Lord Paul Tyler writes: Chilcot and Iraq: The Verdict

The House of Lords debated the Chilcot Report on 12th July 2016: here are some of the key quotes from Peers who spoke, giving some flavour of the debate:-

“The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, said that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect at the time of the vote. I beg leave to question that judgment. Charles Kennedy was described as being guilty of appeasement. He was told that he was similar to Neville Chamberlain, and a national newspaper printed a photograph of him with the word “Traitor” underneath. There was by no means mutual respect. So the reactions on these Benches to the report from Sir John Chilcot are, as might be imagined, somewhat mixed. But the one thing on which I hope we can all agree is that Charles Kennedy’s principled leadership on this issue has been vindicated, as indeed has the similarly principled stance taken by Robin Cook.”- Lord (Ming) Campbell of Pittenweem (Liberal Democrat)

“In Parliament, as we have rightly been told, the Liberal Democrats—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and his colleagues—stood out. Charles Kennedy was a great party leader, who showed great courage. It was the Liberal Democrats’ finest hour, and reminds me of the South African war, when Campbell-Bannerman and Lloyd George condemned the British Government for “methods of barbarism”. In government there was, of course, Robin Cook. Chilcot is a complete vindication of what he said on every aspect—on weapons, on security and on the flouting of the United Nations. He was indeed a great man, and a very considerable loss.” – Lord (Ken) Morgan (Labour)

“ I note that last weekend the noble Lord, Lord Prescott —second-in-command in the Blair Government —wrote:

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq war, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right.

I salute the noble Lord for that. I would be even more impressed by his candour if he admitted that Charles Kennedy, and Liberal Democrat MPs, of whom I was one, took precisely that same view in March 2003.”- Lord (Paul) Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

“I say immediately that the decision of the young leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, to oppose the war was an outstanding example of political integrity and courage…

In another place they are perfectly right and proper to examine whether this represents contempt of Parliament; otherwise, what do we do? Do we just leave it? How many people ever knew, years on from the Suez crisis, that we had colluded with the Israelis and the French to occupy the Suez Canal? It is absolutely essential that this much is learned, because I am one who believes that we may have to intervene in the future. I do not want what happened in the aftermath of this war to condemn all military interventions in the future.”- Lord (David) Owen (Independent Social Democrat)

“Some of my colleagues may remember me coming back from the Library and waving it about, saying that it looked a bit like a student’s A-level dissertation and did not contain much evidence. That was actually not far from the truth because as my noble friend Lord Campbell reminded us it was in fact taken from the thesis of a PhD student from somewhere in California. Our instincts were right. It was not impressive or convincing and I am proud to remember that my party, led by Charles Kennedy—against the jeers and mockery of a lot of people in other parties—opposed military action at that time. We wanted to see a second UN resolution and Hans Blix and his team given time to finish their work.” – Baroness (Jenny) Tonge (Independent Liberal Democrat)

“The International Criminal Court postponed the exercise of its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression until 2017 and it will not be retrospective—so what can one do about instituting a war of aggression? There are calls for Mr Blair to be brought before Parliament for contempt of Parliament on the grounds of his misleading the House of Commons. Such an offence has a long and ancient history in law, and it is not obsolete. It was used in Canada as recently as March 2011; as a result, the then Canadian Government fell and there was a general election…

For the moment, Mr Blair faces the court of public opinion. Chilcot supplies the evidence which convicts both him and those who surrounded him in making that fatal decision.” – Lord (Martin) Thomas (Liberal Democrat)

“A leader with Tony Blair’s skills, determination and unquenchable self-belief should not have been presiding over a system which offered so little challenge. This sad story, which cost many British lives and is still costing so many Iraqi lives, has done lasting damage to public confidence in politicians and the political process. It has undermined in our country the very democratic institutions which our Armed Forces risk their lives to defend, and we owe them better”- Lord (Alan) Beith (Liberal Democrat)

“Chilcot speaks of the development of widespread sectarian conflict, the victory of terrorist groups, the collapse of the democratic process, the division of Iraq and the damage to the UK’s political and military reputation. Looking at the situation now, like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London I point to the—at least—10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Iraq itself is hosting 250,000 refugees from Syria.

This has been a deeply troubling debate about a deeply troubling period in our history.” – Baroness (Lindsey) Northover (Liberal Democrat)

The full debate can be seen here.

* Lord Tyler is the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform.

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One Comment

  • Bernard Aris 14th Jul '16 - 10:26am

    Dear Lord Tyler,

    It is gratifying to read that the LibDem Lords and Ladies let the Tories and Labour colleagues have it from all barrels, and that even David Owen, setting aside his spite of our merged party, joins by praising Charles Kennedy.

    Did the LibDem Lords repeat or (from their expertise or experience) reinforce the point Tim Farron put in his reaction to Chilcott, that, like is the rule now in Dutch government & politics, cabinet ministers (or: the government) considering intervention in foreign conflicts (or under “Obligation to Protect”-rules protecting persecuted minorities) must
    1) seek independent advice from an appointed Government Advisor on International (rule of) Law on that proposal, and
    2) forward that advise alongside the memorandum about what they’re planning to parliament;
    3) Parliament then can debate the proposal, using the content of that expert advice.

    In his submission to the Chilcot Inquiry, professor Philippe Sands QC specifically cited the conclusions of the Dutch Davids inquiry (which investigated the way a Dutch rump government decided to give “Political support” to the Iraq invasion in 2003), deploring that whereas ex-judge Davids had four lawyers (himself included) in his seven man team, Chilcot had none.

    That Chilcots team didn’t include lawyers, is no reason not to emphasize this juridical/political point. It is typical of the Social-Liberal approach to how to handle peace & war.
    Did the Law Lords raise this aspect?

    Bernard Aris
    D66 parliamentary researcher (since 1989).

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