» Monday, March 1, 2004

Butler Inquiry

Asked for a reaction to the news that the Conservative Party had decided to withdraw from the Butler Inquiry, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the letter from the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister informing him of his decision had only arrived while he had been on his way over to the briefing. Consequently, he was unable to give a detailed response at this stage. That said, he would draw journalists’ attention to the fact that the FAC, ISC and Lord Hutton had all dealt with claims that individuals had distorted the information contained in the dossier on WMD or had misled others over intelligence, clearing people of any such wrongdoing. After the Hutton report, we had said we hoped that other issues surrounding intelligence and any discrepancies between the intelligence before the war and what had transpired afterwards could be dealt with in a more rational way. That was why we had established the independent Butler Inquiry. It was up to Lord Butler and his inquiry team to decide how they should carry out their work. Asked if all this had been made clear to the Leader of the Opposition, the PMOS said that as we had told people at the time, the FAC, ISC and Lord Hutton had looked at claims that individuals had deliberately distorted intelligence material, and had concluded that there was no substance to them. We believed that the Butler Inquiry should look at the broader questions relating to intelligence in a more rational way.

Asked if the Opposition Leader had requested the words “use of intelligence” to be included in the Butler Inquiry’s remit because he had thought that it meant an examination of individual actions, the PMOS said that it wasn’t his job to comment on party political matters. He reminded journalists that the context had been set out in briefings we had done at the time. Pressed further about what the term “use of intelligence” meant, the PMOS said that part of the Inquiry’s remit was 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” rather than investigate allegations that people had misled or discredited the information, which had already been looked at by the FAC, ISC and Lord Hutton.

Asked if there was a danger that the Butler Committee might now fall apart because, in the light of this afternoon’s announcement, it no longer had the requisite numbers, the PMOS said he wasn’t aware of any change to the Committee’s membership. The Inquiry would continue under the independent chairmanship of Lord Butler. Questioned as to whether the Inquiry would be able to continue to preserve its credibility, the PMOS repeated that the Committee was carrying out an independent inquiry, the remit of which was to look independently at the issue of intelligence. It continued to have a broad-based membership. Any changes were a matter for the members concerned, not him. Asked if the Prime Minister would rule out a further broader inquiry, as originally called for by opponents of the Iraq conflict because of the perception that the Butler Inquiry had lost its legitimacy, the PMOS repeated that the Butler Inquiry would continue. It was an independent Committee, with independent members. It was up to them to decide whether they wanted to take part in it or not. Asked if the Prime Minister wanted all the members to continue serving on the Committee, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister obviously the Inquiry team to be as broad-based as possible. Ultimately, however, it was for the members themselves to decide whether they wanted to participate. Asked to explain how the Inquiry could possibly survive when even the Government’s intention to model it on the Franks Committee was now impossible, the PMOS said that the Butler Inquiry’s remit was to “follow the procedures of the Franks Committee” not model itself on it. He repeated that it was entirely matter for others to decide whether they wanted to take part in it or not. We had set out the objectives and the Committee was continuing to carry out its work.

Asked for a reaction to the suggestion that the latest row about the Inquiry was due to the fact that the Government had rushed to follow the lead of the US and set up its own Inquiry, the PMOS said that it had been a number of weeks since we had announced that the Inquiry would be set up. Nothing had changed since then.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news


  1. Lies, spin and more lies. "We have already been cleared of any wrongdoing countless time by independent committees and enquiries". Yeah, right. These continued self-righteous lies from Tony Blair make my blood boil. I’ve seen these committees in operation, and the way they skillfully avoid asking the right questions is staggering enough in itself, but for the PM to then claim these flunkies have cleared him of any wrongdoing is laughable in it’s childish audacity.

    And what is even more staggering is how many people seem to believe the PM on this point. "The country has had enough of enquiries" says Blair and the sheep echo "yes Tony, three bags full Tony". What IS it with these people?!?! I just cannot believe how many people in this country seem quite happy to sit back and let the Government do and say what they want, confident in the knowledge that they would never abuse their positions because "they have been elected". What kind of reason is that?!?! Still, I guess one shouldn’t expect too much from a nation whose favourite newspaper is the Sun…

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 2 Mar 2004 on 11:30 am | Link
  2. And they wonder why the turn-out decreases every time we’re asked to vote for something that doesn’t involve force feeding worms to celebrities.

    Comment by pid — 2 Mar 2004 on 11:48 am | Link
  3. There were no WMD. The reasons we went to war were therefore false. Tony Blair is then either stupid or lying, either way, cause for concern. The fact that these "inquiries" fail to turn up anything is why we are sick of them. We would all welcome them if they worked.

    I think turn out would be far better if we voted on feeding celebrities, or politicians, to worms.

    Comment by Lodjer — 2 Mar 2004 on 1:08 pm | Link
  4. A wonderful site- i wonder if the authors have considered also posting the gallery news service summary of the Lobby briefing which is e-mailed out to subsribers each day (for free).

    This is a "neutral" summary of the lobby briefing from the Lobby PoV. For example for Monday’s AM briefing they said:

    No immediate action against Clare hort’s ‘cocking a snook’ at Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull is pending, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman made clear today.

    Sir Andrew had set put the position in his letter to Ms Short – warning her that as a former Cabinet minister she was still bound by the Ministerial Code – and that was the Government’s position, said the PMOS.

    " I have nothing further to add to that. The Prime Minister was obviously aware of the letter and approved of it."

    " If and when we do have a view then no doubt we will tell you about it. The situation is as it is at the moment.

    Asked if any further consideration of Ms Short’s status as a Privy Councillor had taken place, the spokesman said it had not.

    Questioned further, he said he was not sure who had the power to take away Privy Council status.

    It was put to the PMOS that if nothing could be done about Clare Short’s actions and she was able to ‘cock a snook’ at Sir Andrew, then the authority of the Cabinet Secretary was ‘a total and utter joke’.

    The PMOS replied, " Sir Andrew’s letter sums up the position and that is as far as it goes at the moment.

    " Sir Andrew wrote that letter because that is part of his duty as Cabinet Secretary to inform ministers of the Ministerial Code and remind ministers of the Ministerial Code."

    What mattered, he said, was what was happening on the ground in Iraq where the foundation stones of democracy, were being put in place. " We are not going to allow the pace to be set by other people."

    Questioned whether current bank profits might result in the Chancellor introducing a ‘windfall tax’, the spokesman said, " That is a question with DTI and Treasury written all over it."

    Asked about the reports that the Prime Minister had slept on a park bench in London as a teenager, the PMOS, said the Downing Street press office had been laying bets on who would ask the question.

    " We have nothing to add except to confirm that he did sleep one night on a park bench. Which park bench, I don’t know; whether it can be
    preserved for posterity, I don’t know; what meal he ate on the park bench, I don’t know; what the menu was on the park bench, I don’t know."

    Comment by British Spin — 2 Mar 2004 on 1:35 pm | Link
  5. Whether or not the war was legal / the WMD report so altered / the inquiries leave out important issues…. no one trust’s tony blair and his government. Its time to get rid of them all.

    Comment by Gaz — 2 Mar 2004 on 1:45 pm | Link
  6. A wonderful site this is, but its a pitty I cannot say the same for our esteemed benevolent pres-dict-{oops}-Prime Minister.
    Well I guess lies are what you expect from government but I never thought that they would go so far as to say "The labour party", as opposed to "the evil money grabbing spin doctor saying if your not rich then die party" with the main policys taken from a book by George Orwell, the title was a date.

    Comment by Dikkie — 2 Mar 2004 on 1:57 pm | Link
  7. While it is only very loosely connected (although if you look at it in terms of duplicity it’s one and the same thing), I saw an item on the news a few minutes ago about a group of lawyers taking the government to the ICC in the Hague for war crimes. Imagine what would happen if the ICC ruled that the war was illegal… What WOULD Tony have to say then?!?! I can’t wait for this one to unfold!!!

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 2 Mar 2004 on 2:05 pm | Link
  8. The ICC has always been at Lords, and I’m lost as to why a minor, though improving, cricket nation such as the Dutch would have anything valuable to add to the debate… Nuances of the LBW rule may be within their cricketing remit, but commenting on legality of war is well outside their realm of expertise. Did these ill-advised lawyers buy their law degrees from an american internet university???

    Comment by Zippy — 2 Mar 2004 on 2:27 pm | Link
  9. One can only imagine they went to the same dodgy law school as the Attorney General…

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 2 Mar 2004 on 2:31 pm | Link
  10. I imagine that the Butler Report is going to be like the Hutton Report – a complete Whitewash so why would responsible politicians participate and waste valuable time?

    Have any people commited to prison by Hutton appealed their sentence yet – on the grounds of Hutton’s flawed logic?

    OK I’m a nerd – I read the Hutton Report and all of the appended material.

    If our intelligence services are as slap-dash as the people ‘black-lining’ e-mail addresses in the appended material then God help us. Two poor people (hunt for them yourself) must have really upset someone because their e-mail addresses were not ‘black-lined’. Interestingly revealing the destination for most of the other ‘black lined’ e-mail addresses.

    ……and a ‘just for fun’ question:-
    Did anyone ask for the original electronic copies of the e-mails to see who was on the bcc (blind carbon copy) list?

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 2 Mar 2004 on 2:55 pm | Link
  11. "Did anyone ask for the original electronic copies of the e-mails to see who was on the bcc (blind carbon copy) list?"

    Isnt this rather pre-supposing some discernable level of technical competence??

    ISTR Hutton sending out on numerous occasions for extra ink for his quill and some more blotting paper……..

    Besides, asking such a question might mean that some evidence might actually come out. And that could be most unseemly. If there was some evidence, it might even go as far as to point a finger of suspicion at either an elected or non-elected official! Far better to let the BBC and Gilligan be the scapegoat.

    Comment by BiZ R — 2 Mar 2004 on 3:16 pm | Link
  12. Not only must justice be done, but justice must be seen to be done.

    Comment by Mike — 3 Mar 2004 on 12:42 am | Link
  13. The Butler Inquiry: http://www.butlerreview.org.uk


    Not The Butler Inquiry: http://www.butlerreview.org

    Comment by Egon Ronald — 3 Mar 2004 on 10:59 pm | Link

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