Hewitt is first minister to say sorry

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Indy Politics

A Cabinet minister apologised yesterday for failings in the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. The Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said she was speaking on behalf of Tony Blair and the Cabinet.

Ms Hewitt was the first senior member of the Government to make a direct apology in relation to the war. Mr Blair has said that he could apologise about the information gathered on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, but has stopped short of actually doing so.

Appearing on BBC1's Question Time, Ms Hewitt was challenged by members of the audience when she said the Prime Minister had actually apologised for the inaccuracy of the intelligence.

She then said: "I certainly want to say that all of us, from the Prime Minister down, all of us who were involved in making an incredibly difficult decision are very sorry and do apologise for the fact that that information was wrong, but I don't think we were wrong to go in."

In his keynote speech at Labour's annual conference, Mr Blair said: "I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can't, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam." In an earlier newspaper interview, he claimed he had already apologised for the flawed information, although observers were unable to track down any occasion on which he had done so.

The Iraq Survey Group report on Wednesday confirmed that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.