New probe in to Iraq War should not be ruled out, say MPs
A new investigation into whether Parliament was misled over the Iraq war should be launched if "new and relevant" evidence surfaces, MPs have said.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said last year’s Chilcot report could not be said to have provided universal closure, adding that the handling of the conflict had left a “scar” on politics.
The Chilcot inquiry, which took seven years to compile, found the threat from Iraq was overstated, that the planning was “wholly inadequate” and that the military action did not achieve its goals.
“The question of whether Parliament was misled is constantly raised," today's PACAC report said.
"We do not pass over this matter at all lightly, but after taking advice, we do not feel that Chilcot or any other inquiries provide a sufficient basis for PACAC to conduct such an inquiry.
“However, we think Parliament should be prepared to establish such an inquiry into the matter if any new and relevant material or facts emerge.”
The MPs also said there was an absence of safeguards in place to prevent a Prime Minister from disregarding Cabinet procedures regarding foreign and military policy and have drawn up a list of lessons to be learned.
They added that “the now infamous note” that Prime Minister Tony Blair sent to US President George W Bush, which began “I will be with you, whatever”, should have been circulated to key ministers before it was sent.
In a series of recommendations reflecting on the lessons from the Chilcot Inquiry, the MPs call for a “much clearer setting of expectations at the outset” in future investigations.
The committee has also sought assurances that greater consultation will be granted to Parliament in the event of such a decision.
“We remain concerned about the lack of mechanisms for meaningful Parliamentary oversight over the establishment of both statutory and non-statutory inquiries,” they say.
“In future, there should be a full debate and a vote on an amendable motion, setting out the precise terms of reference, an estimated time-frame and a proposed budget for the inquiry.”
MPs have also called for a review of the role of the National Security Council, the body set up under the coalition government to all issues related to national security, intelligence coordination, and defence strategy.
Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of PACAC, said: “At present, there is simply nothing even a cabinet secretary can do to stop a prime minister from doing this again at some time in the future, short of resignation.
"There was a lack of collective Cabinet decision-making, at a time when clear thinking and a culture of challenge was most needed. The failure to engage Cabinet on such decisions cannot be allowed to happen again, but there is no mechanism to ensure that.”