» Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Butler Report

Asked the Prime Minister’s opinion on why he hadn’t been told by the Foreign Secretary in September 2003 that a key piece of evidence had been withdrawn, the PMOS said that as the Foreign Secretary had made clear in the House last night, a pro forma request had been put to him in September 2003 for this information to be passed to the ISC. This underlined the fact that, at that point, the information was being regarded as operationally sensitive. In addition, as we had made clear throughout last week, the piece of intelligence in question was just one element of the whole picture on chemical and biological weapons (CBW), not the only one. Asked if he was implying that the Prime Minister had not been told because the information had been considered operationally sensitive, the PMOS said no. He was simply making the point that the particular piece of intelligence under scrutiny was only one element of the overall picture on CBW.

Asked if the Prime Minister would have been under any obligation to inform Parliament were he to have been told that the intelligence had been withdrawn, the PMOS said that it wasn’t his policy to answer hypothetical questions. That said, the important point which should not be overlooked was the fact that the intelligence was only one element of the overall picture on CBW. Put to him that Lord David Owen, a former Foreign Secretary, had said this morning that he found it difficult to believe that Jack Straw would not have told the Prime Minister who, in any event, would have been informed by the Intelligence Co-ordinator, the PMOS said that he had been setting out the factual position for the past week. It had not changed. Asked if any Downing Street official had been told, the PMOS said that he had absolutely no intention of getting drawn into a discussion about processology. The important point was that the piece of intelligence had been only one element of the overall picture on CBW. Asked if it might be the case that someone in Downing Street had acted as a ‘filter’ and had decided that it would be better not to inform the Prime Minister that the information had been withdrawn, the PMOS said he thought that the conspiracy theorists were overlooking the important fact that the intelligence in question had only been one element of the overall picture on CBW. Asked how the Prime Minister felt about being kept in the dark, the PMOS repeated that people should reflect on the fact that the withdrawn intelligence had been just one element of the overall picture on CBW, not the only one. Put to him that the fact that the Prime Minister also hadn’t been told that the 45-minute claim had referred only to battlefield weapons showed a distinct pattern emerging, the PMOS said it was important for people to maintain a sense of perspective. He underlined again that the intelligence under scrutiny had been only one element of the overall CBW picture.

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

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