The Iraq War Inquiry

Lord Goldsmith: Blair did not reflect legal advice on Iraq war

Ex-attorney general's revelation breathes new life into inquiry

Tony Blair was placed under further pressure ahead of his second appearance before the Iraq Inquiry after his most senior legal adviser said last night that the former prime minister's public statements about the invasion contradicted the legal advice he had been given.

In a written statement to the Chilcot inquiry, Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, suggested Mr Blair's statements to Parliament about the legality of the invasion were not compatible with the advice handed to the prime minister. He said Mr Blair's statements made him "uncomfortable". He described how he was cut out of discussions over the drafting of the UN resolution used as cover for the invasion of March 2003. He said if he had been consulted, he would have seriously altered the wording of the resolution.

The revelations will intensify criticisms of Mr Blair, who will give further evidence on Friday. He will be asked about why he made definitive statements disputed by Lord Goldsmith.

It also suggests Mr Blair may have misled Parliament over the legality of the war. Lord Goldsmith called into question some of the arguments used by Mr Blair during a crucial speech to MPs on 15 January 2003, as he attempted to convince them of the need to deal with Saddam Hussein.

"There are circumstances in which a [UN] resolution is not necessary, because it is necessary to be able to say in circumstances where an unreasonable veto is put down that we would still act," he said during the speech.

Just a day before, Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair that the current UN resolution dealing with Saddam could not be used to justify an invasion.

Mr Blair later repeated his claim that Britain could act without another resolution, even if the French attempted to veto military action against Iraq. "If, however, a country were to issue a veto ... then I would consider action outside of that," he said during a Newsnight interview on 6 February.

Asked by the Chilcot inquiry whether "the Prime Minister's words were compatible with the advice" he had been given, Lord Goldsmith stated in his reply published yesterday: "No."

"I was uncomfortable with them, and I believe that I discussed my concerns with Jack Straw and my own staff," he replied. "I do not think there was any doubt about my view. I had been clear at the meeting with the Prime Minister on 22 October 2002.

"My concern was that we should not box ourselves in by the public statements that were made, and create a situation which might then have to be unravelled."

Sources have suggested that the reason for Mr Blair's recall to the inquiry is down to contradictions between his version of events and that of other key witnesses, including Lord Goldsmith and Sir John Scarlett, the former head of Britain's secret services. Sir John was the man who oversaw the government's key dossier on the case for toppling Saddam.

The new submission from Lord Goldsmith also reveals how he was cut out of the process of drafting UN Resolution 1441, which was ultimately used by the government to justify its participation in the invasion. He said that after revealing he did not believe an early draft of the resolution gave Britain legal cover to invade Iraq, during a meeting with Mr Blair in October 2002, he "was no longer consulted". Key telegrams from the US about the state of negotiations were not shown to him.

"My views were not sought in the period between my meeting with the Prime Minister on 22 October 2002 and my telephone call with Jack Straw on 7 November 2002, when the text of the resolution was all but agreed," he states. "During that period... important changes occurred."

He described how he was particularly concerned that the final version said Saddam's continuing breaches of UN orders would be reported back to the international body "for assessment", suggesting a further ruling from the UN was needed. He said the new words "caused me much difficulty".

"If I had been asked about those words I would have said that they were problematic and would have argued for their removal," he stated.

A spokesman for the former Prime Minister said last night: "Tony Blair will deal with all these issues in his evidence on Friday. The issue of the so-called unreasonable veto was not the basis on which Britain took part in the military action. The basis was that given in the Attorney General's advice which he has confirmed in the statement published today."

The new evidence

What Blair said: "We have said that a second UN resolution is preferable, because it is far better that the UN come together. We have also said that there are circumstances in which a UN resolution is not necessary, because it is necessary to be able to say in circumstances where an unreasonable veto is put down that we would still act."

Commons, 15 January 2003

* "If the inspectors do report that they can't do their work properly because Iraq is not co-operating there's no doubt under the terms of the existing UNSCR that that is a breach of the Resolution. In those circumstances there should be a further resolution. If, however, a country were to issue a veto, because there has to be unanimity amongst the permanent members of the Security Council ... then I would consider action outside of that."

Newsnight, 6 February 2003

What Goldsmith said: When asked by the Chilcot inquiry whether he considered Blair's words to be compatible with the advice he had given the PM

* Goldsmith: "No ... I was uncomfortable with them, and I believe that I discussed my concerns with Jack Straw and my own staff. I do not think there was any doubt about my view. I had been clear at the meeting with [Blair] on 22 October 2002."

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all faied
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

LSA Level 3 required in Caerphilly

£50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...

Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?