Butler team divided over strength of its report

Click to follow
The Butler inquiry was divided over the strength of criticism that Government should receive for politicising the Joint Intelligence Committee, chaired by John Scarlett.</p>Two members of Lord Butler of Brockwell's inquiry team, Michael Mates and Lord Inge, a former chief of the defence staff, wanted stronger censure of the Government for bringing political pressure to bear on the JIC.</p>Lord Inge made it clear that he believed the pressure from Downing Street on the JIC to harden the wording of the dossier on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction had turned the intelligence committee into a government propaganda organ for war.</p>"It was asked to do things which I personally don't think it should do in the sense that intelligence and public relations need to be kept separate," said Lord Inge. He added: "I think lessons learnt from this will make sure that the JIC does not get politicised. If it did get into political waters it should not do, that is a different thing. But lessons will be learnt." Lord Inge, a crossbench peer, and Mr Mates, a senior Conservative MP, did not dissent from the report because they believed it contained enough criticism of the way the Government had used the JIC, even though it required careful reading.</p>Ann Taylor, a former Labour cabinet minister and current chairman of the Prime Minister's Intelligence and Security Committee, is believed to have played a key role inside the Butler inquiry in limiting the criticism of the JIC and Mr Scarlett, who was promoted by Mr Blair as the new head of MI6. Mr Scarlett takes up his post on 1 August.</p>Ms Taylor, a former Labour chief whip, was called to order by the Speaker of the Commons for shouting across the chamber at Michael Howard, the Tory leader, when he attacked Mr Blair over the Butler report in the Commons. A senior Tory figure said: "We thought it was pretty extraordinary that the Speaker should have to speak to a member of the Butler inquiry in that way."</p>The Hutton inquiry revealed that Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, had e-mailed Mr Scarlett asking for the dossier to be redrafted because there was "nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam."</p>The Butler report did not name Mr Powell, and Lord Butler's criticism of the JIC was muted. It said that "warnings were lost about the limited intelligence base" on which the claims mentioned in the dossier were made.</p>Lord Butler's report criticised Mr Scarlett for allowing the public to be told that the JIC had taken "authorship'' of the dossier but, in an extraordinary conclusion, it said it was a "collective" mistake of the whole JIC, and said Mr Scarlett should not withdraw from his promotion to become the new "C" in charge of MI6.</p>One inquiry source said: "There was clearly a debate inside the committee between Lord Inge and Michael Mates on one side, and Ann Taylor on the other. It looks as though Tony Blair was pleased by the outcome judging by his smile outside Downing Street."</p>Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "You don't 'lose warnings' as the Butler report said; you ignore them. Tony Blair ignored the warnings and he misled Parliament.</p>"The Butler report is a slow burning fuse. There is a lot of material which points the finger at the Government. That smile by the Prime Minister may come back to haunt him." </p>

Comments