Blair 'failed to deliver promises on equipment'

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Tony Blair repeatedly failed to deliver on his promises to provide the military with all the resources they needed for operations in Iraq, the former head of the armed forces said today.

Admiral Lord Boyce, who was the chief of the defence staff at the time of the invasion in 2003, told the Iraq Inquiry that Mr Blair had been unable to get then chancellor Gordon Brown to relax his spending restrictions on the force.

Lord Boyce described the attitude of the Treasury as an "impediment" to the mission in Iraq, while the government as a whole had lacked "cohesion" in dealing with the issue.

"What we lacked was any sense of being at war. There was no sense that we had a War Cabinet or that we had a Cabinet that thought that we were at war," he said.

"I suspect if I asked half the Cabinet were we at war, they would not have known what I was talking about. There was a lack of political cohesion at the top. In Iraq's case, possibly because some people were not happy about what we were doing there any way."

While Mr Blair had repeatedly given assurances that the forces would have everything they needed, obtaining resources from the Treasury had been like "getting blood out of a stone".

He added: "I know he says that but actually getting it delivered is quite a different matter altogether. Particularly on the money side. 'Don't worry, you can have everything you want. Go and see the chancellor.' Brick wall there.

"Getting money out of the Treasury is like getting blood out of a stone anyway.

"The Treasury is inherently unable to deliver money unless it is actually beaten over the head. The Treasury didn't think we were on a war footing."

Lord Boyce also criticised the introduction of resource accounting by Mr Brown which meant the Ministry of Defence was discouraged from holding large stocks.

As a result the MoD adopted a policy of "just enough, just in time" when it came to delivering equipment for warfighting operations.

"Just in time, in my mind, is a perilous area. It was adopted for reasons of accrual accounting. I believe that it plays havoc with trying to meet defence planning assumptions," he said.

"It is never just enough and it is never just in time when the actual crunch really comes."

The inquiry was adjourned until tomorrow.