Clegg backtracks after declaring Iraq war illegal

Nick Clegg used his first appearance standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday to declare that the Iraq war was "illegal", and demand that Labour explain why they dragged Britain into it. What appeared to have escaped the Deputy Prime Minister in the heat of the moment was that most senior Conservatives also voted for the war, including the Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague, who were sitting alongside Mr Clegg as he spoke, and Mr Cameron, who was in Washington.

He also seemingly forgot that he was speaking in Parliament as the acting head of government, and that his words could be interpreted as an official admission by the UK that the military action undertaken seven years ago was illegal. As the implications of his remarks sank in, Mr Clegg's office hurriedly issued a statement insisting that he was speaking personally, not expressing an official view.

The Liberal Democrat leader snapped back after his Labour opponent, Jack Straw, taunted him about having to defend Government policies which he had opposed before he went into coalition with the Conservatives.

Mr Clegg replied he was happy to "account for everything we are doing in this coalition Government", adding: "Maybe he one day could account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all, which is the illegal invasion of Iraq."

Later, his office put out a statement saying: "The Deputy Prime Minister was expressing his long-held view about the legality of the Iraq conflict. With regards to the coalition Government's official position on the legal basis for the Iraq conflict, it awaits the outcome of the inquiry being led by Sir John Chilcot."

But this attempt to backtrack was rejected by a spokesman for the inquiry, which said that it would not make a judgment on the legality of war, merely the legal issues in the run-up to the invasion.

The remark overshadowed the good news that Mr Clegg brought to the Commons, that the controversial family detention unit at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire is to close, an announcement welcomed yesterday by those who have campaigned to end what they see as a blot on Britain's international reputation. Mr Clegg caused some confusion by implying that the entire Yarl's Wood centre is to be closed, but the Home Office later made clear that the adult detention will stay, but the family unit will go.

Mr Clegg told MPs in the Commons that it was "simply a moral outrage that last year the Labour government imprisoned behind bars 1,000 children who were innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever".

Last week Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, told The Independent that children were "damaged" by detention at immigration removal centres and it was an issue which she had continually raised.

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "I am absolutely delighted that the coalition Government has followed through on its commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

"The closure of the family unit at Yarl's Wood will mean children in the asylum system will no longer be subject to 'prison-like' conditions. We have worked long and hard to stop this kind of detention because of the detrimental impact it has on children's mental health and physical well being."

Emma Ginn, a spokesman for Medical Justice, the charity that has campaigned against the detention of children, said: "We agree... that detaining children at Yarl's Wood is a 'moral outrage'. So too is the continued detention of vulnerable women at Yarl's Wood, including torture survivors, pregnant women, victims of trafficking and women with serious medical conditions, some of whom are denied adequate medical care."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are working to find an alternative that protects children's welfare, without undermining our immigration laws."

Suggested Topics
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
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

DT Teacher - Resistant Materials

£33000 - £34000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Technology Teacher (Resis...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
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?