Details from Blair's Iraq calls were deleted
The questions facing Tony Blair at tomorrow's Iraq inquiry hearing are piling up. It emerged last night that parts of Mr Blair's conversations with the United States President George Bush in the build-up to war were expunged from Whitehall records.
Sir John Chilcot's team also heard yesterday from a senior civil servant that Downing Street ignored Foreign Office warnings over publishing the infamously exaggerated dossiers on the threat from Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons arsenal.
Mr Blair's private secretary at No 10 routinely deleted any mention of his correspondence with Mr Bush from the Government minutes, the inquiry has found out. The disclosure will fuel anger over the failure to release the memos between the two leaders in the run-up to war, which could fill in gaps for when Mr Blair took key decisions over the war. David Cameron, challenged over the refusal to publish the memos, said that he was powerless to order their release.
Mr Blair's then private secretary, Matthew Rycroft, has recalled that Mr Bush often began telephones calls or video conferences in 2002 and 2003 by thanking the former prime minister for his letters.
Mr Rycroft said that he drew up two accounts of the conversations, omitting any reference to them in the Whitehall record because Mr Blair viewed them as "personal dialogue". He told the inquiry: "I do recall doing it on a number of occasions. I would have thought possibly about five occasions and each time for a particular reason.
"I recall the choice I had was either only doing an expurgated version or doing two versions, and so on these occasions I decided it was better to do two versions." Mr Rycroft said Mr Blair had always been clear that Britain would support US military action.
Sir John Scarlett, the former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, used similar language in details of evidence also released yesterday. Asked whether he urged ministers to give the Iraq weapons inspectors more time, he replied: "We were being bulldozed... by the military timetable which pointed very strongly to early or mid-March."
John Williams, the former head of news at the Foreign Office, said that, in retrospect, his department had been marginalised. He was under the "illusion that the Foreign Office was playing a more important role in Iraq policy than I now believe to be the case" and viewed efforts to reach a diplomatic solution through the United Nations as "peripheral".
Mr Williams said he opposed publication of the September 2002 dossier, which claimed Saddam could launch a weapons strike within 45 minutes, but Mr Blair went ahead anyway.
And he "strongly argued" at a meeting chaired by Alastair Campbell, the No 10 director of communications, against what became known as the "dodgy dossier" of February 2003. He said: "I believed I had won the argument, only to hear the decision had been reversed."
- 1 Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
- 5 The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
Lauren Goodger sex tape: Reality star calls for tougher laws on revenge porn after intimate video leaks online
Israel-Gaza conflict: President Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire
Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...
£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...
£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...
£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...