by Dick Barry
Tipped In Their Favour
The following is the reply from Matthew Hancock, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, to the debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) published in the February issue of Labour Affairs. The debate was held on 15 January 2015.
It is a pleasure to respond to this crucial debate on TTIP. We must set the debate in the context of Britain’s great trading history, from the wool trade of the middle ages and the spice routes of the 17th century to the Pax Britannica in Victorian times, which saw the Navy deployed to keep the lanes of trade open around the world. As a nation, we are deeply committed to free and fair exchange, and with remarkably few exceptions that was the consensus in today’s debate. With the abolition of the corn laws by a Conservative Prime Minister, we were the first country in the world to open ourselves up to foreign competition. Peel knew that one tackles the cost of living not by fixing markets but by setting them free, and that is a lesson that holds true today.
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Stroud) (UKIP)
Is—(Interruption) Is TTIP really about setting markets free, or is it about having a single regulatory system across the Atlantic whereby people will be forbidden from selling things unless they comply with those regulations?
TTIP is about free and fair trade and since 1970 the percentage of people worldwide who live on less than $1 a day has fallen by 80% when adjusted for inflation, not because of public works or central planning but because of the dawn of market liberalism in countries that once embraced state control. That point was made by Members on both sides of the House. Indeed, the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), whom I congratulate on opening the debate, set out how TTIP can demonstrate trade liberalisation and, alongside the trans-Pacific trade partnership, or TTIP, which is proposed between the US and countries around the Pacific, and the EU- Canada deal, can form the basis of a global free trade area with global standards to which others could aspire. I very much agree with him on that point.
Does the Minister agree that there is a strong case for a trade relationship with Africa, particularly north Africa, given that a lot of the pressure for migration comes from inequality? We should be sharing the fruits of global trade rather than hoarding it for the rich nations.
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, not just about Africa but about progress on the India trade deal. This raising from grinding poverty of billions of people has come about because they have been able to access the world market economy. That is a vital way of fighting poverty around the world.
Will the Minister explain why the Government’s leaflet on “TTIP myths” claims that a family of four would benefit by £400 a year yet makes no mention of the peer-reviewed paper from Tufts university that predicts that over 10 years the average working Briton will be more than £3,000 worse off as a result of the lower wages that TTIP will fuel? Why is that not included in his myths?
The conclusion that trade raises wages and prosperity is borne out not only in the theory but in the evidence. The evidence of my lifetime has been that enhancing trade increases prosperity. That has happened in the decades for which I have been on this earth in a greater way than in any other time in history. About £1.5 billion in goods and services is traded between the US and Europe every day and 13 million jobs are linked to that. This ambitious agreement has the target, which it could meet, of adding as much as £10 billion to the UK. What does that figure mean? It is all but meaningless to all but the largest companies.
This is what it means. Let us picture a small business owner who, five years ago, might nearly have gone under through no fault of his own thanks, in part, to the economic circumstances. Like so many small business owners, he did not give up and recently things have got better. The recovery might have delivered for him here, but he might want to expand and take on more staff and he might find people in America who want to be customers. He wants to sell his product to more people, but if margins are tight the prohibitive extra cost of the trade barriers means that that simply is not an option. Now, let us picture a post-TTIP world in which those costs do not exist. We have not only increased the UK’s GDP but managed to ensure that someone can trade, creating an apprenticeship or a job to fulfil those orders, and in America somebody can get a product that they could not get before. That reciprocity—that “something for something”—explains why free and fair exchange makes us all better off.
So how do we make that a reality? First, we must significantly reduce cost differences in regulations by promoting greater compatibility while maintaining high standards of health and safety and environmental protection, especially for cars, pharmaceuticals, food—which was mentioned by Members in all parts of the House—and financial services. Secondly, while tariffs are low on many goods, we must tackle the high remaining tariffs on, for instance, food, clothing and other goods that impede exports and hurt customers. Thirdly, we must push for better market access for service companies, which make up almost three quarters of the UK economy. Where possible, we will seek a guarantee that our service companies are treated exactly the same way as US providers and do not face any additional regulatory requirements beyond those that US businesses face. Fourthly, we must have more open and transparent public procurement opportunities. Why, for instance, should US rules require that only US steel is used in certain projects? Fifthly, we will target trade facilitation, removing some of the red tape and bureaucracy at borders, and cut unnecessary costs while speeding up the movement of goods.
This is a historic deal. I want to tackle some of the challenges and objections head on. Several Members raised concerns about regulation. In fact, TTIP provides an opportunity to take stock of existing rules on both sides of the Atlantic and to remove unnecessary duplication while ultimately making sure that we support a well-regulated market. This will be done without lowering environmental, labour or consumer safety standards. Nor will the inclusion of the ISDS provisions affect the ability of Governments to regulate. As many Members mentioned—my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) brought it up first—we already have 90 such agreements in place and there has never been a successful claim brought against the UK. Others expressed concern about the impact on jobs, yet time and experience show that trade creates jobs and supports higher wages. This is backed up by independent assessment. The overall impact on labour markets will be positive in the EU and US, as real wages, whether of unskilled or skilled workers, will be able to increase.
The Minister relies on history in saying that the UK has never lost an ISDS case. With regard to the way in which the ISDS regime will operate under this treaty, whether or not one can be confident that the UK will not lose a case, if a case is lost by another member state, or a firm in another member state, what would be the implications for the UK?
If a case is lost in another member state on its domestic regulation, I would not expect that to have any implications for the UK As on regulation, so on the NHS, which has been brought up many times. We are quite clear that there is no threat to the NHS from TTIP. Public services and publicly funded health services are not included in any of the EU trade commitments. I will go further and read what the former Trade Commissioner said to the BBC: “Public services are always exempted—there is no problem about exemption, The argument is abused in your country for political reasons but it has no grounds.” (my emphasis).
My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), the Chair of the Health Committee, gave a very clear enunciation of the exemption of the NHS set out by not only the EU but the US side in these negotiations. I would say this to anybody who continues to campaign against the inclusion of the NHS in TTIP: you have already achieved your aim, and continuing to campaign is continuing actively to mislead, because public services and publicly funded health services are not included in the negotiation.
Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con.)
May I clarify one thing? It is probably not as important as the whole thrust of this debate, but when I was badly hurt in the Army and the NHS took responsibility for helping me get better, we used an American system to put me back on my feet. I hope, and assume, that use of American techniques and systems by the NHS is still allowed.
Of course that is allowed, but the point is that we would still have control over our public health policy. I can give that reassurance, which was sought by the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) on the Labour Front Bench, so I hope he will now remove that objection. I do not want to conclude that some Opposition Members do not want to be reassured, but increasingly that is the only view I can reasonably come to.
That was not the question I posed to the Minister. The question I asked was: if there is any threat whatsoever to the NHS and the UK’s wider public services, will the Minister and the Government sign a TTIP trade deal?
The Health Secretary has already made it clear that if a trade deal threatened the NHS, he would not support it. However, as the former Trade Commissioner has said: “Public services are always exempted”. I am glad that we can finally put that issue to bed. I doubt that the Labour Front Benches will raise it again, because they now know that they would be misleading the nation if they did so. (my emphasis).
Would the Minister sign a deal without ISDS? Does he think that ISDS is a necessary part of TTIP?
The reason for the inclusion of ISDS is to make sure that people who want to make investments have the confidence to do so because they know that recourse is available. In the couple of minutes remaining I want to address the issue of scrutiny. As my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) has said, there has been huge scrutiny and engagement, including four debates in both Houses; four Select Committee inquiries; regular updates to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and the chair of the all-party group on TTIP, the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey); regular stakeholder meetings; endless piles of letters that I and the Minister for Trade and Investment have signed; constant consultation with the European Parliament; four online public consultations by the Commission; and we even have a TTIP roadshow.
Let no one be in any doubt: enormous consultation is taking place both inside and outside this House. The commissioners have come to this Palace. Last week, 150 pages of text, eight proposals for legal text and 15 position papers were published. Following the passage of this motion, we will ensure that I and other Ministers continue to engage with this House. Let us once more assume our historic role as the pioneers of free trade, not only for the sake of the British people, but for the sake of people around the world for whom liberty and prosperity go hand in hand.
Comment: Hancock’s was a truly memorable speech. He began with a eulogy to the British Navy which kept open the world’s trade routes out of pure altruism, not firing a shot in anger at those who would dare to challenge Britain’s right to control and decide who used those routes. Hancock’s amnesia prevents him from mentioning the many wars in which Britain engaged to defend its trade routes. And he omitted to say that the policy of free, unfettered markets in the financial sphere got us into the present mess, preferring to have a dig at Ed Miliband’s criticism of a rampant energy market.
He appears to argue that TTIP is a poverty reduction programme, suggesting that market liberalism was responsible for an 80% reduction, adjusted for inflation, in world poverty since 1970. Hancock argues that workers would benefit from TTIP as it would lead to increased wages and job opportunities. He seems blissfully unaware that globalisation (worldwide market liberalism) has resulted in an upsurge in low-paid, insecure employment. Around 80% of jobs created since 2010 are in this category. TTIP is likely to continue this trend, not reverse it.
His example of a small business benefiting from TTIP is pure hypothesis. It would make a good question on an economics examination paper. It doesn’t occur to him that the elimination of trade barrier, and other, costs would increase competition, and it is just as likely therefore that his small business, rather than blossom, would wither away in the face of a predatory rival.
Finally, he states with the utmost certainty that the NHS, public services and publicly funded health services are exempted from TTIP. However, in reply to a question from Labour’s Ian Murray, he said that the Health Secretary had made it clear that he would not support a trade deal if it threatened the NHS. The Health Secretary is not therefore convinced that the NHS is entirely protected from TTIP. It is this that fuels opposition to TTIP in spite of the promises of the Commission and the UK Government.
Note: A Guardian report of 20 February said “More than 97% of respondents to an official EU survey voted against the TTIP deal after Barack Obama and the 28 heads of EU backed proposals last year. The vote came after a campaign by trade unions and charities warning the deal would allow US private health companies to bid for contracts in Europe and appeal to secret arbitration courts if they lost. US multinationals could also use the courts to challenge government policies that damaged their profits, campaigners said.”
Waiting For Chilcot
Almost six years ago Gordon Brown set up the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, which itself began twelve years ago. Six years in which to gather information, interview key players and draft a report is a long time. Much longer than a week in politics, once described by Harold Wilson. Yet we are still waiting for the report’s publication, which we are now told will not be before the general election in May. Many MPs are annoyed by this, none more so than Conservative Backbencher David Davis who initiated a debate on the subject on 29 January.
Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con.)
I beg to move, That this House regrets that the Iraq Inquiry has decided to defer publication of its report until after 7 May 2015; and calls on the Inquiry to publish a timetable for publication and an explanation of the causes of the delay by 12 February 2015.
The second Iraq war led to the deaths of more than 4,800 allied soldiers, 179 of them British. The lowest estimate of Iraqi civilian fatalities is 134,000, but plausible estimates put that number four times higher. So let us be clear—at least 134,000 innocent people died. The war created 3.4 million refugees, half of whom fled the country. It cost the British taxpayer £9.6 billion and it cost the American taxpayer $1,100 billion.
The war has done untold damage to the reputation of the west throughout the middle east, and indeed among Muslim populations both at home and abroad. Initiated to protect the west from terrorism, it has in fact destroyed the integrity of the Iraqi state and triggered a persistent civil war that has created the conditions for perhaps the worst terrorist threat yet to the west—ISIL. It has done huge harm to the self-confidence and unity of the west, neutering our foreign policy. The war was, with hindsight, the greatest foreign policy disaster of this generation, and I say that as someone who voted for it. So that is why the Chilcot inquiry was set up.
The Iraq inquiry was announced in 2009 with broad and proper terms of reference. Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s chairman, made it clear that this was principally about learning lessons. He said that these “lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.”
Governments are often prompted by acts of terrorism into making mistakes. The United States rushed into extraordinary rendition, torture, illegal surveillance and Guantanamo Bay. We attempted to introduce 90-day detention without charge, which everyone now accepts was unnecessary and wrong. But the greatest and most dangerous errors are in foreign policy. As Lady Manningham-Buller, the former head of M15 stated, the invasion of Iraq “undoubtedly increased the threat” of terrorist attacks in Britain.
Since the announcement of the inquiry, three major foreign policy decisions would have greatly benefited from the lessons that arose from the Iraq war. In Libya we undertook a military intervention that was intended to prevent a massacre, quite properly. It was successful, but it was the precursor to protracted conflict and unrest following our nominal military victory. In Syria, the Government were blocked by this House from military intervention, an intervention that would have led us to be the military supporters of our now sworn enemies, ISIS. And now in Iraq the UK has become embroiled in the ongoing civil war that has raged since the invasion in 2003.
As someone who voted against Iraq and Libya, I can only concur with what my right hon. Friend has said. Does he accept that the Chilcot inquiry has made it clear that it has cleared a lot of evidence for publication, but has not published it since 2012? Would it not be right, in the absence of the report itself, to get the evidence published, which would be the next best thing?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I will refer in a moment to the Winograde commission, which produced an interim report before the final report. Either of those two approaches would have been sensible and worth while, and are still possible. When decisions such as those that were made in Libya, Syria and Iraq are made without knowledge of all the facts, mistakes are made and sometimes people die as a result. So it is not hyperbole to say that the delay to the Iraq inquiry could cost lives because bad decisions could be made. When it was announced in 2009, the inquiry was expected to take one year, and that was thought by the then Leader of the Opposition to be too long. Had the inquiry stuck to that timetable, the Government would have had the benefit in all the actions I have mentioned of any lessons that might have been learned from the final report. Six years on from the start, Sir John Chilcot has said that the report has taken “longer than any of us expected would be necessary”.
That was perhaps the understatement of the decade. It has been claimed that it is not an unreasonable period of time for such an important inquiry, but the Franks report on the Falklands war took six months, and we should not forget that that war had a controversial start. There were controversial aspects to the continuing diplomatic negotiations. It was incredibly sensitive in diplomatic, national security, military and espionage terms, yet it took six months. The Winograd commission—the Israeli Government-appointed commission of inquiry into the war with Lebanon in 2006—is another relevant example. The commission held its first session in September 2006, released a preliminary report within seven months and then published in January 2008, less than a year and a half after the inquiry was announced. Any argument for delay on the grounds of political sensitivity or national security would be far more pertinent in Israel, where the immediate threat to life is considerably greater than any other country in the world.
Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con.)
By the time we get to see this report, we will be in the third Parliament during which it has been written and considered. Is my right hon. Friend aware of any precedent for that and is there any possible legitimate excuse for the delay?
No, and that is the case I am going to explore. I will not do what the Father of the House did and go back to the Dardanelles, but even if we went back further than that we would not get to this level of delay.
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab.)
Sir Jeremy Heywood was asked two days ago whether he would approve of this House subpoenaing the evidence to Chilcot and publishing it ourselves. His comment was that he did not want to rush the Chilcot report. Is that a reasonable view?
When the hon. Gentleman listens to what I intend to say shortly, he will realise that Sir Jeremy Heywood certainly does not want to the rush the report, and there are some reasons for that of which I do not approve.
I have been asked by a number of colleagues why I believe the delay has occurred. The truth is that no one in this House knows, not even the Minister. There is not enough information in the public domain, which is why the motion requires an answer to that exact question from Sir John Chilcot. Nevertheless, there are some clues. For clarity, I should say that I do not believe, at this stage at least, that the witnesses are the cause of the delay, and I say that because I think that one of them will be speaking later. Some of the delay is undoubtedly down to the conflict between the inquiry and Whitehall—Sir Jeremy Heywood and others—about what can and cannot be disclosed. What the inquiry can publish is wrapped up in a series of protocols that have their criteria so broad that a veto on publication can virtually be applied at Whitehall’s discretion.
Compare this with the Scott inquiry into the Iraqi supergun affair. It also covered issues of incredible sensitivity in terms of national security, international relations, intelligence agency involvement, judicial propriety and ministerial decision making. Sir Richard Scott was allowed to decide himself what he would release into the public domain, unfettered by Whitehall. By contrast, Sir John Chilcot, who is a past Northern Ireland Office permanent secretary, who chaired an incredibly sensitive inquiry into intercept evidence, and who is considered a responsible keeper of Government secrets, is tied up in protocols, subject to the whim of Whitehall.
We know there have been long negotiations between the inquiry and Sir Jermy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, and his predecessors over the disclosure of some material, most notably correspondence between ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair and George W. Bush. There is no point whatsoever in the inquiry if it cannot publish the documents that show how the decision to go to war was arrived at. Chilcot himself wrote in a letter to the Cabinet Secretary: “The question when and how the prime minister made commitments to the US about the UK’s involvement in military action in Iraq and subsequent decisions on the UK’s continuing involvement, is central to its considerations”.
The negotiations between Chilcot and Jeremy Heywood concluded only in May last year, when it was announced that an agreement had been reached. The process was clearly frustrating for the inquiry: Sir John Chilcot queries why it was that “individuals may disclose privileged information (without sanction) whilst a committee of privy counsellors established by a former prime minister to review the issues, cannot”. He was of course referring to Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell’s respective diaries, which quoted such information. Sir John stated in his letter that documents “vital to the public understanding of the inquiry’s conclusions” were being suppressed by Whitehall. That is ridiculous. If that is the approach taken, nothing will be learned and there is little purpose in the inquiry.
The inquiry protocols are symptomatic of a mindset that seems to assume that serving civil servants are the only proper guardians of the public interest. That leads me to a particular problem: if a Minister is asked to make a decision that affects him, his family, his property or even his constituency, he is required to withdraw—in the jargon, to recuse himself—from the decision and have somebody else make it. That does not say that the Minister is corrupt; it simply means that one can avoid the appearance of corruption and any chance of an improper decision, and it removes the risk of unconscious bias. It is a proper procedure. No such rule applies for civil servants.
This inquiry process is littered with people who were central to the very decisions the inquiry is investigating. Sir Jeremy Heywood was principal private secretary to Tony Blair for the entire period, from the 9/11 atrocity through to the first stage of the Gulf war, yet he is Whitehall’s gatekeeper for what can and cannot be published. Even the head of the inquiry secretariat, Margaret Aldred, was deputy head of the foreign and defence policy secretariat and therefore responsible for providing Ministers with advice on defence and policy matters on Iraq, and she was nominated to the inquiry by the Cabinet Secretary of the day.
All of that would matter less if the ridiculous restrictive protocols that Whitehall has imposed on the Chilcot inquiry were not there. Like Scott, Sir John Chilcot should be allowed to publish what he thinks is in the public interest, and not what Whitehall thinks is acceptable…..To finish my point, if that had been the case, we might well have had the inquiry report already and there would be less public concern about an establishment cover-up. We also know that the Maxwellisation process is causing some delay. Those due to be criticised in the final report are being allowed lengthy legal consultation. Although this is a necessary part of the process, strict time controls are needed. It cannot be right that those who are criticised can delay publication for their own benefit.
Finally, let me deal with the question of preventing publication during the run-up to the general election. Purdah periods exist for a simple reason: to prevent Governments from using their power to publish information that would give them electoral advantage. They are not to prevent impartial information from being put in the public domain—(Hon. Members: “Hear, hear”)—so why delay a deliberately impartial report of vital interest to the nation just because the election is pending? It is nonsense. I say to those who are cheering that, frankly, it is not clear that there will be much political advantage anywhere. It was started by a Labour Government, but it was supported by the current Prime Minister, who spoke in favour of it even as late as 2006; the current Labour leader did not vote for it because he was not in the House. There is complete confusion about where there could be any advantage, but the public interest should trump any interest of party advantage and that is why publication should not be delayed by the election.
The Iraq inquiry has been a missed opportunity. Terrible mistakes were made but, fatally, we have so far failed to learn our proper lessons from them. Douglas Hurd, the former Foreign Secretary and in no way an anti-establishment figure, has branded the endless delays a “scandal”. He is right. It is a disgrace. It is an insult to those who died on our behalf in that war and a betrayal of the people they died to protect. That is why I ask the House to pass this motion.
George Galloway (Bradford West) (Respect)
Dead men cannot tell tales, and Dr David Kelly is not here to answer what I believe were several unwarranted interpretations of events surrounding him given by the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway). In the words of Lord Hurd, the circumstances we now find ourselves in is a scandal, and one compounded by the acres of empty green Benches all around us today. There are some 30 Members of the House present. There are some seven Members of the Labour party which took us into the war, and most of those were resolute opponents of the war, and another is in the dock in the inquiry. I will come to him later.
The Schleswig-Holstein question took a long time, but that is because nobody knew the answer. Everybody knows the answer to the question of why Sir John Chilcot has come forward—a week before our debate, when he knew that it was on the Order Paper—to tell us that this inquiry will not report before the general election. Everybody knows the answer to that, however much flannel is pulled around it. It is to avoid the fact that the report can only highlight the iron-clad consensus that existed at that time between the two Front Benches: the then Prime Minister and his acolytes, only one of whom has the courage to be here today, and the then Leader of the Opposition, who is not here today but whose principal role in these matters was to egg the Prime Minister on to war, bigger and faster, as those of us who were here well remember—bitterly remember.
I declare an interest. I am the maker of the film “The Killing of Tony Blair”, which will be out soon, and will no doubt hugely benefit from the postponement of the Chilcot report. In the absence of Chilcot, we will have to be the report. But I have many other interests of a non-pecuniary nature, in this. Like some of my friends who were not so gullible as the highly expensively educated right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), we did not look into the Bambi eyes of the then (Interruption.) I am talking about his university education; I probably helped to pay for it.
The right hon. Gentleman says, and many others now say, that they gazed into the Bambi eyes of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and he was their Prime Minister, so what could they do except follow him over the cliff? What kind of parliamentarian takes such an approach—that because somebody tells you something is true, you must follow them, when the consequences were easily predictable and were predicted by millions of ordinary citizens out in our streets, without the benefit of that education and without the benefit of a seat in this House? “What kind of parliamentarian?” is a question I want to concentrate on. I could talk for hours, and regularly do, about what all this has cost the people of Iraq and the people of the wider region, but I want to concentrate on what it has cost us—and I do not mean financially either.
When the Chilcot inquiry was announced in this House, I described it as a parade of establishment flunkeys. Who will now say that I was wrong? I described the fact that there was no soldier on the panel. One could have had the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis)—a man who knows what military affairs are about. I decried the fact that there was no lawyer on the panel. I had in mind the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), who could have covered the fact that there was no parliamentarian on the panel. I decried the fact that nobody would recognise some of the panel members if they were sitting next to them on the Clapham omnibus, and it was difficult to understand why they had been chosen. I decried the fact that two of the members of the panel had described Bush and Blair as the Truman and Churchill de nos jours.
Talk about parti pris! They were proselytisers for the war they were now being asked to inquire into. The principal gatekeeper to the Chilcot inquiry—I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Dwfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) for this information; he is in our film, by the way, and very eloquent too—was the principal gatekeeper between the Foreign Office and the intelligence services, and Ministers, in the run up to the war. Talk about parti pris! These individuals were either unqualified for or disqualified from participation in this inquiry.
That this has taken so long and been so expensive would be tolerable if our position in the world had not continued to deteriorate, and the conditions in the world had not continued to deteriorate. I tell the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw)—who is, as I said, in the dock here—that he will never escape the consequences of what he has said and done. He looks to me a haunted figure compared with the Spring-Heeled Jack that he used to be—as well he might, because he will never escape this. It will follow him to the grave and into the history books that he proselytised for something which has turned into an unmitigated catastrophe for the world, but also for us. I do not blame Sir Jeremy Heywood—Sir Humphrey. I do not blame even the Chilcot inquiry. I do not blame Tony Blair, at least not for this. I blame us. This is a poor excuse for a Parliament, if only its Members could more clearly see so. It is a poor excuse for a Parliament that sets up an inquiry, funds an inquiry, and then says, three Parliaments on—as the former Defence Secretary, the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) said—that we might, who knows when, get the fruits of that inquiry.
This is Pontius Pilate. This is washing our hands of something that is bleeding us at home and abroad. What do I mean? I mean this. This has cost us millions, yes; it has cost us six years, yes; but the world is hurtling to disaster. The decision that was made in here on the basis of the arguments made by the Government at the time has torn Iraq and its region asunder. It has fantastically, unbelievably and incalculably inflated the danger of extremism, fanaticism and terrorism. Iraq no longer exists as a state. One third of it is controlled by the heart-eating, head-chopping, amputating, crucifying so-called Islamic State. And Members still will not say they were wrong, let alone the then Prime Minister skating around in Davos—Mr Blair, the former Prime Minister, who still says he was right and would do it all again.
Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The argument for the war was therefore false, if it was not a falsehood. It has been a catastrophe. I told the then Prime Minister, “There are no al-Qaeda in Iraq, but if you and Bush invade, there will hundreds of thousands of al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Little did I know that al-Qaeda would spawn something even more horrific than al-Qaeda. I told the then Prime Minister, “The fall of Baghdad will not be the beginning of the end but merely the end of the beginning, and the fanaticism and extremism that you will unleash will travel and cascade everywhere, including onto our own streets.” I will close now, as I see that you are anxious Mr Deputy Speaker. I close with this. No one outside can really understand how all these political professionals—highly remunerated, highly rewarded, with all their intelligence and education—can have made such a catastrophic error when millions of people outside who did not enjoy those privileges already knew that it would end in the disaster in which it has ended.
The Question was put and agreed to.