Live Blog – 5 March 2010

Friday 5 March 2010

(There were three evidence sessions today, scheduled for 10:00 – 12:00, 13:30 – 15:30 and 16:30 – 18:00, although we only blogged the first two.)

Topic: (The inquiry now only lists witnesses by relevant role, rather than by topic area.)

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, 2007 – 2009, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 2001 – 2007

This morning’s hearings, as they happened

Today’s witness from 10.00 to 12.00 and 13.30 to 15.30 is the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, 2001–07.

As usual, the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow is blogging live.

15.30 Sir John Chilcot closes this part of todays hearing, Douglas Alexander MP, Secretary of State for International Development, 2007–09, will be giving evidence shortly (from 16.30 to 18.00), but this is the end of the blogging for today.

15.26 Gordon Brown’s final refections – we have the best armed forces in the world – these were the right decisions but it is our duty to learn lessons – US and Europe must work more closely together where there is instability. Our structures of Govt must be prepared for this. He recognises the sacrifice of the 179 who have lost their lives.

15.22 Chilcot – despite continuing violence – looking at whole 7 years – have we achieved a new order? No doubt about improvement in life in Iraq.

15.18 Chilcot – policing and establishing security and corruption – asks about view of concept. Brown – this is about how you train. Best policing is when population has faith in police service – you need local people for this. Civilian model is best. Cannot conjure up democracy overnight so meed to be realistic about what you can achieve.

15.14 Economic initiatives – why did it need your personal intervention to get these things going? Difficult to get things moving from the centre in Baghdad. Tension between centre and localities. Basra Development Commission – Maliki was keen on this. We held conferences to move this forwards. Right strategy to allow the Iraqis to have more control.

15.10 Rod Lyne – Did you have advance notice from Malaki about CotK? No. Should we have been consulted? In a perfect world. In retrospect it was the right thing to happen. No conflict of interest between Iraqi and British forces.

15.06 Did not want us to be seen as occupiers – economic development was a benefit to greater peace in that (Basra) area.

15.04 Qn about economic position against violence – lesson from N. Ireland about economic advantages outweigh support for violence. Peace dividend – tried to get British business support for development in the Basra area – got health centres and schools open again.

14.59 Basra Palace – this was a strategy as part of changing overwatch roles. Were Americans concerned? Issues about Charge of the Knights but this happened later. Did three things, talked to US in detail, talked to Maliki and talked to our own commanders. Established conditions for leaving Iraq.

14.56 Maliki – what did he ask for? He wanted to assert Iraqi control over all of Iraq. Hiccups in this because of militias and the slowness of electoral process. What effect of Afghanistan? At no point did what we wanted to do in Iraq get affected by this. Jock Stirrup said we were stretched but not over stretched.

14.50 Back. Martin Gilbert. Were there aspects you thought needed changing when you became PM? Iraqis should take more responsibility for their own affairs. Move from tactical overwatch to operational overwatch, then to strategic overwatch. Spoke to Bush about our commitment to see out the job in Iraq. He was satisfied with what we were doing as we developed this new strategy.

(Break – will return afterwards to Brown’s position as Prime Minister)

14.34 Sources of funding, what we could provide, IMF/World Bank and Iraq itself. Minority partners? My job was to ensure Iraqi participation. Support had to come from the people themselves. Were you able to ensure adequate funding in the Basra area? Yes, but the violence etc were matters we had to deal with as well.

14.28 Discussion moves to Iraq issues, speed of change, debt relief, Iraqi Army, new currency, economic stakes in Iraq. Freedman says he means in 2003, not now. Brown talks about a “just” peace. Case for intervention requires full Iraqi involvement.

14.23 Talk about helicopters – trying to match needs with requirements including buying from other countries. Refers to Public Accounts Committee 2004.

14.18 Uncertainty in Iraq and Afghanistan made a new review difficult but now is the time to move this forward. Procurement processes are difficult because of time lag, lessons are being learned about this process.

14.14 Discussions with Hoon? Dealt with by Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Paul Boatang). Amount went back and forward – £800 million – £400 million – £1.3Bn. Claims the military were satisfied with the settlement money available. Did you talk to Chiefs? Can’t remember all the talks I had. Did talk to Lord Walker.

14.06 Talk of cash Vs non-cash. Assets had to be used more efficiently to release cash. Military wanted transfer to more direct funding. Brown claims MoD had more money than originally been expected (again).

14.02 2002 settlement – new resource based budgeting system – based on depreciation. Additional funding gave military more money than was originally allocated.

13.58 Talk of counter terrorism budget. This did not fall on the defence budget.

13.55 Core defence budget. Concern that 1998 spending review funding was not fully met. Quotes percentage rises for subsequent reviews.

13.52 Freedman talks about concerns of relatives. Were you aware of concerns about armoured vehicles/Snatch Land Rovers? No request was ever turned down. Was assured that the military was fully prepared. New vehicles were procured quickly. Not for me to make military decisions. When requests were made these were funded.

13.48 Talk about defence budget – Brown claims this was rising. Every expense on top of that was met.

13.46 We had to provide new vehicles (mastiffs). Military expenditure dwarfed all other spending. Concern about UORs? Expenditure was an adaptation to circumstances in Iraq.

13.42 Security funding (20%)? Departments have access to the reserve but not automatic access. In the case of DfID they have their own reserve (£80 million). Went to £120 million in 2003.

13.37 Effects of Iraq are far less than the global financial crisis. Freedman: core costs. How do you decide of allocation re MoD/DfID/FO? We expected other countries to contribute to reconstruction. Departments “agree” what is a priority.

13.34 They’re back. Lawrence Freedman opens. Treasury funding. Additional costs £9.2Bn. Has Govt come up with full figure? Injuries and healthcare will be additional. What effect on overall public expenditure? Budgeting allowed for this. £18Bn it total for Iraq and Afghanistan. Should meet these requirements without cuts elsewhere.

(Andrew Mason taking over the blog)

12.14 Break for lunch. Resume at 1.30

12.12 Chilcot asks about taking on of South East. FCO were concerned they were not getting resources to fulfil additional needs? Waffle about role of Iraq and international organisations. We had to create a law…

12.11 Chilcot asks about Short’s “claims” that DFID had difficulty in 2003 getting answers. Was this because DFID was slow or because of uncertainty? It was neither. DFID had a contingency. Our view was use the contingency and then come to us and we will provide additional funding. We provided £120m additional funding.

12.09 Everyone seems to agree that the UOR system worked well. Brown: this is all expenditure additional to the MOD budget.

12.05 Discussion of Urgent Operational Requirements. Brown says they were all paid. It was made clear that the money was and would be available. Chilcot asks about criteria for UORs. No evidence that there was an attempt to go beyond/outside them. There was a proper system? Yes. I told my officials “all UORs must be met”.

12.04 Chilcot asks about changing use of Special Reserve from November 02 to April 03 from terrorism to Iraq. Brown explains this away.

12.03 Chilcot asks about the Special Reserve and how it was presented initially. Did the presentation of the reserve as relating to terrorism imply a fusion re Iraq? No. There was other counter terrorism work.

12.02 Discussion of the impact of the war on Brown’s golden rule etc.

11.59 Chilcot says he cannot find much record of discussion of economic impact.

11.58 Did the assessment of financial impact clarify itself sufficiently before March 2003? Yes, I think so. And our cost estimates were accurate.

11.55 Chilcot asks about scale of UK involvement… was the concern about the broader economic consequences something you needed to get a grip on? Yes, there was a paper in June/July… I made it clear we had to chose the best military option. In September we did a paper on the overall effects of war… high oil price… volatility. Concluded that cost of reconstruction would be about 45 billion (pounds). First public announcement of setting aside money. By that time I had already set aside to Defence £500m. I made it absolutely clear that every application for resources had to be met by Treasury.

11.52 Chilcot is asking about finances pre-war. Recalls Brown saying that cost was not to be a constraint. How far was potential impact a concern? We had to be clear that we were setting aside money.

11.51 Lyne asks about ad hoc ministerial committee on Iraq rehabilitation. I think we are learning lessons all the time…

11.50 Did the war cabinet function well? Yes.

11.48 Do you consider that the problems were principally caused by external interference? Not wholly an external problem. Could we have anticipated these problems? Discussion of involving people of the country.

11.46 Were you involved in decision to take responsibility for four provinces? Waffle. Were you aware when the decision was taken that we would take on this role? I cannot recall exactly when we were given responsibility for Basra…

11.45 Lyne asks at what point did you become aware before the conflict that the planning was defective? We have learned that lesson.

11.42 Lyne asks about warning signals coming back from US in early 2003. Shouldn’t we have been able to exercise more influence? I made it absolutely clear to the US they had to take reconstruction more seriously….

11.41 Further discussion of role of UN and whether the UN will come in where it was not in favour of the initial (military) action.

11.38 Discussion of reconstruction plans in March 2003. Lyne asks why the Cabinet had not paid more attention to reconstruction at that stage? We were more confident in the diplomatic process. Chilcot asks about sidelining of State department planning. “This is the problem I am alluding to”.

11.36 Lyne says that the UN would have been involved but it we did not have the legitimacy that allows it to operate. Brown says the UN did come in (later). Need economic development. Lessons from Iraq are being applied in Afghanistan…

11.33 Lyne asks about campaign and aftermath. What went wrong? I think this will be debated for years to come. In future the UN should have a big reconstruction role. We couldn’t persuade the Americans… Only came to Iraq-isation…. later. I regret this. I did a paper to the Americans.

11.32 Chilcot asks about risks implied in AG’s advice of 7 March. Is the yes/no of the AG enough? I knew that clarity had been sought. Goes on about national security. In future we will have to provide greater information than was done at that time. Everything Mr Blair did… not saying I was anything other than fully informed.

11.29 Lyne asks about regime change. Blair told us that Saddam threatened not just the region and the world. “Does that imply that the UK government had aligned with the US policy of regime change under pressure of the American military deadline?” Brown goes back to the wider argument. Lyne: to achieve that, was it necessary to remove Saddam whether or not he had wmd? At the time it was about his failure to comply.

11.27 Lyne says that other people, like France and Chile were asking for more time? There was an American military deadline wasn’t there? It is about the decisions we made. HE IS SIMPLY NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTION. More waffle about diplomacy etc.

11.24 Lyne asks if it would have been better to prolong the diplomacy to get agreement of the security council? Yes but countries had made it clear that they would not support action. Which countries? France Chirac said he was not prepared to support military action. Lyne asks if the French government had contacted the UK immediately after? I was not foreign secretary. Waffles about post-cold war phrase again.

11.23 Lyne asks if Brown was happy with the way the question was put to the Commons? Yes

11.22 Lyne asks if it was a decision Brown had reservations about? Brown says no-one want to go to war. Right decision for the right reasons. Want to learn important lessons.

11.19 Lyne asks about the decision itself. Only Blair and Straw knew what had really happened. Do you think this Cabinet was being asked to take a genuinely collective decision or asked to endorse Blair’s decision when the die was effectively cast? Brown: I think we made the right decision… we have learned how we do these things in the future. Importance of Commons vote…

11.17 Lyne asks if he should have known that it was a close and controversial call. Brown waffles. Lyne asks if it would have changed his view if he had known that the AG’s advice had previously been equivocal? No. It would only have changed my mind if he had said unequivocally that it was unlawful.

11.14 They are back and Lyne is asking about the legality. Were you fully satisfied about the advice given to the Cabinet? Yes, the AG was certain about the advice that he gave. Were you and other ministers aware that the AG’s advice had been very different? I was not aware… we had a straightforward issue. His advice was unequivocal. So you had not seen the advice of 7 March? No. I am not a lawyer. The AG has to say it was lawful or not. If he had answered equivocally, of course there would have been questions…. Lyne: so you and other ministers were not aware that the AG’s position had been equivocal before and the opposite before that or that the FCO’s legal advisers were against? The question that came before us was, was this lawful or not.

11.03 Short Break. Apologies – the site has crashed a few times but I have tries to keep up. Brown seems very cynical to me. He has repeatedly stuck to the pre-trailed line about defiance of the “international community” etc and refused to answer questions about the threat. But he has also continued to insist both that he was in the loop and that Blair etc were trying to get a diplomatic solution. He has made clear that he really had no idea what Blair said to Bush.

11.02 Lyne asks if Brown was convinced that the threat from Iraq was growing. Brown goes back to his line about defiance etc.

11.00 Lyne keeps asking about Cook’s doubts about the intelligence. Brown keeps claiming that the questions about the intelligence came up after.

10.58 I had all the correct information to make the decisions.

10.56 Lyne: did we have the correct structures of decision making. I think we did learn lessons. After the Butler Inquiry Blair changed things and I have gone further.

10.55 On the Monday between the Tuesday vote, I spoke and made my position clear.

10.53 Lyne asks about Cabinet Meeting of 17 March 2003. Do you feel that there should have been a Cabinet Committee set up before the conflict happened… You were not at previous meetings…. Shouldn’t you have been cut in earlier? I have to say that chancellors were not previously in war cabinet. I did not feel at any point that I lacked the information that was necessary.

10.52 Long discussion about Iraq and Middle East

10.49 Lyne asks why we had not succeeded in achieving more progress by March 2003. Brown says it is very difficult to get quick progress. Lyne says that the US did very little? Brown says Bush was the first US president to commit to a Palestinian state…

10.48 Lyne asks about Blair’s conditions for supporting Bush. We discussed the Middle East peace process…

10.47 Do I take it that he had not told you in terms what he told Bush? More waffle from Brown. The answer is no.

10.46 Lyne says we had told the US in early 2002 that if we could not get the diplomatic route to work, we would stand with them in taking further action. Brown keeps going back to the diplomatic line. Lyne asks if Brown knew what Blair had told Bush? Brown will not say if Blair told him what he told Bush.

10.45 Lyne asks if Brown was aware of the terms on which Blair had pledged support to the US in early 2002? Brown says we were trying to get a diplomatic solution? Lyne refers to Blair Campbell etc’s evidence. Brown says our efforts were to get a diplomatic solution to work.

10.44 Brown says international institutions were not yet strong enough.

10.41 Was there a current threat of aggression from Iraq? Brown starts talking about whether the rest of the world thought Saddam was complying. He has not answered the question. Lyne comes back to the question as to whether there was a threat of aggression from Iraq? Brown says the Cabinet thought SH would not comply. Are we prepared to follow through the logic of our position of requiring compliance with the international community. Test of international community. Lyne says it was that reason rather than the threat of aggression that convinced you? Brown waffles again.

10.40 Was there not a contradiction between asking US for more time and voting for war?

10.37 Lyne asks if Brown was convinced that options for diplomacy were exhausted by March 2003? Yes, and the whole cabinet was with one exception (presumably Cook). We reluctantly had to come to the conclusion that SH would not take the action necessary and that we could not get final agreement. Lyne says that he UN inspectors were saying that they needed were more time? Brown says that other countries would n

10.35 Lyne asks if Brown saw March 2002 Options paper? Doesn’t recall. Should you have seen the paper? Yes but everybody knew we were pursuing the diplomatic route!!!! He is pretending that the paper was about the diplomatic route!!!!! Was it not curious that you were not shown the paper? I think I knew what was happening at the time.

10.34 Brown briefed by intelligence chiefs 4/3/02 9/9/02 13/9/02 6/2/03 24/2/03. Was he convinced? Other people thought there were wmd but now we know intelligence is not so sure.

10.31 In March 2003 Brown offered to prepare a paper to be sent to the US on reconstruction. I wish it had been possible to follow that through much more quickly. Prashar says he was getting briefings from officials but how was he able to influence colleagues. We had a meeting in March 03. Prashar asks about what he said about military options? I had already made it clear that the military decisions were not to be affected by costs. We would support whatever option the military etc decided on.

10.30 Says he regrets that they were not able to push the Americans harder on reconstruction.

10.27 Was the cabinet discussion substantive? Everyone was trying to get a diplomatic solution. This was what was being reported to Cabinet. We were anxious to avoid war. Prahar: but my understanding is that it was a diplomatic war backed by military threat but were military options properly discussed? I was aware about various military options that were being looked at… I was involved in discussions about making resources available. Discussion in Cabinet was about diplomacy

10.24 Prashar asks if Brown was consulted through 2002 about developing policy. Of course… we were informed fully about the process of negotiations/diplomacy. Were you informed of Mr Blair’s private letters with the White House? No. Prashar: he did not inform you of this? Brown: we were aware of the diplomatic route and were making plans in case there was war. In September we wrote a paper about the need for reconstruction if diplomacy failed.

10.23 Prashar asks if Brown was involved in pre-Crawford discussions eg April 2002. Says he was not but would have known if there was to be a change re sanctions.

10.20 Prashar: when did you become aware of the decision to support US invasion? At the last minute March 2003. Prashar: that was the decision to go to war… when were you aware of the decision to support the US invasion? Brown sticks to the same line. He is nailing his colours the Blair/Straw mast.

10.19 There should be no sense that there was a financial constraint.

10.17 I was talking to Hoon from June 2002

10.10 Prashar asks about Blair’s claim of a link between Iraq and terrorism in March 03. Did you see a link? Brown talks about post-cold war world… Is he already dodging his first question? Iraq not honouring obligations…. Not answering the question. I’m not making a distinction between the two problems.

10.09 Prashar to ask about Brown’s role as senior member of cabinet. First asks about Brown’s attitude to use of force in supporting foreign policy objectives. Brown says we have had no choice, have to be prepared to take international action re terrorists and “aggressor states”.

10.06 Brown says it was the right decision for the right reasons because the international community had spent years trying to get Saddam Hussein to abide by UN resolutions and international law. Could not persuade him to comply. 3 lessons to learn. 1) have been fighting two wars 2) took 7 years to win the peace – developing concept of just peace 3) there will be interventions in the future and international co-operation has to be better, especially co-operation between Europe and US.

10.04 Chilcot says that Brown is well placed to offer insights into the whole process. The Inquiry has heard that a lot of people have died and otherwise been affected. Was the decision right? Brown: it was the right decision and for the right reasons. Wants to pay respects to soldiers who have died. Mentions civilian loss of life.

10.02 They are off. Chilcot mentions the forthcoming election and impartiality and independence of the Inquiry with an appeal to the parties to respect this. Recap of how Brown has come to be here today.

Archived Comments

By Iain Paton

Submitted on 2010/03/05 at 12:00pm

Impressive how Lyne pinned him down on France…stonewalling performance by Brown, not sure if he can sustain this over matters of detail ie equipment and funding

By Ajax Harington

Submitted on 2010/03/05 at 6:10pm

Brown should have looked to his history…

By Lee

Submitted on 2010/03/05 at 7:04pm

Brown: “Saddam Hussein was invaded for the correct reasons, because he consistently refused to stop at a red light at 3am in the morning located in uninhabited part of the desert that has no roads, and being quite rude when we insisted that he was about to cause a multi-car pile-up on the M3.”

What a pillock !

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