Government rejects calls for extra war safeguards in wake of Iraq

Posted On: 
10th January 2018

The Government has rejected the case for extra safeguards to prevent another prime minister taking the country to war the way Tony Blair did in Iraq.

Tony Blair was criticised for his decision-making process ahead of the Iraq war
PA Images

Downing Street also dismissed calls for MPs to get a binding vote on the remit and length of future public inquiries after the it took seven years to publish Sir John Chilcot's Iraq report.

When the report finally did appear it found the prime minister excluded top colleagues from key decisions in the run up to the war in 2003.

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It also said senior officials were not consulted before he told then-US president George Bush: “I will be with you whatever.”

In the wake of the report, the The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said there should be collective discussion by the Cabinet on future decisions of national importance.

But a Government response to the committee said the system in place since 2010 - in which the prime minister chairs a National Security Council of ministers and defence chiefs - was working well.

"It is inconceivable today that we could take a premeditated decision to commit combat troops without a full and challenging discussion in the National Security Council on the basis of full papers, including written legal advice, prepared and stress-tested by all relevant departments, with decisions formally minuted," it said.

It added that further safeguards such as new checks and balances risked causing "a degree of unnecessary antagonism between officials and the prime minister".

And it rejected a call by PACAC for MPs to have a “meaningful” say on the length and terms of reference of reports like Chilcot.

The committee said it was “disappointed with the Government’s response given the clear evidence of the need for improvements to public inquiries and government decision-making that the committee received”.

It added: “It is particularly concerned about the Government’s failure to accept the case for stronger safeguards to ensure proper collective consideration by the Cabinet on decisions of national importance.”