» Monday, February 2, 2004


Responding to media reports about WMD in Iraq over the weekend, the PMOS said that the difference between last week and this week was the fact that the Hutton Report, like the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) report and the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report, had cleared the Government of allegations of having politically interfered with, falsified or hyped the intelligence on WMD. That allowed us to address – hopefully in a more rational way and in a more rational context – the perfectly valid questions that people had asked about WMD. While David Kay’s interim report from the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) had found evidence of WMD programmes and concealment activities, it was equally true, as the Prime Minister had acknowledged in his Observer interview a week ago, that we had yet to find WMD in Iraq. We had also been talking with the American Administration and were keeping in close touch with their thinking on how to approach this issue. Clearly, the US Administration was coming close to announcing what it intended to do to address the questions. In the same way, we were also coming close to announcing how we would approach them, but we would want, first of all, to make that announcement to Parliament. The PMOS said that he was unable to say at this point whether that was going to be today or later than that. Once we were able to confirm when it would be, we would let people know. The announcement would be made as soon as was practicable.

Asked if the announcement would be made in the Prime Minister’s reply tomorrow to the ISC report on intelligence and assessments of Iraqi WMD, the PMOS said that the two were entirely separate. Asked if he was indicating that an inquiry into WMD was going to be announced, the PMOS declined the invitation to get drawn into a discussion about the details of the announcement. Parliament would be the first to hear about it, as was only right and proper. Asked if it would be a Prime Ministerial announcement, the PMOS said that the format was less important than the announcement itself. Asked if it would be similar to the announcement expected to be made by President Bush at some point this week, the PMOS said that people should be patient and wait for the announcement. He was simply making the point this morning that we recognised that there were questions which needed to be addressed. We would announce shortly the way in which we were going to do that. Asked if the Prime Minister’s appearance before the Liaison Committee would count as making an announcement to Parliament, the PMOS said that there were a number of different ways in which an announcement could be made to Parliament, especially since there were several suitable occasions this week. In this case, it would depend on the timescale.

Asked the Prime Minister’s reaction to the Leader of the Opposition’s suggestion that he and Charles Kennedy should be consulted before any announcement was made, the PMOS said that the proper time to address these questions would be once the announcement had been made. Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister would meet the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Kennedy on Privy Council terms before making the announcement, the PMOS repeated that the time to address these questions was at the time of the announcement, not at this point.

Asked if the Prime Minister no longer wanted to wait for the ISG’s final report before commenting on WMD, the PMOS said that the ISG’s work would, of course, be highly relevant to the announcement. However, he thought it would be better to wait until the announcement was actually made before having a proper discussion about the precise interaction between the two. Asked if the Prime Minister continued to stand by his statement about waiting for the ISG report, the PMOS said that he continued to stand by what he had said. He would be able to answer the question in more detail once the announcement had been made. Put to him that it was reasonable to assume the Government had recognised that the tactic to hide behind the ISG report was no longer sustainable, the PMOS said that what had changed was the context of the situation inasmuch as this time last week we had still been facing accusations that the Government had in some way falsified the intelligence. Lord Hutton’s Report, together with the reports from the FAC and the ISC, had all underlined that that was not the case. The situation post-Hutton provided a more rational context in which to address the questions that were being asked. These things were not in competition with one another. They were working in parallel. That was also why we were working in parallel with the US Administration.

Asked when the ISG was due to report, the PMOS said that it was a matter for the ISG to establish its own timetable. Asked if there were any plans for the Prime Minister to speak to David Kay, the PMOS said that we remained in contact with the American Administration at all levels. We would discuss conversations with individuals like Dr Kay as and when it was relevant to do so.

Asked if it was fair to say that the Hutton, ISC and FAC reports had cleared the Government of political interference, exaggeration or hyping the evidence when none of the reports had examined the issue of the 45-minute claim, the PMOS referred journalists to Lord Hutton’s conclusions which had cleared the Government of falsifying the intelligence.

Asked if the Prime Minister had always intended to make a statement to the House about WMD after the publication of the Hutton Report, the PMOS said we had recognised that this issue would become particularly relevant after the Report. However, it would have been virtually impossible to address the question prior to publication.

Asked if he would agree with the characterisation that the Americans had ‘blown the whistle’ and the UK had responded swiftly to the summons given the fact that only twenty-four hours ago the Lord Chancellor had said that it would not be helpful to pre-empt the ISG report, the PMOS said no. We had been aware for some considerable time that this was an issue which would have to be addressed at this stage, hence our ongoing discussions with the US. We were trying to be as open as possible. We would be able to address the issues properly once the announcement had been made. Asked what we were waiting for, the PMOS said that there were details which needed to be resolved before making this kind of announcement. Questioned as to why the Prime Minister had not made his announcement last Wednesday, the PMOS said that it was better to keep the two issues separate. On the one hand, last Wednesday had been about Lord Hutton’s conclusions. On the other hand, we were looking to make an announcement on how to deal with the question of WMD.

Asked if it was possible to look at the ‘valid questions’ of WMD without evaluating the value of intelligence offered at different stages of the proceedings, the PMOS said that in order to answer the question, he would have to get into the detail of the announcement, which he was not prepared to do at this stage. Asked if the Prime Minister no longer agreed with Lord Falconer’s view that little would be achieved by constantly looking and re-looking at what the intelligence had said, the PMOS said that there were different ways of considering the question. The question that Lord Hutton had examined was different to the one we were talking about today.

Asked if the promise of a possible inquiry was an indication that the Prime Minister was now pessimistic about finding WMD, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister’s position on WMD had not changed. As he had stated from the outset, he would be guided by the facts. The important thing, therefore, was to find out what those facts were. We hoped that the allegations about his integrity and so on were a thing of the past and that we would be able to answer the questions in a better atmosphere. Asked if the allegations that the Government had ‘sexed up’ the intelligence material would not form part of any inquiry we might set up since the issue had already been looked at by Lord Hutton, the PMOS said that he was unable to go into detail about the announcement at this stage. However, he would underline once again that the reports from Lord Hutton, the ISC and the FAC had all come to the same conclusion – that the Government had not been involved in falsifying the intelligence.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Post a public comment

(You must give an email address, but it will not be displayed to the public.)
(You may give your website, and it will be displayed to the public.)


This is not a way of contacting the Prime Minister. If you would like to contact the Prime Minister, go to the 10 Downing Street official site.

Privacy note: Shortly after posting, your name and comment will be displayed on the site. This means that people searching for your name on the Internet will be able to find and read your comment.

Downing Street Says...

The unofficial site which lets you comment on the UK Prime Minister's official briefings. About us...


February 2004
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Jan   Mar »

Supported by


Disruptive Proactivity

Recent Briefings



Syndicate (RSS/XML)



Contact Sam Smith.

This site is powered by WordPress. Theme by Jag Singh