» Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Asked if the Prime Minister accepted that he had misled the country and Parliament over the 45-minute claim in the light of the Foreign Secretary’s announcement today that MI6 was withdrawing it, the PMOS said no. He pointed out that this was not new information. We had acknowledged at the time of the Butler Inquiry that there were question marks over the particular piece of intelligence under scrutiny. All the Foreign Secretary had been doing today was formalising the position as set out at the time. Asked repeatedly why the Prime Minister would not go to the House and apologise for misleading Parliament in his Statement in September 2002, the PMOS said, firstly the Prime Minister’s Statement then had been based on the state of knowledge at the time. Equally, when that knowledge had changed, he had acknowledged that and had accepted full responsibility in his response to the Butler Inquiry in July. Today’s Statement by the Foreign Secretary reflected the fact that the Security Services had now formally ‘withdrawn’ the 45-minute claim. Again Parliament had been informed in the proper way.

Asked repeatedly when the Prime Minister had apologised, as he had said he had done in his Observer interview, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister acknowledged the mistakes and had expressed regret both in his response to the Butler Report and in his speech at Brighton. But, as he had said then, what he would not do was apologise for the war because he believed that the fundamental reasons remained totally valid – i.e. Saddam’s continued defiance of the UN, and in particular his refusal to comply with Resolution 1441. The Prime Minister’s concern was that the critics of the war were trying to elide an acknowledgement of, and regret for, mistakes in the intelligence information into saying the war was wrong. That he would not do.

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

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