My Week: Sir Peter Ricketts

The Foreign Office boss testifies in front of the Iraq inquiry, negotiates the release of British hostages, and visits our Embassy in Madrid
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The Independent Online


We have a meeting with all the different parts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to look at what's going on this week. It's amazing the range of things that the FCO is involved with: the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad, the London conference on Afghanistan in January and the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate summit.

There's always a consular issue, which this week is the British yachtsmen detained by the Iranians. I then swot up for my appearance in front of the Iraq inquiry tomorrow. It feels like having to revise before exams. You have to get your brain round your life as it was six years ago. I'm relieved to find that what I'd written at the time still makes sense.


I spend three hours in front of the Iraq inquiry today. I'm confident they are going into this with determination to get to the bottom of what happened. They're very probing but they give me the chance to say what I need to. We cover the period from 2002 to the outbreak of the war in 2003. In that time I was very involved with all the UN resolution diplomacy and we go over that: what was going on there, the UK role, how I worked, how we worked with Ministers, how that related to the military plans that were being developed at the same time, why the UN process eventually broke down in 2003. I find myself reliving a time where Iraq was the number one thing in my life; it brings it back to me starkly. After the inquiry I meet the Iranian ambassador to encourage him to work for the early release of our yachtsmen.


After a meeting of all the Whitehall Permanent Secretaries, I come back to the Foreign Office to join David Miliband at a meeting with the families of the yachtsmen. We had expected an anxious meeting but it turns out to be a celebration after hearing of their release. I then go to my weekly session with Miliband. It's not at all like Yes Minister, it's an open, trusting relationship and it's key to the way government departments run.


A lot of time is spent in a town hall meeting with our staff, responding to their concerns and questions. I then meet up with my Egyptian counterpart who's in town before flying to Madrid. Fortunately people eat dinner late here so I'm able to have a meal with some people to discuss what's happening in Spain and their serious economic problems.


After various meetings I visit our fantastic new Embassy in Madrid. We've moved into the 40th floor of an office block and we've got an open-plan modern Embassy. There's a great buzz among staff. I fly back to London and get ready to start preparing for next week.