The 45-minute case collapses (Part 1)

JIC alerted Blair three times over unsafe WMD claim

Tony Blair was sent three intelligence reports in the six months during the run up to the Iraq war, including one that warned him that information on whether Saddam Hussein still held any chemical or biological weapons was "inconsistent" and "sparse".

The revelation adds to the mystery of how the Prime Minister could tell Parliament last week that, when war began, he still believed that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed in just 45 minutes.

That 45-minute claim, highlighted in a dossier which Mr Blair presented to the Commons in September 2002, inspired reports in the press that British servicemen and tourists in Cyprus could be hit at any moment by long-range Iraqi missiles.

In fact, John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, knew that it was only "battlefield mortar shells or small-calibre weaponry" that could be deployed that quickly - but seemingly nobody told the Prime Minister, who said in the Commons last week that he did not find out until after 18 March, when MPs voted to go to war.

Yesterday Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary who resigned as Leader of the House in the run-up to the war, urged the committee of inquiry set up under Lord Butler to investigate why a vital piece of information was apparently withheld from the man who made the decision to send British troops in to fight.

Mr Cook, who is due to be interviewed on the ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme today, said: "One of the questions the Butler inquiry must ask is why on earth the JIC sent up three assessments of Saddam's weapons capacity without making it clear that they were talking about battlefield weapons, not strategic systems."

The committee, chaired by the former chief whip Ann Taylor, supported Tony Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to Britain, and that - by implication - the Prime Minister was right to take part in a war without UN sanction.

They gave two reasons: that the Iraqi army, with or without weapons of mass destruction, might attack UK forces policing "no-fly zones", or that they might fire Al Hussein missiles at British forces in Cyprus.

Last week the Government slipped out a follow-up document, with the clumsy title Government Response to the Intelligence and Security Committee Report on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was placed with minimal publicity in the Commons Vote Office.

The document makes the startling revelation that the intelligence services had already reported, before the war began, that Iraq's ballistic missiles had probably been dismantled, and that the presence of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq was making it difficult for Iraq to threaten anyone with weapons of mass destruction.

The document added: "The JIC assessments produced in October and December 2002 and again in March 2003 reflected this point. In December 2002, the JIC specifically pointed out that Iraq's ability to use chemical and biological weapons (CBW) might be constrained by the difficulty of producing more whil. UN inspectors were present.

"In March 2003, [the JIC] stated that intelligence on the timing of when Iraq might use CBW was inconsistent and that the intelligence on the deployment was sparse.

"Intelligence indicating that chemical weapons remained disassembled and that Saddam had not yet ordered their assembly was highlighted. The JIC also pointed out the intelligence suggested that the 750km-range Al Hussein ballistic missiles remained disassembled and that it would take several days to assemble them once orders to do so had been issued."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, has defended his party's decision to boycott the Butler committee, saying that it "allows the wrong questions to distract attention from the real issues."

Writing in today's edition of The Independent on Sunday, he said: "What the Prime Minister has really done this week is to tell us to take it or leave it.

Forget inquiries - the people will be his judge."

Peter Hain, the Leader of the House, admitted last night that Mr Blair was no longer "unassailable". After seven years in power, he said, Labour had "hit our first very seriously choppy waters."

* Tony Blair has written to the widow of Dr David Kelly offering a private meeting, according to her lawyers. Janice Kelly declines to say whether she intends to accept his invitation.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home