» Thursday, December 7, 2006

Iraq Study Group/Commons statement

The Leader, in response to a question, said that he had not rejected an Opposition request for a statement next week on the ISG report. He pointed out that he had told MPs during Business Questions earlier today that he could not promise a statement.

Mr Straw reminded journalists that he had pointed out that it was not usual to make statements on bilateral meetings of this kind, and that there would be an opportunity during Prime Minister’s Questions next week to discuss the issue. He advised journalists to await the Prime Minister’s comments at his press conference in the US. The purpose of Business Questions was to receive representations. Mr Straw referred to an exchange with an Opposition MP, in which he had undertaken to discuss it with the Prime Minister but also had not made any promise of a statement in advance of PMQs next Wednesday. The Leader then answered questions relating to party matters in connection with Iraq.

In response to further questions, Mr Straw said that the ISG report obviously was very significant. Pressed about the opportunity for a Parliamentary discussion on it, the Leader said he was not in the least opposed to having a debate on Iraq. He pointed out that the House had recently debated the subject during the Queen’s Speech. He accepted the need for Iraq to be debated fully in the House; he always had done so, as had the Prime Minister.
The Leader rejected a suggestion that it was usual practice for the Prime Minister to make a Commons statement after such bilateral talks. It was normal to do so after EU summits and some other occasions.
Mr Straw said he understood the significance of the report; he had read the executive summary. Asked if he agreed with the burden of that, the Leader replied, yes. Pressed to explain in detail what he agreed with, he said others had been able to study the situation with greater intensity than he had during the past six months. He agreed that everyone had to pay close attention to it. Asked if it would be discussed at the Cabinet next Thursday, Mr Straw he could not be absolutely certain but he would be surprised if it was not raised. The Prime Minister was in charge of the agenda.

He was asked whether he had a sense of failure about Iraq, in view of his experience at the time as Foreign Secretary. Mr Straw said that, on the question of whether he thought it had been the correct decision to take the action against Iraq in March, 2003, the answer was yes, based on the best information that had been available. To the further question of whether "things have gone wrong," his response was "patently", as he had indicated to earlier in the year. Very few people had predicted the scale of the insurgency and the difficulty of the security situation, he added.

The Leader said that the Government had to work at where it was at. He rejected the suggestion that looked at objectively, the mission had failed. He said that, in retrospect, the extent of the effort to reduce the influence of Baathism had gone too far, which was acknowledged in the ISG report. The Leader, asked about the views of the former US Secretary of State at the time, said he was not party to the American discussions.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news

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