do and the resources that we need to do it. I am glad that the Minister admitted mistakes and did not shirk the difficulties ahead.

The fact that dominates the situation is the general insecurity of the non-Kurdish parts of Iraq. This security situation is not being adequately reported because journalists stick close to compounds for fear of being kidnapped or murdered. Thus the general impression that the security situation has improved since the handover of power on 28 June is seriously misleading.

The facts on the ground are that radical Shia militias control most of the cities. Coalition forces have failed to protect public property. Government buildings are routinely seized and their vehicles destroyed. Our forces have failed to protect the Iraqi security forces from violence or intimidation. The main road from Basra to Baghdad is unsafe, with vehicles regularly being hijacked or blown up, with all the consequences of that for the movement of goods. In Nasiriyah, Italian forces rarely leave their barracks and I am told that this is also true of the Poles and Ukrainians: they thought they were being sent as peace-keepers and discover that there is no peace to be kept.

Making up numbers with coalition forces may have been politically necessary, but it creates the illusion that all the coalition forces are available for establishing security when this is palpably not the case.

British forces have also been withdrawing from security operations. In the last seven weeks they have ceded control of the streets in Basra not to the forces of the new government, but to groups led by the Sadr miltia. A few days ago the Daily Telegraph reported that Basra's civilian administration is holed up in one of Saddam's palaces under almost daily mortar fire.

It goes on. The recent bomb explosion in Kirkuk is a symptom of the fact that ethnic tensions are rising in mixed Kurd and Arab cities. With contentious issues of land and representation unresolved, it seems to be only a matter of time before serious violence breaks out there.

The stand-off with the Shia cleric Muqtadr al Sadr in Najaf, brokered by the Ayatollah Sistani, can be deemed a success, but temporary peace was only attained with enormous concessions and after great loss of life. Sadr, who has demanded the expulsion of all foreign forces, is very far from being a broken force.

The consequences of pervasive insecurity are obvious and they were spelled out by the Minister in her opening remarks. Without security there can be no political or economic reconstruction. What does that mean? At present it is too dangerous to hold provincial elections. Have we got any real assurance that it will be possible to hold a general election in January to elect the successor to the interim government'? Iraq's civilian administration cannot be set up because of the level of intimidation. And that means that reconstruction money cannot be spent.

The US Congress has allocated over 18 billion dollars—roughly 750 dollars per person—in additional reconstruction money, but reconstruction projects cannot be started because administrative infrastructure is not in place to develop them.

The oil position is better. Oil production has recovered to about 2 million barrels a day from its low of 1.3 million barrels in 2003. However, Iraq is capable of producing 6 million barrels a day and, under the UN Oil for Food programme of the late 1990s, it averaged about 3 million. So, after 15 months, output is still much lower than it would be in a stable situation. That is the measure of the instability that still exists. Insecurity still dogs the attempt to reconstruct essential services—health, education, electricity, water transport, communications, and so on. Electricity transmission lines have continued to be torn down.

What we have is, quite simply a crisis of legitimacy. The coalition has failed either to establish its own authority or to allow Iraqi authority to be asserted in an appealing and convincing fashion. Many of our troops feel that they are doing nothing useful and want to get out.

In appraising what needs to be done, we have to face a number of important questions. First, do we have enough troops in Iraq to secure the minimum level of security needed for the transition period? Are we willing to give our troops the necessary mandate to keep order? It was reported that the Prime Minister wanted to send more troops to Iraq. What stopped that from happening? Apparently, he was convinced of that need.

This review has to be taken jointly with the Americans, because they are mainly responsible for the security situation in Iraq, where we are very junior partners. I understand that that cannot happen until after the presidential election is over, as no one is prepared to take any major decisions.

Having embarked on this adventure, we must recognise that we cannot restore Iraq on the cheap. If indeed it is true that the majority of Iraqis want to live in freedom and peace—and I have no doubt that they do—then it is our duty to ensure that the security without which nothing solid can be built comes into existence. You cannot go into a country, destroy every structure of its ordered life and then leave before you have put something better, much better, in its place. We have not got there yet. So we have to stay, but we must also think very carefully about what we can do to achieve the fine words that we speak.

7.42 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Symons knows of my long interest in Iraq, and I am sure that she has warned my noble friend Lord Triesman of this dangerous tendency. It arises initially from concern about the humanitarian plight of children suffering from the disastrous economic effects of the sanctions regime and the possible effects of depleted uranium. My noble friend also knows that I strongly opposed the war. I should be grateful if, in her reply, she could give us, as far as she is able, a brief and up-to-date report on the nutritional and health status of the people of Iraq, with the accent on children, including the current state of Iraq's public health infrastructure and health facilities.

Clean water, sewage disposal, reliable electricity supplies and adequate nutrition are the basis of public health, as the Minister knows full well. There have been many reports indicating that progress in reinstating this infrastructure has been agonisingly slow.

In her speech, the Minister gave us a rather more hopeful and upbeat picture than we get from the media of the unnecessary and expensive quagmire that our Prime Minister led us into on the coat tails of President George W Bush and his coterie. Our forces are behaving with much more restraint than the Americans, and making better relations with Iraqis because of this and because of some of the rebuilding activities that my noble friend described. However, it is perfectly clear that, even in the British zone. the coalition forces are resented and opposed. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has pointed out, there has recently been a flare-up of resistance in Basra.

In the US zone, the occupying forces are hated more than ours because of their trigger-happy behaviour. The choice of Saddam's infamous Abu Ghraib prison in which to hold detainees was, in itself, an act of extreme insensitivity, let alone the well publicised conditions under which thousands of often entirely innocent people were held there.

A long catalogue of mistakes has been made since the end of full hostilities in May, which many noble Lords have pointed out, starting with the decision to disband Iraq's army and police force instead of retaining and reforming them. Looters were allowed, even encouraged, to ransack government offices and steal or spoil records and equipment, thus destroying the basis of orderly government. Saddam's Iraq was despotic and corrupt, but it was by no means a failed state.

It is a truism to say that the US won the war in a brutal but mercifully short campaign but has fairly conspicuously lost the peace. Far from safeguarding Iraq's oil exports, they are now less than under Saddam, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has pointed out, contributing to a record rise in world oil prices. There is no evidence that international terrorism has decreased since the war—rather the converse, as the recent tragic events indicate. There is no obvious connection with Iraq, but the whole tenor of militant Islam may well have been given a boost as a result of our activities in Iraq.

It was unlikely that there would have been a decrease in terrorism as a result of our attacking Iraq. There was never any evidence of international terrorist acts being organised from within Iraq. In fact, Saddam, with his secular regime, was no friend of Osama bin Laden, who, if he is still alive, could well be applauding Saddam's downfall.

The war has increased anti-American feelings in the Arab world, which may make it easier for A1'Qaeda to recruit followers. In Iraq, there has been a huge escalation of terrorism and crime, including suicide bombing and hostage-taking, resulting in death and misery for thousands of innocent people, let alone those killed in the war itself. This, tragically, included Sergio Vieira de Mello and 27 other UN staff last year, who were in Iraq with the most excellent motives and, more recently, the 12 innocent Nepali workers. They were all tarnished in the eyes of some militants because of their perceived association with the American-led CPA, now the multinational force. Completely innocent passers-by, who have had nothing to do with co-operating with the Americans, have been killed. The situation has been horrific.

It is uncertain how many acts of terror in Iraq have been committed by non-Iraqis, from Iran and elsewhere. In fact, it seems that there is a dearth of intelligence about the insurgents in Iraq and a lack of rapport between the appointed IGC and Iraqis on the street. I suppose that this lack of intelligence is not surprising, considering the quality of the intelligence that was misused and even manipulated by the US Administration and, sadly, by our Prime Minister. I am afraid that the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, does not, to my mind, contradict the assertion that this rather imperfect intelligence was used to justify the war.

It is very hard to believe that they did not know, as Robin Cook and many others did, that Iraq posed no military threat, even if it did have a small number of WMDs, as many of us thought it did. We were extremely surprised to find that there were no WMDs; even Hans Blix was—we have just been listening to him speak in another committee room in the House of Commons. In a sense, it is a failure of intelligence.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that it is hard to believe that no official attempt has been made to estimate the total number of Iraqi casualties, civilian or military, during the full-scale war or afterwards. Can my noble friend explain why that is the case? It is, of course, difficult to gather such information, but in previous conflicts in which we have been involved, an estimate of the number of "enemy" casualties has usually been published as well as our own. Now, the job seems to be left to nongovernmental organisations such as Iraq Body Count. It has done a thorough job with its research, but its figures remain unofficial.

I am not alone in suggesting that there will be no peace in Iraq as long as the multinational force remains visibly present. Even many Iraqis who originally welcomed it now despise it and resent its continued presence. In evidence of that, I cite the remarkably courageous report by Sean Langan on BBC4 on 2 September. He managed to make contact with resistance fighters as well as to interview US troops and many ordinary Iraqis. On the strength of that evidence, I feel that, as long as the multinational force remains, Iraqi resistance is likely to continue in some form or other. Iraqis who serve in the police may be regarded as aiding the occupying forces and may also be targeted. In any case, they have difficulty taking part in counter-insurgency operations that involve killing their own countrymen.

Having said all that, I want to end on an optimistic note. I think that sanity will prevail. There are many highly intelligent and able Iraqis of moderate views who wish to see a united Iraq. They are proud of their country and they need a chance to put Iraq's house in order. The sooner the coalition forces withdraw from the front line and take a back seat, the more likely they are to succeed.

I consider that the continued presence of foreign troops is provoking violent disorder. It is hindering Iraq's progress towards independence and economic recovery. The funds that have been allocated for rehabilitation and recovery, which are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, told us, still largely unspent, will be much more effective if obvious military presence is reduced. Security enforced by Iraqis is more likely to succeed if coalition forces move out of the limelight and, as soon as possible, out of the country altogether. Iraqis should play a much larger role in brokering and settling disputes.

Economic assistance, which is available, should not be necessary for long, although it should be given generously to begin with. Many other noble Lords have discussed this. Iraq is potentially a very wealthy country, fully capable of successfully standing on its own feet. However, the very large international debt, made worse by the absurdly high reparations claimed by Kuwait, must be faced. Some of it should be written off—the United States has suggested that—and the rest effectively rescheduled. We must all hope that wise counsel permits this to happen.

I believe, along with many other speakers, that Iraq's new Government must be allowed early full independence for which they will need temporary economic assistance. If a foreign military presence continues, the prospect will be for more stormy weather ahead.

7.54 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, if the war in Iraq has proved anything, it has proved that the special contribution that British forces have made, in addition to their high professional competence and courage, has been the human factor and the skills that they have developed in peacemaking, which come of years of working and training together under a strong, self-imposed discipline. However, our defence policy seems to be driven by the need to save money in order to invest in kinetics options and high technology so that we can operate more effectively with the Americans. We should surely play from our strengths and complement their technical war-making, rather than try to match it.

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee report 2003 states: As the post-conflict stage in Iraq has shown, a great deal more is required to achieve the objectives of an effects-based operation, than advanced military technologies in the hands of numerically small forces … While we note the co-operation between the MoD and the FCO at the policy level". such as on conflict prevention pools, we believe that the future operational demands of effects-based thinking will require even greater collaboration". The Committee believes that: The UK's future security challenges, on the scale of effort envisaged, require the retention of the existing scale of forces, plus the benefits of network enabled capability … as further extensive peace support operational experience has demonstrated, the UK may also be called upon to provide presence and for that there is still no substitute for numbers". Finally, the Committee believes that:

Any reduction in the establishment of the Army would be premature". Let us not be driven by short-sighted Treasury pressure to reduce the existing platforms in advance of acquiring the new capabilities and demonstrating their effectiveness. In the case of the Navy, for instance, are we giving enough weight to the importance so clearly demonstrated in Iraq of sea-based operations independent of host nation support? The asymmetric threat, unlike our long-standing Sovbloc experience, calls for an ability to respond quickly to the unexpected. Who would have thought that such brilliant success as our Armed Forces have had in Iraq and Afghanistan, would lead to cuts, not funding?

We have to recognise the importance of training and what has been called the moral component of fighting power derived from the ethos and cohesion of individual units, putting a premium on unit and service identity. How does that square with the proposed service cuts? Treasury policy under the new resource accounting and budgeting requires the MoD to pay a charge on the assets it holds. That, and political pressure, led to the need to secure equipment at short notice for Operation TELIC because it was not on the shelf, and that highlighted our reliance on other nations for our sources of supply. That risk should not be taken again.

The FCO too—another vital player in Iraq and Afghanistan—is being effectively severely cut. How can a geographical department function as it should if half the desk officers are abolished and there is no money to visit posts? DfID, which is generously funded, is worthy, but DfID workers abroad, often outnumbering by far the embassy staff, by the nature of their work do not meet and form long-term friendships with persons of power, as good diplomats, and indeed members of the intelligence service, do. As countries in Africa and the Far East become ever more vulnerable to the operation of terrorists, whether domestic or with an international agenda, so it becomes more necessary for our representatives to be in place to learn to understand them and to be understood. Far too much of the FCO's budget is going into strengthening embassy buildings against terror attacks at the expense of funding the people who should be in them and who are so vital to our understanding of other cultures. You must live in a country to know it. E-mails will not do the job.

The excellent Butler report, in discussing the machinery of government, has identified a serious threat to the principles of accountability to Parliament and the people through Ministers, and of collective decision-making in the Cabinet. Under the present regime at No. 10, the role of Ministers and their ability to hold the Prime Minister and the intelligence services accountable have all profoundly changed. Since the Secretary to the Cabinet, who attends Cabinet meetings, transferred his intelligence function to the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, who does not, Ministers still receive excellent papers from officials, but they are not brought to Cabinet or discussed in Cabinet committees. Instead there are, we are told, frequent unscripted occasions when the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Defence Secretaries brief the Cabinet orally. Ministers will not be prepared. The Secretary to the Cabinet cannot, as he would have done in the past, add anything to the discussion and the man who could is not present.

Add to this the practice of taking decisions in No 10 on major issues on the basis of informal discussions that are not recorded—the Hutton report brought out a flood of e-mails but no formal minutes—and it is difficult to see how Ministers can discharge their duty and their right to take responsibility on the vital matter of war and peace. The Butler report's measured reference to the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures is deeply disturbing.

Later in the report, under "Lessons for the Future", we are warned that the dossier has set a precedent for openness and that there will be demands for Government to put intelligence into the public domain in arguing the case for a particular course of action. I share the reservations and anxieties of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale.

To do what is being proposed will be fatal to intelligence recruitment and operations, since what our friends learn from this open approach our enemies will also learn. Potential sources in a most dangerous environment will simply not take the risks and we shall lose the HUMINT, which interprets the enemy's intentions and vitally complements the product of GCHQ, satellite imagery and other sources.

It was a mistake to identify relevant intelligence in the dossier instead of allowing JIC reports, as in the past, to form part of the private decision-making process under which the JIC would have contributed to Ministers' thinking and assessment along with policy consideration and much overt knowledge.

Incidentally, the JIC was careful to make it clear that although there were contacts between the Iraqi regime and A1'Qaeda, there was no evidence of co-operation. We must protect the JIC from being made, as the report says, into a tool of government. The ISC works well, and that is enough.

I have read much of the voluminous 9/11 report by the commission in the US. The problem was, is and will be, on the one hand, a flood of detail from NSA, GCHQ, the FBI, the CIA, liaison services, the Immigration Service and so forth; and, on the other hand, a lack in the CIA of enough competent linguists and specialists with the field experience to make assessments. The SIS too has had such problems. In the past few years there have been lean times which led to severe reduction after the first Afghan war in, for instance, experienced operational cadres who were Arabic and, it seems, some dangerous cost-cutting on the validation side.

It takes time to transfer field resources, already limited, from one target to another, particularly when the requirement is both for first-hand operational experience of the cultural and geographical area and for some highly technical knowledge of new targets. On both fronts it seems the service was seriously under-resourced. Even so, it has had some remarkable successes, for which the Butler report gives due credit.

Today the requirement is not only to produce intelligence on the undeclared and secret intentions of coherent governments but also to cover an amorphous inchoate octopus: a network of individuals; a shifting target very difficult to penetrate. It is one thing to have a mass of detail from technical and other sources which takes precious time, in a fast-moving scene, to interpret. It is quite another to get inside the mind of a terrorist with whom, unlike a potential Soviet defector or agent in place, there is no common cultural or political ground and no incentive for the target to make any relationship outside a closed circle.

As recent tragic events have shown, these people are not inhibited by any fear of causing international outrage, nor very often by the wish for any quid pro quo. As the Butler report says: The targets which the UK intelligence community needs to study most carefully today are those that structurally and culturally look least like the Government and society it serves". However, we also need to relate to those governments that share our interest in having forewarning of the threats posed.

This is a dangerous world, not least because Russia, for instance, despite significant investment by the UK, the EU and the US, still has nearly 40 tonnes of chemical weapons, has not started the destruction and wants the destruction deadline advanced to 2012. Russian bureaucratic delays are preventing action, already funded, on plutonium disposition, and we can be sure that weapons and knowledge are being sold and that Russia has neither the will nor the effective security resources to prevent this.

I hope with all my heart that my former service will be left to get on with the job it can do so well if it is properly resourced and that John Scarlett, an officer with a distinguished record of high professionalism and courage, will be supported in the excellent job of which he is capable.

We are committed to Iraq and nothing should prevent us from using the great skill and dedication of our soldiers, diplomats and the many ordinary, committed men and women, both Iraqi and British, and not least, the courage and farsightedness of the Minister.

8.4 p.m.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine

My Lords, as the Butler report points out, this was a war of choice. The intelligence community saw regime change as an option to achieve Iraqi disarmament. It was for the Government to make the choice for war: there was no necessity to do so in the form of an imminent threat to Britain.

We also know from section 5.4 of the review that the continuation of sanctions was a credible option but was disregarded. The Government sought to align themselves with the United States in the mistaken view that Iraq was part of the more general "war against terrorism".

Looking forward, one of the clearest lessons from Iraq is that sanctions—an option open to the Government at the time—and the related policy of containment were working. The adoption of smart sanctions in 2002 as the method of preventing trade in arms while allowing for civilian trade was the right course in humanitarian terms. It was also the right choice in terms of effectiveness. The policy succeeded, as we know now from our knowledge of Iraqi armaments from the 1990s onwards.

There is a view voiced by the Government that the use of force in Iraq has resulted in compliance with disarmament by Libya and the exposure of and subsequent apology by Dr AQ Khan in Pakistan. That argument obscures the fact that those countries have their own motivations for changing course. In Libya, we know that the Gaddafi regime, under weight of sanctions for some two decades, eventually moved to accept international norms and gave up its support for terrorism in the late 1990s, not after the invasion of Iraq.

In Pakistan, the country of my origin, the tide was turning against supporting the Taliban and change came about through a military takeover and internal regime change rather than in anticipation of a war in Iraq. Those lessons will become increasingly relevant in the coming period when we seek to resolve the North Korean and Iranian proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The other unfinished business that the war in Iraq has obscured is the instability of Afghanistan and its link to terrorism. Those of us who supported the war in Afghanistan expected to see a long-term commitment to the future stability of that country, including a restoration of law and order and the establishment of governance such that it could take its place in the international community. That was the widely held hope of almost all Muslim states and was accepted by the international community as such.

While the forthcoming elections are to be welcomed, it is fair to say that we have not delivered on our promises to Afghanistan. The country is still ungovernable in large parts and is actually deteriorating in others; terrorism and violence are still rampant, poverty is endemic, and drug production on the up. As we know from the events leading up to 11 September 2001, failed states represent a failure for the whole of the international community. We need to concentrate our resources on those states if we are to forestall future threats to international peace and security in terms of chapter 7.

What of stability in Iraq and the wider Middle East? In Iraq, while we can reserve our judgment on the legitimacy or effectiveness of the interim government, what seems clear is that our stated objectives as set out in paragraph 213 of the report are far from met. Whether the territorial integrity of Iraq is guaranteed, is an open question; that was one of the objectives. Whether we succeed in re-establishing Iraq as a stable, functioning democracy, taking its rightful place in the international community in time to avert a wider crisis in the Middle East, is also debatable.

I seek to widen the discussion because I believe that the impact of the war, combined with our wider war on terrorism, has enormous ramifications for the Muslim world, from which I come. We have a situation in Islamic countries in which the perceived injustices against Islamic nations, from Chechnya to Palestine to Kashmir, resonates in the Muslim public mind as never before. While we expect Muslim countries to be our paid-up partners in this supposed war on terrorism, we also have to accept our share of responsibility in righting the wrongs of history.

Many on all sides of the Iraq argument accepted the reassurances given by the US and British Governments that the Israeli-Palestinian road map would be delivered. What we have seen from the US, however—and one wonders what happened to our leverage with the US Government—is a retreat from, or at best a silence on, the assurances given on the lead-up to the war that the wider issues of peace in the Middle East would be addressed as a matter of urgency. We were wrong: the road to Jerusalem never lay through Baghdad; the road map has now ended in the road block of the war.

When politicians declare an international dimension to the war on terrorism, they also have to accept an international role in finding solutions. While everyone in this House is united in offering our deepest sympathies to the people of Beslan, as candid friends we have to say to Mr Putin that he cannot declare that international terrorism is behind atrocities without seeking to allow external mediation of disputes. When there is no scope or political space for moderate political elements or external mediation, and when journalists get fired for their opinions from Moscow to Baghdad, where television stations are closed down, is it any wonder that the Islamic community sees double standards in operation? I say this in some trepidation—at the risk, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, implied, of indulging in "moral relativism". But it is important for us to put these thoughts on the table, as they are deeply felt.

Another assumption underlying our engagement in Iraq is that we are exporting good governance and democracy to the Islamic world. Good governance cannot be imposed by force in today's world.

Democracy and civil society need nurturing, political space and legitimacy. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford said, they need to be seen in an Islamic context—be that of Iraq, Afghanistan or other parts of the Middle East—now more than ever.

Our tool of choice should be soft diplomacy rather than hard force. Aid, trade, training, education and all the linkages that build understanding and trust are undoubtedly long-term options, but prove to be far less costly than hastily planned wars. In the battle for heart and minds both at home and abroad, the Government have squandered a fine reputation in those very areas. Our tradition of soft diplomacy, buttressed by our role as a P5 member of the Security Council, has been cast in doubt at a time when these things matter most.

We have found ourselves in a discredited war, aspects of which we could not have foreseen. We must now fulfil our obligations to Iraqis by returning to them a country that is better than we found it. We can start that by accepting that we have some way to go in terms of our own democratic processes and mechanisms, as the failures of the past two years have shown.

8.13 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, I, too, have expressed concern a bout our decision to go to war in Iraq, and the Government's determination to see areas of the Middle East in the context of an axis of evil. Events have shown that liberation is not the simple concept that it appears and that occupying armies are rarely good at delivering peace.

Our association with this latest version of the American dream has done nothing for our relations with the Arab states as a whole. It will take years, as the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, implied, to rebuild the trust that I believe the Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, the Gulf states and many others once placed in our Foreign Office, based on many decades of experience. Our lack of understanding of the region today must be the subject of another debate.

Today I wish to concentrate on the humanitarian situation and on the oil funds which Iraqis require for reconstruction. No one appears to know what has happened to these funds. Under UNSCR 1483, the Development Fund for Iraq was supposed to receive the proceeds of oil export sales, balances from the Oil for Food programme and frozen Iraqi funds, to be disbursed under the direction of the Coalition Provisional Authority in consultation with the interim administration. These disbursements have now been taken over by the Interim Government of Iraq.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has said, serious questions have arisen not only about oil-for-food during the last years of Saddam Hussein, but about accounting procedures during the time of the coalition. KPMG has recently reported to the International Advisory and Monitoring Board that there have been inadequate controls over oil sales and other aspects of the DFI's operations. Metering contracts to ensure accountability of oil extraction have been delayed. Oil was bartered, smuggled or illegally exported especially in the months immediately after hostilities. Contracts were awarded on a noncompetitive basis. There were inadequate records and accounting procedures.

At the CPA itself, there was a high turnover of staff, inadequate accounting systems and lack of control over spending allocations. My noble and gallant friend Lord Inge and my noble friend Lord Skidelsky have already spoken of a serious planning failure and a crisis of legitimacy. Now that the IGI has taken over these responsibilities it would be tempting for our Government to step back from their obligations or at least to point to the difficult environment in which the CPA was working. No doubt.

The oil-for-food operations are already the subject of an independent inquiry under Paul Volcker which will go on for some time. But we were one of the occupying powers in Iraq for 15 months and the KPMG audits were commissioned by the coalition in which we were a senior partner. The Iraqi people have a right to know what happened to those oil funds which disappeared under their noses, not only under Saddam Hussein, but under the new era of so-called democracy and good governance, presided over by the heralds of the new order in the Middle East.

We are speaking about very large sums of money. Some NGOs have already roughly estimated the sums involved during the time of the coalition. Iraqi Revenue Watch said in June that, $20.2 billion has been taken in by DFI, mostly through the Oil-for-Food program and proceeds from oil exports. $9 billion has been spent so far in DFI projects with an additional $4.6 billion in commitments not yet paid … By April 30, 2004, the CPA had disbursed a total of $7.9 billion from the Development Fund for Iraq". That is taken from the IRW newsletter of June 2004.

I should declare an interest here as a trustee of Christian Aid which also published a report fuelling suspicions, pointing to the discrepancies in the CPA's reporting of the DFI's income and expenditure, suggesting that large sums were open to corruption during the CPA's administration. Huge contracts were awarded at that time, as we have heard, to US firms and a range of subcontractors. We can only assume that while the bulk of this money went into reconstruction, large sums also went astray and/or were not properly accounted for. It is also clear that these contracts benefited the US at least as much as the Iraqi people. I share very much the concern of the noble Lord, Lord King, about balanced reporting.

It is therefore legitimate for interested NGOs and parliamentarians to ask what the UK Government, as the junior coalition partner, propose to do now to bring to account those who failed to explain what happened to up to 20 billion US dollars of Iraq's oil money given that the CPA is a body which no longer exists. What role did the UK Government have, as part of the coalition, in managing those elements of the finances that have been found lacking, such as the failure to meter oil extraction or keep sufficient records of oil sales?

I tabled a Question for Written Answer before the Recess and today I opened my reply from the Lord President, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. I shall not read it except for one revealing sentence: that no UK personnel or secondees to the CPA served in the controller's office or were an authorised signatory over the DFI account. That says quite a lot about the influence of Her Majesty's Government in a war which was ostensibly shared with the United States.

In my experience of the Third World there is always an excuse for missing funds. During any conflict money disappears, bandits hijack aid vehicles, officials are corrupt and so on. This is true of the poorest countries, and to some extent of every country. But Iraq is not a third-world country: it has had highly trained people, modern technology, well equipped armed forces and an efficient administration in some areas of government for many years. I am afraid that that contrasts with the picture painted by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, just over an hour ago.

I expect that the Iraqi end of the Oil for Food programme will come out quite well from the Volcker inquiry. But unfortunately the coalition chose from the start not to work with professional administrators from the previous Ba'athist regime as a matter of principle, and its successor has not yet found enough trusted Iraqi partners to replace them.

I know that our Government value the work of NGOs which are very active at the moment in a difficult situation and I hope that they are taking note of what the NGOs are saying about the need to move beyond infrastructure projects, to address immediate problems of health and job creation more directly, to work more closely with Iraqi civil society and to find new leadership in the ministries at central and local level. Obviously, there are many regional variations and positive stories, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and others.

However, taking health as one example, experienced NGOs like Premiere Urgence, the International Medical Corps and CARE International are saying that in spite of the benefits of large health-related projects, the health sector itself is being ignored. They point to the general lack of security—as everyone does—but also to the shortage of equipment and low level of hygiene and healthcare in hospitals that would otherwise be quite capable of reaching international standards. Much of this can be put down to lack of management as well as to a shortage of police and security staff to prevent looting and the targeting of hospitals by criminals.

The noble Baroness says that the Iraqis are now in charge. I am not so sure. Iraqi people, while grateful for the fall of Saddam and much else, are not yet seeing the benefits of foreign occupation or even the basic standards of accountability required by foreign donors. Community-based non-governmental organisations that are trying to get development projects off the ground are also concerned about the continuing growth of unregulated entrepreneurial NGOs which have mushroomed on lucrative foreign contracts and much else besides.

So can the Minister perhaps give an undertaking that these concerns of NGOs are at least being noted and are receiving due attention?

8.22 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, as we came to terms with the terrorist attack of 9/11 one of the commentaries on the state of the world was that Islam had now displaced communism as the major ideological threat to the West.

In the popular mind 9/11 evidenced a "new" threat, with commentators widely reporting that with this event "the world had changed". The popular view saw communism as the age-old enemy whose place had now been usurped by a new and powerful religious force.

If that is so, there is something ironic here that communism, which drew so much from a man who dismissed religion as the opiate of the people, should have been replaced in its role as challenger to the capitalist West by a religion.

The truth is that, in the context of history, communism appeared as a relatively recent and short-lived phenomenon; the major tension that has dominated the landscape of the world for more than a thousand years is the relationship between two cultures—one rooted in Christianity, the other in Islam.

What happened on 9/11 was not the eruption of a new threat but a return to and a re-emergence of an historic tension that had lain relatively dormant and in the past century been eclipsed by war with Germany and the threat of communism.

I believe that this lack of historical perspective has added to the errors of judgment in the way that both America and Britain engage with the Arab world.

We have failed to understand the history of the relationship between the two cultures, and how actions will be interpreted and understood by each party in the light of both history and religion—as with, for example, the careless use of the word "crusade". There are major theological and ideological differences between the two cultures of Christianity and Islam; there is also common ground between the two. Speaking from these Benches, and conscious of many friendships with Muslims, never in the history of the planet has it been so important to take religion so seriously. What is required by religious leaders is not just dialogue, but an urgent summit on how we shall live together.

Christianity and Islam are both missionary religions, both given to proselytising. This makes the task of finding a way to live together peacefully one of the great challenges of our time.

On the political front, governments must understand that all actions have an historical and a religious context. Present actions in Iraq and the Middle East will be interpreted in the light of that thousand-year relationship. To ignore this, or to have little regard for it, is to make the world not a safer, but a more dangerous place. That is why, on these Benches, while we have shared the Government's desire to make the world more secure, we have not been persuaded that the Government have fully understood the historical and religious dimensions of their actions. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, a truly safer world cannot be secured by military intervention alone. In support of much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, has said, what is needed is this soft diplomacy, and also a patient understanding of the historic and religious roots of the conflict of cultures and by the conviction that in today's world the well-being of one culture depends not on the destruction but on the well-being of the other.

8.27 p.m.

Lord Truscott

My Lords, I do not propose to repeat here the detailed history of the UK's involvement in Iraq, and I hope to avoid rehearsing the arguments made by other noble Lords in the House today. However, it is important that noble Lords do not fall into the trap of examining the issue of intelligence with the benefit of hindsight. We were, after all, dealing with a regime which had wilfully obstructed the United Nations over 12 years.

Since 1991, the UN had issued 17 resolutions on Iraq. Authority to go to war against Saddam Hussein derived from the combined effect of Security Council Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which specifically allows for the use of force to restore international peace and security.

On 7 March 2003, the UN weapons inspectors themselves detailed at least 29 instances of Iraq's failure to provide credible evidence of disarmament, as required by the UN and Resolution 1441, and outlined at least 17 occasions when evidence contradicted the official Iraqi account. This is not intelligence, but the report of the UN inspectors themselves.

In January 2003, UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix—who is in the Palace of Westminster today—himself reported concerns about the possible existence of chemical and biological weapons including anthrax and VX nerve gas, and the discovery of chemical rocket warheads. Missiles were being developed beyond the permitted range of 150 kilometres. Baghdad was continuing to obstruct UN weapons inspectors' interviews with Iraqi scientists.

Saddam Hussein had no intention of complying with Resolution 1441, which called for Iraq to co-operate "immediately, unconditionally and actively" with UNMOVIC and IAEA. In my mind there is no doubt that Iraq was in breach of 1441, and therefore I take issue with the rhetoric of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, who said that there is a question of legality of the war. Iraq was warned by the UN that failure to comply would constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations, with serious consequences to follow. Resolution 1441 gave Baghdad a final opportunity to comply with disarmament obligations. Therefore, there is no doubt that Resolution 1441 was Saddam Hussein's final opportunity to comply with the will of the international community and he failed to take it.

The incisive report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said the Iraq dictator continued to have, the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including, if possible, its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted". In going to war to uphold Resolution 1441, the UK was upholding the authority of the United Nations itself. A dangerous dictator, intent on developing weapons of mass destruction that he had shown no compunction in using against his own people in Halabja in 1988, and a leader who did not shy away from attacking his neighbours had to be stopped. The UN could allow Saddam only so many "last chances". Earlier, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said that the weapons inspectors should have been given more time. But I would respectfully remind the House that the reason why the weapons inspectors were let back into Iraq in the first place was because diplomacy was backed by the real threat of force.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Tomlinson that now is the time to look to the future of Iraq rather than the past. Already we have now spent too many months navel gazing, looking at the genesis of the war and the issues surrounding it. Of course the situation in Iraq remains extremely difficult and our Armed Forces risk their lives every day to bring peace and democracy to the country. But the prize is great indeed. Instead of a dictatorship which persecuted its own people, Iraqis now have a chance to rule themselves, unite their country and serve as a beacon of stability, prosperity and freedom in the Middle East.

That is something that Islamist extremists would hate to see. They prefer, as we saw so tragically in Beslan in North Ossetia, to sow death, hatred and division. We should show the people of Iraq that there is another way; that there is another path that they can follow to true democracy. We hope that the elections pass off peacefully and that we move further down the road to a truly democratic Iraq next year. It is a stance that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject—the stance taken by terrorists in places such as Beslan and in other countries. In Iraq we should not flinch from being on the side of those of all religions who seek a better life and a brighter future, free from the horrors of conflict.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, when we went on leave, as I would call it, I never knew that we would be recalled here until I suddenly saw it on that new Government machine called "government.com" or something. I decided to look at my Iraq file, which started some 30 years ago. I examined it and looked at all the debates that I downloaded. I went through all the reports that have been published. I returned to the Scott inquiry. I suddenly realised that while Genesis occupied only seven pages and 50 chapters, the reports on terrorism and Iraq and the debates were equivalent, effectively, to the whole of the Old Testament.

I wondered why, when people wrote those ancient books, they began with a few words which, over time, became more and more. If I recall Isaiah correctly—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth referred to it—it had 66 chapters and 669 pages. Is it a whole lot of waffle, or is it better that we return to original signals such as the Morse signals that I tried to use the other day when I could not use the Internet? One used to be asked to send a PIM. It went, "dit, dah dah, dit; didi, dah dah", and then one said "over" with a "k". A PIM was one's "position and intended movements". I wonder what our position is?

I have spoken in these debates before, and I have not necessarily agreed with the Government. However, one person for whom I have great admiration is the Minister. Like a good lacrosse player, she has defended herself against everything that could have been thrown at her with total and utter integrity, and great charm—often when the ball was on another pitch. She has done it in the right way. We were all behind her, though not necessarily behind the Government. Sometimes people are called PLUs—people like us—meaning that they are patriotic, nonpolitical and believe in supporting the Government. I shall support for ever and a day the right of a Prime Minister to go to war.

When I spoke, I used to say quietly that I did not think that terrorism was the right word. It was the wrong word, as we could not have a war against an "ism". It is not something that we can touch and see. We could have a war only against people or lands. I probably made the mistake of saying that the Government were terrorist-related, as the word "terrorism" means government by fear.

When the September report came out, telling us all that we should be scared stiff of ancient gases, sarins and toxins, I thought, "Never mind. They want a reason". I then watched a programme in central Europe and saw that the message was coming out again. The Home Office had sent another piece of paper saying that people should be frightened of a whole range of gases and that they should go to Marks & Spencer and buy tinned food and duck tape to protect themselves. An actuary told me that that would be like someone living in the north of Scotland worrying about being run over by a car when he was trying to get into a Division in Parliament. The odds are not in favour. I wonder why they have tried to create that fear and nervousness when it is not necessary. What shall we do now? The Government have made a series of mistakes and have been heavily criticised today. The noble Lord, Lord Truscott, talked about resolutions. Given the number of other UN resolutions that have been broken by many other people, would we be at war with the whole world? The question is about the morality of the action, which is down to the subjective view of the individual. It was obviously right for the British to intervene in Iraq because we have an historic relationship and responsibility and probably a greater duty than any other nation. However, we should have played to our own agenda. But we played to someone else's.

The right reverend Prelate talked about a cartoon in a newspaper. I saw a copy of the Sunday Times showing our Prime Minister standing just beside Mr Bush, and then two chimpanzees holding hands together. We are long-standing allies of America, but we must pursue our own foreign policy. We should listen to people who know. I went through the list of speakers in the recent debates and tried to mark out who had been to Iraq. There were very few. Your Lordships may have forgotten a wonderful man, George Brown, for whom I had a lot of time. He was a disciple of Nasser, together with Saddam Hussein. When I chaired the Committee for Middle East Trade, I would occasionally ring up George and he would say, "I was out there recently". We used to have the ability to talk to heads of state no matter who they were, whether they were left-wing, right-wing, or dictators. In some places in the world today it might be better to have a benevolent dictator.

I do not think that the Government listened to the right advice. The noble Baroness will forgive me if I refer to a communication sent in the form of a letter by ex-ambassadors to the Prime Minister. I tabled a Question for Written Answer on whether there would be an answer to the letter. I was told by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that it was answered by the Prime Minister in a statement he made with the Italian Prime Minister before he kicked his shin at football. The letter states: The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful. Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the most complex country in the region. However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive".

We wish them all well.

I am not in charge, but I must refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said: here we have what is potentially one of the richest countries in the world whose people are highly educated and really good engineers. They could put things right if they had security. Their production capacity could be much higher than 6 million barrels a day—it could be 8 million. Your Lordships have only to look at the oil prices to work out the cash flow that the country could generate if there were stability and security. With its population, it could be very significant.

I worry that we are too bureaucratic. I have read all the reports, and I like them. To my surprise, I find that ultimately most of my CDs are used as Frisbees—indeed, like others, the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, went sailing across the lawn. We have a lot of paper and a lot of wisdom. I just wish that the Government would listen more to their own people who know about Iraq.

8.40 p.m.

Lord Garden

My Lords, I shall not dwell on the sorry tale of strategic incompetence that dogged policy making before the intervention in Iraq. We have heard from many noble Lords about that and I hope that we are all able to learn the lessons from it. But as we now look at the litany of errors in the months after major combat ended on 1 May 2003, it is clear that there was equally no strategic vision for the building of the new Iraq. Much of that blame rightly attaches to the US, which was the leading nation in the coalition.

Yet the requirement for a British grand strategy does not disappear because we are the junior members of the coalition. The need for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Iraq was more urgent after the intervention than before it, yet the British Government have accepted a submissive role in the US-led shaping of policy for Iraq.

I draw your Lordships' attention to the current edition of Foreign Affairs. It contains an article entitled "What Went Wrong in Iraq". It was written by Larry Diamond, senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority for the first four months of this year and an academic. He reveals the extent of the mismanagement. Time does not allow me to go through his great long list, but he rehearses the consequences of too few troops on the ground during the post-conflict period and the use of the wrong kind of forces. He describes the coalition handling of the growing al-Sadr problem as, impromptu and incomprehensively chaotic". This seems to be the hallmark of the approaches to most of the problems we have seen over the past 14 months.

Dr Diamond gave an interview about his article in Foreign Affairs in which he made some interesting remarks about Britain's role in all of this. He said that the British were regarded just as warily by the Coalition Provisional Authority as was the State Department. He specifically said that the British Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, was systematically shut out. Dr Diamond regrets that, saying: I think if the British had been listened to it might have been better". But we are where we are and the question is: what now is the best approach for the UK Government to take?

Our strategic aim should still be to seek peace and stability in the Middle East, to reduce international terrorism and to ensure the security of energy supplies. We need to know now that none of these is likely to be achieved by accepting that US policy-makers know all the answers.

There is a good starting point for forward planning for the Government. It is the recently published House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on foreign policy aspects of the war on terrorism. It contains a section on Iraq which I commend to your Lordships. The committee makes 27 recommendations on Iraq in order to make our policy work. I enjoin the Government to take those recommendations very seriously indeed.

The committee warns that if it does not go well, the alternative to a positive outcome in Iraq may be a failed state and regional instability.

As the Minister said, better security is the key enabler. Just because the media loses interest in day-to-day reporting of the continuing unrest and disorder, it does not mean that things are improving. We have heard various illustrations in speeches today. We are approaching the 1,000th US military death in Iraq, and, as many noble Lords have said, we do not know how many Iraqi civilians have died but the number is certainly 10 times that. The wounded of all nations, whether they are UK, US, Iraqi or other contributors to the forces, go largely unreported, but violent events happen everywhere, every day—as we saw with the tragic deaths near Fallujah yesterday. The US deaths were near Fallujah because American forces have not been able to go into Fallujah since the end of April.

All of this means that there is a continuing requirement for UK security support for a long time to come. As the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, said, this is not really a very good time to be thinking about reducing our defence forces when we have these sorts of tasks ahead of us. This is particularly so when we have other obligations; for example, in Afghanistan.

Trained Iraqi police, border guards, infrastructure protection and some competent Iraqi military are needed quickly. The Minister said that there were 200,000 already, but the question is how much training have those 200,000 had. The training programmes have been unbelievably slow. The very low levels of training were reported by the CPA in its final report. The figure, for example, of Iraqi police was 88,039 but only 5,857 had been trained. Of the 18,248 border guards, only 255 had been trained. That is not good enough. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, said, it takes time to train. A largely untrained Iraqi security force will just make problems worse, and risk return to authoritarian rule using repressive means. The police approach to journalists is a worrying sign of that. Democratic accountability is not understood by many of the Iraqi forces at the moment. It also creates increasing pressure to use private military companies instead. We need to have a clear direction on the legal regime under which such companies operate and we also need transparent contract arrangements for them.

On the economic side, reports show that reconstruction targets in most areas are being missed. The lack of reconstruction progress just deepens discontent and that worsens the security situation, which makes it more difficult to do the reconstruction.

We have a deep moral and legal obligation to Iraq after embarking on what was a hasty and unwise intervention. We are investing the lives of our people—both civilian and military—as well as a heavy financial cost. We need to be sure that the British Government have a greater influence on the overall strategy than they have been able to exert so far. It is astonishing to me as it was to the Foreign Affairs Committee that we still appear to have no separate status of forces agreement for our forces with the interim Iraqi Government.

Given the scale of the UK commitment to the future of Iraq, I ask the Minister to tell us what measures the Government are taking to ensure that the UK is now able to have greater influence on the strategy of the interim Iraqi Government—greater I hope than it managed to have when the CPA was in charge.

8.48 p.m.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster

My Lords, at this late stage in a long and very interesting debate, I intend to confine myself to a few remarks about two aspects of the Butler report. I endorse the gratitude expressed by so many to the Butler committee for what is a very impressive report. I should have expected no less from the committee chaired by my noble friend and successor, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who has added to our debt to him by his speech here this afternoon.

The report demonstrates that there are occasions—the Franks report after the Falklands war was another such occasion—when an inquiry of this kind is best chaired by someone with relevant experience of the subject matter as well as unquestioned integrity and impartiality, rather than by a learned judge. A judge's integrity and impartiality will of course be beyond question, but, inevitably, a judge cannot bring to the task the sort of experience that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, brought to his.

My first point stems from the Butler committee's view that judgments in the Government's dossier of 24 September 2002, went to (though not beyond) the outer limits of the intelligence available". That is the end of the measured quotation. I do not suggest that there was any information in the dossier that did not have some counterpart in the intelligence reports and assessments on which it was based. But there is no doubt that some of the information in the dossier was presented in a harder and more positive way than the intelligence community's assessments of its reliability warranted. The necessary qualifications and caveats were omitted. What should have been presented with a "maybe" was often presented with an "is" or a "will be".

Each of us will form his own judgment about where responsibility for that lies, based on careful reading of the Butler report. My concern this evening is that we should make sure that it does not happen again. It is understandable that the Government should have wanted to make the best case that they could for what they were doing and expecting to do. I can understand why the Government wanted to buttress the credibility and objectivity of the dossier, by attributing responsibility for it to the Joint Intelligence Committee.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, that decision was mistaken. It put the Joint Intelligence Committee—indeed, the whole intelligence community—in a false position. As the Butler report explains, the collection, assessment and interpretation of intelligence is a skilled and complicated business. It calls not only for skill and experience but for unquestioned integrity and objectivity among all those engaged in it. The process will be put at risk if members of the intelligence community are looking over their shoulders at the possibility that their reports or the material in them will be published with attribution to them but without the qualifications and caveats that, in their view, affect the judgment on their reliability.

The Butler report addresses that problem. Its preferred recommendation is that if the Government want to publish a document using intelligence-derived material, they should themselves draft the document, gain the JIC's endorsement of the intelligence material inside it and then publish it, acknowledging that it draws on intelligence material, but without ascribing it to the JIC. That seems an eminently sensible and necessary recommendation and I hope that the noble Baroness who will reply to the debate will be able to tell us without equivocation that it has been accepted by the Government.

My second point relates to the Butler committee's observations about the machinery of government. Those observations are stated, again in measured terms, in paragraph 611 of the report: We do not suggest that there is or should be an ideal or unchangeable system of collective Government … However, we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informed collective political judgement". Every one of those last four words is loaded with meaning and implications for government in this country. In the British system, every member of a Cabinet—indeed, of a Government—bears collective responsibility for every policy decision and action taken by the Government, so long as he or she remains a member of it. That is as it should be. It is Ministers who will take and deserve credit for good decisions; and Ministers who will take the blame and pay the political price for bad decisions.

That principle of collective responsibility is not an outmoded, textbook concept; on the contrary, it is a practical necessity. The observance of collective responsibility is indispensable to the coherence and authority of a government. We have all seen times when the breakdown of collective responsibility has undermined that coherence and authority.

Ministers who are required to accept collective responsibility and to answer to Parliament and the electorate for major decisions of government are entitled to expect to have opportunities for collective discussion of those decisions for which they will then be expected to bear collective responsibility. They are also entitled to expect to receive the information necessary for arriving at properly considered decisions.

Those not in government who are affected by government decisions or who are required to carry them out, including members of the Armed Forces, are entitled to expect that the decisions will be taken on the basis of full information and after proper consideration and discussion by Ministers who are answerable to Parliament and the electorate.

We are told that Iraq came up at meetings of the Cabinet no fewer than 24 times. But we are also told that papers prepared for discussion on the subject were never circulated and that the subject was not discussed by the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee of the Cabinet. It really looks as if those references in Cabinet were more for information than discussion. It does not sound much like good Cabinet government.

The Prime Minister seems to prefer what has come to be described as "sofa government"; that is, sitting around and taking decisions with unelected advisers in informal gatherings at 10 Downing Street. The Butler committee's conclusion reminds us that that is in the interests neither of good government nor, as I believe, of political leadership, which wishes to command and deserve the confidence of Parliament and of the electorate.

8.56 p.m.

Lord Gilbert

My Lords, I start by commending the words of my noble friend Lady Ramsay, particularly with respect to intelligence. She, like me, winced at the introduction of intelligence matters into the public domain. I hope very much indeed that we have not seen a precedent in this case. That is one of the things that worries me most, particularly when listening to some of your Lordships' remarks, which drag up issues with respect to the proceedings of the Joint Intelligence Committee that, in my view, should never have been in the public domain.

One of the advantages of speaking late in a debate is that one has the benefit of having heard your Lordships' wisdoms and occasionally, also, your Lordships' follies. In that respect, I think that I have never heard anything quite so remarkable in contrast as the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who I am delighted to see in his place. Although I did not agree with him, he delivered an admirable and well argued, coherent speech. But he ruined it with one of the most infantile summings-up that I have ever heard. He said that it was remarkable that on this side of the House no one who cheered the Government on when at the start was here to make a speech. Well, I am here to say that I cheered the Government on and I still am. My noble friends Lady Ramsay and Lord Tomlinson are in precisely the same category. I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, informs himself a little better before he makes another peroration. In fact, if I were him I would stick to speeches and leave perorations out in future.

Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is not in his place at the moment. I was intrigued at one or two of the things he said. He was completely wrong when he talked about "new terrorism" and how appalling the happenings in Iraq, the Middle East and north Caucasus were, as though they were totally unprecedented and new forms of horror.

We should remind ourselves that what has been going on there has not been the prerogative of Arabs, people who live in the north Caucasus or Muslims. Within the memory of almost everyone in this House, such things were done by Europeans coming from a Christian background on the continent of Europe in the past 60 years. Those of us who are old enough remember what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane where the German troops put an entire village inside a church, locked the doors and burned it down. At least the Muslims have not gone around burning down each other's places of worship. We should remember what the Germans did in Lidice.

A broadsheet article only this week reminded me of what they did in the Ukraine as well. There the Germans killed children, not by accident because they happened to be in the way or were alongside adults. They singled out children in order to massacre them because they did not want people to grow up knowing about the horrors that they had inflicted and who would want to take revenge. These were not terrorists, but members of armed forces subject to discipline and wearing the uniform of their country, acting under orders. So let us be careful before we stigmatise people in the Middle East as being outwith the law and savages unknown to the human race. I will not buy it and I hope that very few noble Lords will do so.

I have one tart word for the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, whom I hold in the highest regard. I thought I heard her say that, in respect of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, we could not yet figure out who was responsible for all the terrible things that have happened in those two places. I should point out that the career of General Sanchez is for all practical purposes at an end. He will forgo any future promotion. The American brigadier in charge of Abu Ghraib has been suspended from duty. Legal proceedings have been started against many American servicemen and I would be surprised if we do not see officers of at least the rank of colonel in the dock. It will take some time to do that because the American justice system works slowly, but to suggest that the Americans do not know what is going on and are not trying to do something about it is, I think, a total misrepresentation.

I turn to Iraq itself. We have to recognise that there are two different regimes operating at the moment: a daytime regime and a nighttime regime. During the day, over large parts of the country the writ of the coalition forces still runs. At night, it does not so run. Then the militias and sometimes the bandits monopolise the streets and take complete control, despite the efforts of the extremely brave men who offer themselves up to be members of the police forces of Iraq. It is impossible for me to conceal my admiration for those who join the police forces. They do not have safe barracks to return to. They can be assassinated in their homes, in their cars or in their supermarkets; and their children can be assassinated while at school. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude and we have to hope that they will be successful. However, I am sure that they will not be successful if we do not stay. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park, pointed out, we have to go the distance.

On Iraq itself and the coalition as a whole, I think that we have made two very serious blunders. We made a great mistake in going after Najaf, and an even greater mistake in not going after Fallujah. I am quite clear in my mind about this, although of course I do not see secret papers any more. There may be things of which I am innocent, but speaking as someone who is informed by the broadsheets and by talking to officers who have returned from the front, I am clear that not going into Fallujah was a very serious mistake.

The people of Fallujah are extremely well organised. It is the home of al-Zarqawi. Such people are trying to foment civil war. Someone, at some time, has got to deal with Fallujah. If we do not, there will never be peace in Iraq. I regret to have to tell the House that I am informed on extremely high authority that the influence of Her Majesty's Government was exercised in the direction of trying to tell the Americans not to go into Fallujah, or to come out as early as possible. I have to say that I think that that was a great error of judgment on the part of Her Majesty's Government.

The Sunnis do not have a Sistani. Fallujah does not have the religious sites that Najaf has. Fallujah is the centre of extremely well organised attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi police forces. It is a centre that is attempting nothing more nor less than the total disintegration of Iraqi society. It has to be dealt with sometime or other. In my view it can be dealt with only by coalition forces. It was a very great mistake that we did not follow through when we went in in the first place.

I am fully aware that there will be casualties and that innocent people will suffer, but that unfortunately is one of the consequences of the situation in which we find ourselves.

I would like to make one last point. I am still—just—an optimist with respect to Iraq. It is easy to construct an extremely pessimistic scenario there. But I detect improvements—even along the lines of the Wolfowitz doctrine—in different parts of the Middle East since we went in and liberated Iraq. I dislike the words "invasion" and "war". There has been no declaration of war; there has been a military activity which led to the liberation of Iraq from a foul dictatorship. Our troops were engaged in an extremely noble cause and they are to be congratulated on the performance of their duties.

We have seen signs in Kuwait, with changes in the franchise for the elected assembly there. We have seen changes in Saudi, where the glimmerings of local democracy are starting to appear. There was an extraordinary conference of business people in Riyadh a few months ago where the top entrepreneurs in Saudi assembled in one large hall. Half of them were men and half were women, with a dividing line down the middle. But the extraordinary thing was that the meeting was chaired by a woman who had no headdress on. That would have been unthinkable a year and a half ago.

It takes a long time to change society in that part of the world but I am one of the optimists, unlike the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, whom I hold in the highest regard and affection. When people get offered the choice of a democratic society against any sort of tyranny they will always vote for the former.

9.7 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, it is late and I will attempt to be short.

I was interested in the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, about the method of cabinet government. I agree with him. When reading the Hutton report I saw some of those e-mails: they were sloppily written, slapdash and an immense contrast to the despatches that my grandfather sent back from Tangier in 1908, which were properly written by an educated man. They had a beginning, a middle and an end. I do not know whether he was right or wrong, but there was definitely that contrast.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, went on a bit too long about the poor wretched Germans. Since the war they have behaved so impeccably in expiating their sins that surely we should give them credit for that and not permanently go on about German atrocities in the war.

My noble friend Lord Lamont made a speech that I wish I had made myself. It does not happen frequently, but on this occasion I agreed with practically everything that he said.

I was pro-war in the beginning for the following four reasons: I assumed that they had weapons of mass destruction, though this claim was probably exaggerated; I knew that they had been in disregard of mandatory United Nations sanctions; I knew that it was a foul tyranny because I had listened to Ann Clwyd and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson; and I was fairly certain that he had been involved in some form of nasty terrorism even though I was equally certain that he had nothing to do with A1'Qaeda because he was a Ba'athist Muslim running a secular nationalist regime and hated that sort of Mohammedanism.

When it was exposed by both the Butler and Hutton reports that the weapons of mass destruction were not there, some of the numbers regarding Saddam's tyranny were open to question. The terrorism which may have been undertaken in a minor way is now being undertaken in a major way. It seems that the war should not have been fought because the situation at the moment is worse than it was before, and that is very serious.

With regard to what both the Butler and Hutton reports say, I cannot understand how the Prime Minister could say: We know that he [Saddam Hussein] has stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons". The Joint Intelligence Committee said: intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is sporadic and patchy … from the evidence available to us, we believe that Iraq retains some production equipment, and some small stocks of chemical warfare agent precursors, and may have hidden small quantities of agents and weapons". Either somebody has changed the meaning of what the intelligence committee said, or the Prime Minister is too stupid to understand the difference and thinks that he said the same. I do not think you become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with that level of intelligence.

In March last year, the Prime Minister moved the Motion that, this House … recognises that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing noncompliance with Security Council Resolutions pose a threat to international peace and security".—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/03; col. 760.] The Prime Minister also referred to a, severe threat to the wider world". The JIC assessment, however, was: Saddam has not succeeded in seriously threatening his neighbours … Saddam has used WMD in the past and could do so again if his regime was under threat". There is a wealth of difference there. Somebody took the decision to change the meaning. Who was it?

If we had believed so much that there were weapons of mass destruction, why were some units in the Armed Forces allowed to go into Basra without chemical and biological suits? Either they knew that Iraq did not have such weapons, so they did not need the suits, or it was crass incompetence for them to be allowed to go in without having those essential tools of self-defence.

This is a very sorry story. We are left with an Iraq that is in the most ghastly mess. Unfortunately, we do not have a great deal to be proud of. I was informed over dinner only today, and it does not surprise me, that our policy in Iraq in the 1920s changed every time the Government changed, without any consideration of the needs of Iraq itself. The Americans are worse—they do not do empire, which is a great pity. When you occupy a country, you have to know what you are going to do with it. You have to know how to create a police force.

Iraq at the moment is in anarchy. There are now Wahhabi terrorists, A1'Qaeda terrorists and different sets of Sunni and Shia terrorists, chopping off Nepalese cooks' heads, executing innocent Italian lorry drivers, kidnapping French journalists. This is worse than what was going on before, and this is the pickle we have got ourselves into. I have not the faintest idea how we will get out of it, I have not the faintest idea how long we will be, and it depresses me beyond peradventure.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I have listened to most of the speeches—and to those of my own party, of which there were a great many—and I agreed with two of them. Perhaps I may explain my position a little. I agreed with going to war with the object of removing Saddam Hussein because it was quite obvious that the man was totally irresponsible. In fact, one might describe him as bonkers. He went to war with Iran and lost 800,000 men. He thought that he could get away with taking Kuwait. Anybody who thought that the West would ever allow that was wholly irresponsible and a grave danger to the whole of the Middle East when in charge of a country with great potential wealth. It was quite obvious to me that it was essential to remove him to have any chance of bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East. So I backed the war.

One criticism that should be levelled at the Government, and it has been levelled by one or two noble Lords, is that they accepted American direction far too easily although advice had been given that would have been far better than the way the Americans went about things. The American Secretary of State for Defense was entirely wrong. His chiefs of staff wanted at least twice the number of men as they had some idea of the trouble that would arise after they had won the simple battle. We now have a situation where, mainly because of the lack of any control in the American section round Baghdad, our troops, who did a remarkable job in and around Basra, are now suffering from activity that was inspired by the fact that they got away with it in Baghdad and elsewhere.

We must do something positive. I hope that the Government are saying that we must stick it out. The Government also need to recognise that the history of the regiments of this country—I refer particularly to the regiments of my country, the Black Watch and the Argylls, for example—needs to be perpetuated. Different organisation may be needed but the spirit that led Riddel-Webster to take off his helmet, wave his bonnet and walk through the crowds—a brilliant move, which owed a great deal to his pride in belonging to the Black Watch—must not be destroyed. I hope the Minister will take this strongly to heart and will ensure that the traditions of the old regiments are preserved, even though a great deal of their way of working may alter.

We face quite a long struggle to get the new government in Iraq working. They need backing and will need it for more than a year. We must be prepared to back them. We must be prepared to put more troops into Iraq in order to be able, for example, to protect the roads, which are tremendously dangerous. We have a big job to do. I think that it can be done, but it will take an enormous amount of toil. It will take money and it will take people. Lives will be lost. But we must do it, otherwise we throw away the chance of peace in the Middle East.

9.19 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, drawing the short straw demands an attempt at brevity and originality. The Arab world and Muslims generally, do not trust the West and particularly the United States. While assistance is not denied, including financial or other aid, the pervasive lack of trust fosters the perception that this help is to pursue exclusively the interests and hidden agendas of donors.

The challenge is how to alter or modify such dangerous views and lay solid foundations for an equitable world of religious and ethnic co-existence, freed of poverty and corruption, with accountable government, freely chosen, for future generations. Iraqis will only realise and enjoy those aspirations once the lack of trust is overcome and a dilution of the US-imposed democratic model is achieved. Until then, internal security will remain elusive and illusory.

Entrenched perceptions and obstacles are not helped by history and long memories. The latter point was made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge, who felt it important enough to draw attention to it. The perception throughout the Arab world and elsewhere is that the United States and Britain attacked Iraq because Israel encouraged them to do so.

Further, the obstacle of extremism, flourishing in the aftermath of war, will remain until western attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims undergo positive change. Extremists tend wilfully to misinterpret religious books and derive momentum and new recruits from their tribal communities that believe in and reward revenge. Only enlightened Arabs and Muslims can, and must, be the ones to convince the extremists that what they are doing is wrong, but we in the West must help them to do so.

We should not forget also that today's Arab perspective can be drawn from shared history, most notably with Britain, with events and promises that led through contrary expectations to the Balfour Declaration; revolution in Syria, Lebanon and Algeria that sealed France's exit; and matters Italian in Libya. But it is current affairs that are fertilising extremism and distrust: imbalances between Palestine and Israel; the influence of the Israeli lobby on media control and the American elections; and partisan, expedient and unfair application of international law to the affairs of the Middle East by the United States.

US vetoes against majority votes of the UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on Israeli-Palestinian issues serve as a well-rehearsed illustration. And what of the future? Our world is in transition, evolving towards the global certainty of regionalism. Leaders and forward thinkers should be encouraged to reflect on and to work toward the certainty and essential benefits of regionalism; a shared commitment to responsibilities and resources.

A regional solution could accrue easily to such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan that do not have a history of centralised systems and only limited experience of statehood; more realistically resolve the Palestinian/Israeli difference by Israel's contribution to regionalism—recognition that its viable future depends on peaceful, constructive relations with neighbours—and allow ruling regimes more easily to implement a reform agenda, and contend with a newly endorsed conservative Iran. The question that I more increasingly ponder, however, is that if a group of senior players believes that Israel was behind the decision to attack Iraq, where does that leave decision-making on Iran, with its deteriorating relations with the United States and its seemingly pending nuclear weapons capability?

I conclude on an optimistic note: a future based on trust and understanding is a bright one, full of promise and realisable goals.

9.25 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, this has been an impressive and interesting debate. On a rough count, there were six speeches defending the Government's position; a number that were carefully neutral and balanced; and a substantial majority that were critical. I note in passing that this is a debate in which the largest number of non-Front-Bench speakers have come from the Cross Benches, and there have been some very powerful speeches—in particular the one we heard not long ago from the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster. There have been relatively few speeches from the Government Benches wishing to support the Government.

The noble Lords, Lord Tomlinson and Lord Truscott, suggested that it was time to move on; the question is, can we move on? I would argue strongly that we cannot yet move on, for three reasons. First, as a number of noble Lords said, the issue has told us a number of very worrying things about the structure of government and the absence of checks on executive dominance.

Secondly, we still have the same Prime Minister, who still advances similar reasons for loyalty to American strategy, for pre-emptive intervention and for blurring the war on terror and the containment of the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I read again this morning the speech that he made in Sedgefield in March, when he did his best to justify the war and in which he seemed to start by arguing that we were not concerned with regime change and to end by justifying the war on the ground of regime change. He declared that he was indeed concerned about Islamic extremism and terrorism well before September 2001, and again he blurred the question of Islamic terrorism and extremism, weapons of mass destruction and the intervention in Iraq.

The third reason is, of course, that the game is not over in Iraq, Afghanistan or in the wider Middle East. I read the Butler report carefully, but I have also this summer read the Woodward, Kampfner and Riddell accounts, Robin Cook's memoirs, the Philip Stephens book and Anthony Seldon's book. There is now a great deal of material on what happened and how the Government put it. The references in the books by Bob Woodward, John Kampfner and Peter Riddell are fascinating; all of them interviewed the Prime Minister and all the other major players.

What emerges is the extent to which we now have personal rather than Cabinet government. I never thought that I would look back to Mrs Thatcher's period as Prime Minister as a great period of Cabinet government in comparison with what we have now. We have a foreign policy run from No. 10; we have a disregard for the institutionalised expertise of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and we have what has rightly been called "sofa" government.

We have a Prime Minister with a passionate sense of mission, as he set out in his Chicago speech in 1998; a strong sense of the divide between good and evil; a strong commitment to close co-operation with the United States; and an optimistic belief that he could exercise more influence over President Bush than could Vice-President Cheney or the Secretary of Defense, Mr Rumsfeld. One has to remember—this was part of what influenced those of us in my party to become more sceptical about the drift towards war—the extent to which there were doubts in Washington in the spring and summer of 2002 about the direction of American policy, as expressed by James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and a number of very respectable Americans.

One of my biggest doubts about the Prime Minister is, indeed, his intelligence assessment of the United States—the assumption that Britain could have major influence in Washington and that the United States was not following a very different agenda. That is part of what Peter Riddell and others have called the "self-delusion" that led Britain's Prime Minister to war.

There is strong evidence that our Prime Minister understood that President Bush was determined on war as early as March 2002; that that war was intended to remove Saddam Hussein from power; and that he then committed Britain to go to war alongside the United States. But he had to persuade his party and his public and to justify British participation on different grounds from those in which President Bush and those around him believed, which is to say weapons of mass destruction and on a refusal to accept the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

The scepticism which my party was developing in this period rested partly on our deep doubts about American motivation. As someone has said, this was a war of choice cooked up in Washington think tanks and strongly influenced by the agenda of the current right-wing government in Israel. Ideology was overriding evidence, and there was an extraordinary degree of dependence on Ahmed Chalabi, including the belief that he could explain what was happening inside Iraq and the belief that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would create democracy throughout the Middle East; that the road to Jerusalem lay through Baghdad. All of that should have rung alarm bells not only in my party but also in No.10. We were also doubtful about the quality of the evidence in particular as produced in the September dossier because the later dossiers were worse. What we had has been described by one American intelligence official as faith-based intelligence. It was a case of "We have the conclusions, please find us the evidence" or, as Robin Cook put it in his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, "There was a selection of evidence to support the conclusion rather than a conclusion that arose from a full consideration of the evidence". Cabinet committees should have questioned this. Professional expertise should not have been swept aside. As the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, rightly said, there was a need for informed, collective judgment and for collective responsibility, which sadly failed in this case.

I say one thing in passing about John Scarlett, who has been mentioned a number of times in this debate. It is clear that, in the run-up to the war, he unwisely stepped across the invisible line that divides the professional official from the political advocate. What the consequences of that should be for his career I leave to others, but I believe that it is extremely important to maintain that line and that the Joint Intelligence Committee should be on the professional side of that line.

One of my puzzles over the past two years has been over the peculiarities of British intelligence. As professionals, I and my colleagues at the London School of Economics have a lot of contacts with US intelligence operatives and have discovered just how unhappy many of them were with the sweeping aside of their professional expertise. After all, analysis matters. It places evidence in context. It seems to me that part of what happened is that the context of the broader Middle East was lost. I particularly treasure the comment of one of the American intelligence officials at one meeting which was, Looking back, the thing we neglected most was wisdom. We did not actually think through the broader implications of where we were going". The Prime Minister deceived his party, his Parliament and his public. In the words of the Economist on its cover, he and President Bush were "sincere deceivers" or as Clare Short put it to the Foreign Affairs Committee, it was an "honourable deception", but deception it very clearly was.

The cost to British foreign policy has been very considerable. Our Prime Minister has rested British foreign policy on the idea of Britain as a transatlantic bridge between Europe and the United States. The European end of that bridge collapsed in this process, and No. 10 sank to active denigration of the position of the French Government. Peter Riddell, Bob Woodward and others make it clear that the attitude to the American position within both Paris and Berlin was sharply affected by their suspicions of Vice-President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and their growing belief that there was a submerged agenda in the American approach which now turns out, indeed, to have been correct.

What have we lost in this? We have lost the momentum in Britain's European policy. We have lost the potential of a referendum on the euro, to which our Prime Minister said he was deeply committed, and we are now putting at risk perhaps a referendum on the European constitution. It is quite astonishing to me how much of the British press accepts the submerging of British sovereignty under American foreign policy while being astonishingly suspicious about the sharing of sovereignty with our European partners.

A number of noble Lords in this debate have made comparisons with Suez. However, the appropriate comparison seems to me to be more with China in 1949 and Vietnam in the late 1960s and with two Labour Prime Ministers loyal to the United States who recognised that the United States was caught up in irrational, emotional policies and that it was better for Britain to take some distance from it. Correctly in 1949 the British recognised communist China and correctly in the late 1960s Prime Minister Wilson held back from committing British troops to Vietnam. I regret that on this occasion the wisdom of previous Labour Prime Ministers has not been followed.

A great deal has been said also about the continuing war on terror in which clearly we are committed for the next generation. There are real dangers of sliding—as I think the Prime Minister's rhetoric in his Sedgefield speech suggested—into a global confrontation. Many on the American right would welcome this, as would President Putin. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that I do not see the war in Chechnya as part of a global war on terror. Having been 10 days ago a great deal closer to a number of soldiers in Russian uniform in South Ossetia than I felt was very comfortable amidst evidence of massive smuggling by the Russian military, I am much more prepared to believe that it is the corruption of the Russian military and the vast mishandling of the whole of the north Caucasus by the Russians that has led to the bitterness from which we are now suffering in Chechnya.

One of the best points that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, with whom I rarely agree, made was that we should not overemphasise the novelty of brutality. It is not just German brutality that we have to remember, we should look also at Stalinist brutality. Nearly a million Chechens died during the Second World War. That is part of the background to the current conflict. We should remember how the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation used to behave at the end of the previous century. If it had had more effective explosives, it would have killed a lot more people in a fairly annihilistic manner. We should remember the 19th century anarchists who did their utmost to blow up as many European heads of government and state as they could.

Terrorism is a continuation of war by other means, just as Clausewitz said that war was a continuation of politics by other means. Terrorism is the action of those who do not have the ability to fight conventional war, of those who are the underdogs, the desperate and the despairing. Sadly, there is a lot of despair. The women terrorists of Chechnya are the widows of men who have been killed and many of whose children have been killed. The politics of despair is something that we have to tackle if we are to tackle the causes of terrorism, which means that we have to deal with the problems of the Arab world and of the Muslim world and of the Middle East as a whole. I say very strongly that it would be a disaster for Britain and for our multiethnic and multi-religious community in Britain to define a war in terms of Islamic terrorism.

However, we still have a commitment to Iraq and to Afghanistan, a complex set of policies towards Iran, a huge set of neglected policies towards Saudi Arabia and a neglected Middle East peace process.

Our Prime Minister said, in his Labour conference speech of 2002, By the year's end, we must have revived final status negotiations, on the Middle East peace process. In January 2003, he said to British diplomats that the Middle East peace process remained essential. I agree with him. But it has not remained central. So we have to talk about future policy and start from the past. The question we have to ask is "Can we have confidence that the Prime Minister has learned?"

His arguments are that the end has justified the means. We will only know that if the results in Iraq turn out better than their prospects currently appear, if we manage to contain the problems of Iran and if we are lucky enough that Saudi Arabia does not collapse in the next two years. A great deal is riding on the management of post-war reconstruction in Iraq, a process over which so far Her Majesty's Government have had and sadly continue to have too little influence.

9.41 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, listening to this fascinating debate today serves to remind us of the enormous depth of expertise and experience that noble Lords bring to discussion of subjects of this gravity. These thoughtful contributions add real value and understanding to the public debate at this crucial time. I join other noble Lords in expressing my heartfelt sympathies, and those of these Benches, to the people of Beslan and to the Russian people as a whole. I, too, would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, for introducing this debate on Iraq with the authority and intellectual rigour that we have come to expect from her.

Before turning to Iraq, I should like to touch on the events in Darfur. The situation is undoubtedly horrific, with murder, hunger and destruction widespread. The scenes are heart-rending and, if the UN's response and this Government's response are half-hearted, another tragedy will be added to the catalogue of calamities afflicting Africa. I hope the Minister can reassure the House that we will have an opportunity to debate it at the length it deserves in the near future.

At this late hour, I ask for your Lordships' understanding if I do not refer to all the excellent speeches, or the big picture so ably set out by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and others. I shall seek to address the present situation in Iraq itself.

First, I should like to reinforce totally what the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, so rightly said on the excellent, long-awaited maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale. We are all very much aware of the tremendous contribution he has made to our national life outside the House, and very much hope that he will continue to make that contribution within it. I hope that his forensic speech today is but the first of many, and a sign of things to come.

This country and this Parliament, as we have heard today, have engaged in an intense debate on the rights and wrongs of military action in Iraq, as well as the use of intelligence in coming to the decision to engage in conflict and the aftermath of that conflict. Strong views have been expressed by all sides throughout. They are genuinely held views, consistently argued, and, as such, deserve to be listened to and respected, regardless of whether they might or might not accord with our own perspectives.

In the post-Cold War world, new threats have emerged. Rather than two organised blocs of states facing each other in conventional ways, we now have WMD proliferation, international terrorist groups and even women suicide bombers, resulting in civilian casualties and tragic events as we have witnessed these last few days in North Ossetia. All these I have mentioned spill across borders to inflame whole regions and threaten regional and international stability.

In the case of weapons of mass destruction proliferation and in tackling terrorists and rogue states, it is not always practical to wait until the threat physically manifests itself. The American Government recognised that new geo-political environment when they developed their foreign doctrine of pre-emption designed to prevent attacks occurring. But such a doctrine is dependent upon reliable intelligence and, in a democracy, upon public faith in the intelligence upon which so many foreign policy decisions must now be based.

Like my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford, I supported the decision to take military action against Iraq to address the threat to both regional and international stability, and to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions that Saddam Hussein had for so long so openly disregarded. Many noble Lords agree that war must always be the last resort, but if we had not acted against Saddam when we did, the threat he represented would still be before us. It would still have to be tackled and possibly with far greater risk.

I, like the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Foreign Secretary, still believe that the action we took in Iraq was right. As a responsible Opposition, however, our support for the conflict was not unquestioning. The Government still owe the House and the British people an explanation for the failings in the way they presented their case or for their failure adequately to plan for the post-Saddam Iraq.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, spoke with great wisdom on the necessity of post-conflict planning, as did the noble Lord, Lord Garden. In the run-up to and during the conflict the shadow Foreign Secretary pressed the Government for a clear post-Saddam reconstruction plan. No such plan appeared and it is true that we could have achieved far more by now if an effective plan had been in place.

Many noble Lords including the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, have discussed the Butler report and highlighted the failures of the Government in the use made of intelligence material in the lead-up to the conflict. It was most interesting to hear the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, today, especially after reading carefully his fascinating report this summer. There continues to be grave concern over the conduct of this Government and whether proper use was made of the intelligence. As my noble friend Lord Strathclyde said in his response to the Butler report, The tragedy is that, although the Government had a good case for war, the way in which it was argued—as exposed, once again, in this outstanding report, which has found serious flaws in intelligence and its uses—has weakened that good case and damaged the credibility of the Prime Minister in the country".—[Official Report, 14/7/04; col. 1260.] This could be highly damaging should he need to make a similar case in the future.

Turning to Iraq itself, many noble Lords welcomed the impressive and often unsung progress that has been made in rebuilding the country and in the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim Government under the direction of Prime Minister Allawi. Positive steps have been made in sectors such as health and education but, in welcoming that, we should not forget that there is still much to be done. Our Armed Forces deserve much of the credit for helping to create the conditions in which such a handover was possible, as well as in their humanitarian work, policing civilian life in Iraq and rebuilding the country. Their professionalism and bravery in the face of considerable risks is an example to us all.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and my noble friend Lord Selsdon raised certain questions on the provision of security, which should be the first priority. Without security, the investment and NGO participation that is so vital to rebuilding Iraq will not flow. Recent reports have indicated growing unrest in parts of Iraq, including parts of the British sector, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford.

I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to explain in her winding-up speech what steps are being taken to remedy those problems, and I look forward to her answer to my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater on the press blackout.

In a centralised authoritarian state such as the Ba'athist state of Iraq, the state, via the armed forces, is often the key employer. A point that was wisely made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, in her lucid and informed speech, was the decision to abolish the Iraqi security forces, army and police, which instantly undermined both the means to enforce law and order, and created vast unemployment, affecting millions of Iraqi families.

We all hope and pray that, despite setbacks, Iraq will emerge as a functioning and successful democratic state, and that investment can be generated, making Iraq a beacon for the region. The noble Lords, Lord Gilbert and Lord Owen, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, stressed that we should stay, as we were there for a long haul and could not walk away.

Like my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater, I was encouraged to read that the BBC World Service is now operating well in Iraq.

We cannot be complacent about the huge task ahead in Iraq in tackling other weapons of mass destruction proliferation issues and the omnipresent threat of terrorism. The sad truth is that the Government's handling of the case for conflict with Iraq may have made it far more difficult to persuade the British people in the future to support military action should a future threat emerge.

9.52 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, as I am sure we all anticipated, this has been a wide-ranging and animated debate. We have covered a great deal of ground, including the legal justification for war, intelligence reports, the prosecution of the conflict, security issues, the future political process, reconstruction, our Armed Forces and the impact of the conflict on the Middle East, Russia, Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Darfur.

I very much appreciated the interesting—indeed fascinating—contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale. It was a maiden speech, despite its lengthy incubation period of 15 years. Custom in your Lordships' House rightly dictates that I should not be challenging in my response—perhaps not as challenging as the noble Lord was in his maiden speech. I look forward to the opportunity of making a less inhibited response in the future. I hope that I shall not have to wait for another 15 years to do so.

Some of the arguments are now very familiar, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, demonstrated in relation to the role of the United States, the relationship between the United States and the UK Government, and the role of the Prime Minister in particular. There were contentions about Arab views of the conflict in relation to the role of Israel, as demonstrated by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley.

Much of that contrasted sharply with the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. I agree with her that it was necessary to deal with Saddam when we did or face a far worse situation later.

I shall do my best to answer the issues raised, but I shall concentrate on Iraq. I believe that both the noble Lords, Lord Owen and Garden, were right. Success in Iraq is far from certain, but it is hugely important. I tried very hard to be balanced in my opening presentation of the situation in Iraq and could not help feeling that some of your Lordships concentrated almost exclusively on the negative.

There is a great deal that causes concern and anxiety and a great deal to arouse indignation and frustration. But there is, too, much on which we can congratulate those who are striving hard to achieve a better future for Iraq and its people.

Let me deal with the issues of security raised by so many of your Lordships. I strongly agreed with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, on global terrorism. The trends towards extreme violence against huge numbers of defenceless people is sickening. We should be under no illusion; if the terrorists could kill thousands rather than hundreds they would. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, were highly apposite in this respect.

While I do not agree with parts of the thesis put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, I strongly agreed with his point that the international community needs better means than currently available to us to deal with international conflicts, whether generated by fear of terrorism or by the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

I noted the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, on terrorism, but I have to ask her whether she honestly believed that this was the right time to say what she did about Beslan while so many children remain to be buried and grief is so raw. With respect, I felt that she came perilously close to allowing those responsible for the repellent events of last week to evade responsibility for what they did.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, repeated the points about the links to terrorism. However, I agreed with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that the evidence is not there to substantiate that thesis. I know that the noble Lord felt this was a powerful argument for intervention, but it has not been an argument—except in the general sense of regimes which challenge international law giving succour to terrorism—substantiated by the evidence available to us at the time, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, made clear in his powerful intervention.

Perhaps I can turn to some of the broader issues raised by the noble Lords, Lord Howell, Lord Skidelsky, Lord Rea and Lord Mackie of Benshie, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and to the points I was specifically asked to answer by the noble Lord, Lord King. Now more than 200,000 Iraqi personnel are on duty as part of the Iraqi security forces. That includes 93,000 police officers, 40,000 Iraqi national guards, 16,000 border police, 74,000 facilities protection services and 35,000 new Iraqi army personnel. However, the latter two are still undergoing training in large numbers. Furthermore, 10 of the 27 planned army battalions are under basic training and another six are operating at full operational capacity.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, gave us a characteristically balanced and sensible contribution. He was right to remind us that although the Butler report pointed out mistakes in handling intelligence—some particular and some systemic mistakes—it was not—emphatically not—an indictment of the whole of our intelligence operation. Again, I agreed strongly with the well informed views of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, and my noble friend Lady Ramsay. The apocalyptic judgments of some of your Lordships in attempting to rewrite the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, simply were not borne out by the report itself.

Let me turn to the Butler report and the intelligence issues, matters on which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, the noble Lords, Lord Howell, Lord Holme, Lord Wolfson, Lord King, Lord Goodhart and Lord Armstrong, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and my noble friends Lord Gilbert and Lady Ramsay concentrated together with the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Inge. I thought that the report was very good. It was clear and it was balanced, as the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, said. However, I did not think it was damning, not even in Civil-Service speak, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme, suggested, or, perhaps even more fancifully, in Mandarin, as the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, said. Many of your Lordships have tried to say that what the Butler report states is not what the report really means. It was described as "brilliant" by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and as "excellent" by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. But then, together with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, they seemed to think that they knew better what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, really meant to say in the conclusions of his report.

The report is clear. The JIC process is robust; the assessments that result are respected (paragraph 43). Broad conclusions of the UK intelligence community, although perhaps not all details, were widely shared by other countries (paragraph 457). The point has been put that the Government were over-enthusiastic or perhaps deliberately selective in making the intelligence fit the policy. Policy decisions were taken on the basis of Iraq flouting the will of the UN, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, concludes clearly in conclusion 9 of his report. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, went as far as to say that the assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was demonstrably wrong. That simply is not borne out by what the committee said at paragraph 474, where it states: Even now it would be premature to reach conclusions about Iraq's prohibited weapons … it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found". I dread to think that the noble Lord would really embrace the epithet of being rash.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, stated his case over Mr Scarlett and his post as head of the SIS. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, sadly demanded that someone should pay the price for intelligence shortcomings. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, answered her far better and certainly far more authoritatively than I can. Just because public opinion would like to see an individual take the blame, it does not mean that it is fair or right to apportion blame to an individual where it is not merited.

Several of your Lordships expressed high regard for John Scarlett. The Government share that regard, as articulated by my noble friend Lady Ramsay in her characteristically clear-sighted contribution. There were specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord King, in relation to the ISG report. John Scarlett wrote to Mr Duelfer in March following a request from Mr Duelfer to set out items from the earlier classified ISG report which we believed could usefully be included in the ISG report then under consideration. That was Mr Duelfer's suggestion. Mr Duelfer himself made it absolutely clear that the decision to publish a shorter interim report was entirely his and not the result of pressure from the British Government or any other government. The noble Lord—

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, could the Minister clarify whether that information was available to the Butler committee when Mr Scarlett gave evidence?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

No, my Lords, I cannot at the moment but I will try to clarify that point and write to the noble Lord accordingly. I shall place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, asked for assurances that the Government accepted the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we do. He has laid out four ways in which we are moving forward on the report. The one which involves Mr Ehrman as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee has attracted some criticism today. I stress that this is a temporary appointment. The Cabinet Office will make a permanent appointment to take effect during 2005 and that will be done fully in accordance with the criteria of the noble Lord, Lord Butler.

The other points raised by the noble Lord in relation to the operation of important committees discussing such matters as Iraq operating as ad hoc committees of the Cabinet in future, the points about the SIS appointing a senior officer to work through the findings and recommendations of the Butler review, focusing on resourcing and organisation of SIS validation process and the relationship of the intelligence services and the future presentation of the intelligence reports have all been accepted. But I point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in response to her thoughtful contribution, and to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in his spirited contribution, that in respect of machinery of government the noble Lord, Lord Butler, says at paragraph 611: We do not suggest that there is or should be an ideal or unchangeable system of collective Government, still less— "Still less"—my emphasis— that procedures are in aggregate any less effective now than in earlier times". I turn to the contributions of the right reverend Prelates. I join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford in his praise of the work of Canon Andrew White and the Iraqi Institute of Peace. Canon White is safe. We have raised the incident with the Interior Ministry in Iraq. I agree with the right reverend Prelate that the work of the institute is a force for unity and healing. I note his point, powerfully expressed, that the future Government of Iraq has to be seen through an Islamic prism, and not solely in western secular terms.

I agree very strongly with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that democracy is not a western luxury. Ask any Iraqi; ask Iraqi women: they want representative and inclusive government. I agreed very strongly with the very strong points made by my noble friend Lord Gilbert in that respect. The right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Portsmouth and of Liverpool were right to remind us in their thoughtful contributions about the overarching nature of Abrahamic faith and the importance of dialogue between faith groups.

I was grateful for the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in relation to the Kurds. I am struck that the Kurdish leaders often express support for our efforts to promote a political process that will ensure free and fair elections for a representative government. I doubt that the noble Lord was able to share all his views on what has happened in Iraq with his Kurdish interlocutors. But I point out to him that Kurdish members of the Iraqi Cabinet include six individuals, including the deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and, of course, a vice-president.

Many of your Lordships raised questions on reconstruction, including the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. In relation to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, which was echoed by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, KPMG is currently auditing the development fund for Iraq for the period from 30 January to 28 June 2004. The International Advisory and Monitoring Board is carrying out a special audit of the development fund for Iraq on sole-sourced contracts. The results of those audits will be available shortly, which I hope will answer some of the very important points raised by the noble Baroness.

The main use of the development fund for Iraq money has been to meet recurrent costs under the Iraqi budget, including the running of health and education programmes and paying public sector employees. The noble Lords, Lord Selsdon and Lord Garden, thought that post-war planning had been a failure. The noble Lord, Lord King, asked about achievement in terms of Iraq's future. My noble friend Lord Tomlinson also concentrated his helpful remarks on economic issues.

As regards the economy, sanctions have been lifted and the foundations of a market economy have been laid. There has been a successful country-wide currency exchange from the two currencies under Saddam Hussein to the new Iraqi dinar, which has been a remarkable success. The Central Bank has become independent of government with the task of controlling inflation. The tax system is simplified. The IMF expects growth of 33 per cent this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, was concerned about oil. Crude oil production remains at more than 2 million barrels per day and, security permitting, is on track for reaching 3 million barrels per day by early 2005. Revenues total more than 7.5 billion dollars so far this year, which are primarily used to finance ministry operating budgets. Unemployment is still high but there is a great effort to put money in to create some 500,000 jobs. DfID is providing a further £50 million for a UN job creation programme currently under way in southern Iraq.

Long-term rehabilitation of the energy sector continues. Power generation now exceeds pre-war levels of 4,400 megawatts. Water and sanitation have been improved—I am sure that my noble friend Lord Rea will be pleased to hear that. My noble friend also raised the issue of healthcare. All 240 hospitals are now functioning and the Iraqi Ministry of Health has established 24-hour operation centres to co-ordinate health issues.

Turning to schools, there are 6 million students and 300,000 teachers in more than 20,000 schools. There are 70 million new text books. Transport is improving; the media is flourishing; and, of course, there has been a great deal of work on justice. I have extensive details on all those points. I propose to write to all your Lordships who have taken part in today's debate to give further details on those points.

My noble friend Lord Bach, who is in his place beside me, has noted the points made by the noble Lord, Lord King, on pay and tax of the Armed Forces and the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, on service cuts. He will write to them in respect of those issues.

The noble Lord, Lord King, referred to the news blackout. In fact, there was widespread media coverage of the difficulties to which he referred. I regret that the Iraqi Government decided that they wanted to close down Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office for 30 days, which they arc reopening tomorrow. We have made clear to the interim government that we think it is very important that there is an open and free press operating in Iraq.

My noble friend Lord Judd raised points in relation to casualties. It is only fair to say to my noble friend that I hope he was not ascribing to the Government any lack of compassion on those issues. We seek at all times to minimise the impact of military action on civilians and of course to avoid civilian casualties, but there are no reliable figures for Iraqi civilian casualties not because we do not care, but because so far it has proved impossible to collect them. I shall be frank and say that I regret that enormously. I believe that it is a shortcoming that needs urgently to be remedied.

The noble Lord, Lord Owen, raised a number of points about the FCO's United Nations department. I shall write to him on those, but I do assure him that things are not quite as dreadful as perhaps he has been led to believe.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and, I am pleased to say, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, all spoke about the legal basis for war. The noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Goodhart, know that we have discussed these issues over and over again. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Truscott for his lucid and accurate account of this issue. However, let us be clear. Nothing I found in the Butler report calls into question the legality of the war. The view of the Attorney-General that the military action taken in Iraq was lawful remains his view, as it was then. The Government have acted in accordance with his advice at all times.

On the question of the publication of legal advice raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I hope that he will agree that the Government have put more into the public domain than has ever been done before on an issue of this nature. Equally as unprecedented is our openness over publishing intelligence, much as my noble friend Lord Gilbert may regret that, and as unprecedented as the vote in the Commons before we committed our troops.

The noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, was concerned that the conflict in Iraq diverts attention from the Middle East. I recognise that concern, but I can assure him that it has not diverted my attention, although I suspect that that is not quite enough to satisfy the noble Lord. I look forward to his tabling a debate on these issues so that I can bring the House up to date on the Middle East peace process. I look forward also to pursuing the points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon.

To be frank with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, there are many in the Middle East who are really delighted to see the back of Saddam Hussein. They believe that the coalition was right to ensure his demise. It is the Middle East conflict that remains the principal source of anger and frustration in the region—or at least that is what I have found during my recent very extensive travels in the area.

What I find remarkable about many of the contributions to the debate has been the way in which so few noble Lords have mentioned the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. In asking us to consider the alternatives to military action, some noble Lords have asked us to believe that more time would have made a difference. However, do noble Lords really believe that? We know already about 259 mass graves, and the 300,000 bodies in those graves.

Lord Watson of Richmond

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. She has raised a very important point. When on 18 March 2003 the Prime Minister rose in another place to move the Motion in favour of the commitment of British troops, he did so very clearly to, support the decision of Her Majesty's Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction". That was the core of the case made by the Prime Minister and that is what this debate is about.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, this debate is not solely about weapons of mass destruction. The Opposition parties asked for a debate about matters relating to Iraq. That is why it has been a broad-based debate. If the noble Lord wants to have a debate about specific issues, he knows that he is at liberty to table such a debate.

Again, we have gone back to blaming the Government for the decision and have moved away from the issues surrounding the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. I ask noble Lords this: do they really believe that waiting another year would have made a difference? Would Saddam have backed down from developing weapons of mass destruction? Such a supposition is not just fanciful; at worst, it is irresponsible.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords—

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am not going to give way because, as noble Lords have pointed out, I have been a fairly lonely voice on some of these issues. Many noble Lords have had the opportunity to speak and very soon we shall run out of energy, let alone anything else.

As always, the debate has been stimulating and interesting but at times, I am bound to say, in the enthusiasm to express a clear view about the genesis of this conflict, the evidence of four reports examining what happened has been reinterpreted. The plain and simple findings of those reports have been set on one side, which is worrying.

But what is more worrying is the refusal to acknowledge any improvements for the Iraqi people in facing a future without Saddam Hussein and his vicious regime.

I acknowledge today—as I have consistently acknowledged in the past—the shortcomings in the way in which the coalition governments have operated in relation to Iraq. But it strikes me that no such desire for a balanced approach afflicts some commentators, including some in your Lordships' House.

We knew before today that we would not agree on the legal basis for war. Now it seems that, although we all agree that the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, was "brilliant", as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, or "excellent" as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said, or just plain balanced and sensible, we still do not agree with his conclusions.

But surely we can agree on some points. Iraq's future without Saddam Hussein is a better prospect than Iraq's future with Saddam Hussein. Surely we can agree with my noble friend Lord Tomlinson that we want the best possible future for Iraq—a peaceful and prosperous future.

I cannot, nor would I wish to, spin away the military action of last year. But I look forward to a time when we can discuss a way forward for Iraq, as well as understanding why we continue to disagree about the past.

I hope that at some stage soon your Lordships' passion about the past will be equalled with a passion about the future, for what has been achieved and what can be achieved. Iraqi people deserve no less.

House adjourned at seventeen minutes past ten o'clock.

Back to