'The truth is, nobody believes a word now the PM says'

Edited highlights of Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons yesterday.
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Iain Duncan Smith: The Leader of the House has said rogue elements in the intelligence services are undermining the Government and that their numbers are growing. Does the Prime Minister agree with him?

Tony Blair: It is obvious from what the Today programme has said, that of course there was somebody within the intelligence community that spoke to the media. I want to say the security services and intelligence services of this country do a superb job. Over the six years that I have been Prime Minister, they have been magnificent in the information they have given, in their professionalism and their integrity.

Iain Duncan Smith: The question is the Leader of the House made serious allegations about the security services. These services, he said, are deliberately seeking to undermine the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister tell us how senior he believes these people are, how many they are and what does he actually intend to do about these allegations?

Tony Blair: He said somebody was obviously talking to the security services. But when he asks me who it is and how senior, it's an anonymous source, according to the BBC, I don't know, is the answer to that.

I do not believe that person is a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee and I want to make it clear to the House because I have conferred with the chairman and the Joint Intelligence Committee; there was no attempt by any official or minister or member of Number 10 Downing Street staff to override the intelligence judgements of the Joint Intelligence Committee, including the so-called 45 minutes, a judgement made by the Joint Intelligence Committee and by them alone.

Iain Duncan Smith: The Leader of the House ... did not talk about one person. He talked about a growing number of members of the security services. Isn't the way to deal with this, for him to publish the dossier given to him by the JIC before the one he published in December. Will he do this today?

Tony Blair: Mr Speaker, the Intelligence and Security Committee can go through them and produce a report and I think it only right their report be published so people can make a judgement.

These claims are false, in particular, the claim about the readiness of Saddam to use weapons within 45 minutes was inserted into the dossier at the behest of Number 10. It is completely and totally untrue. Also the claim that the claim about 45 minutes provoked disquiet amongst the intelligence community who disagreed with its inclusion in the dossier again this is something I have discussed again with the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. That allegation is completely and totally untrue.

Iain Duncan Smith: If the allegations are wrong and if he says he did not add the 45-minute point to the dossier why doesn't he publish the dossier given to him by the JIC before he published the one in September?I remind the House that the Prime Minister will only let that committee see the intelligence reports he wants them to see. It reports directly to him and he can withhold any part or all of its reports.

Tony Blair: The Leader of the House was not making an allegation about the intelligence being wrong. He was rebutting the allegation that the intelligence was wrong. In relation to the Intelligence and Security Committee, I will give them all the JIC assessments. In addition, they can interview those people in the security services who drew up the JIC report. I will publish the report.

Iain Duncan Smith: The allegations made by his Leader of the House today have changed everything. He is alleging that elements of the security service are actually trying to undermine the Government. The credibility of his Government rests on clearing up these charges. Surely the reality is to hold an independent judicial inquiry?

Tony Blair: "I have said to him we will produce all the evidence for the Intelligence and Security Committee. And I repeat that all these allegations he has produced are completely without substance. For example, the report that there was a meeting between the Foreign Secretary and Colin Powell expressing their doubts about weapons of mass destruction in New York.

On the day concerned, the Foreign Secretary was in France. The allegation in The Mail on Sunday that the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer ambushed me over WMD: lies. I have the following statement from the German embassy: "The Germany rejects in the strongest possible terms The Mail on Sunday's claims made in today's front page article. The contents and the quotations attributed to Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer are pure fiction."

Iain Duncan Smith: The truth is, nobody believes a word now that the Prime Minister says. That's the truth. Will he either publish that dossier now or hold an independent inquiry?

Tony Blair: There have been many claims made about the Iraq conflict: that hundreds of thousands of people would die; that it was going to be my Vietnam; that the Middle East was going to be in flames; and this latest one that weapons of mass destruction were a complete invention by the British Government. The truth is some people resent the fact it was right to go to conflict. Iraq is now free and we should be proud of that.

Charles Kennedy: Given that the Prime Minister is saying more time is needed and he asked for public patience towards finding categoric evidence of weapons of mass destruction does he not understand many in this country and internationally treat this with scepticism because more time and a degree of patience was exactly the appeal that Dr Hans Blix made? The Prime Minister was unwilling to extend that courtesy to him despite having voted for it. Why tdoes he expect people to extend that courtesy to him?

Tony Blair: What I think I said in this House was that if Saddam was co-operating fully he could take as much time as Dr Blix needed. If Saddam was not co-operating fully, and Dr Blix found he wasn't then he was in breach of Resolution 1441, that is the first point. The second point is this: It is a different situation when Saddam has been removed from power. The Iraq Survey Group ... has just gone in it should be allowed to get on with its job, investigate the sites, interview the witnesses and report back.

Charles Kennedy: Acknowledging rightly or wrongly that there is that public scepticism there will he also acknowledge that sense of scepticism is likely to be further increased given the comments of the Leader of the House about the rogue elements within the security services. Doesn't that underline the need for a fully independent judicial review?

Tony Blair: The intelligence that formed the basis of what we put out last September, that intelligence came from JIC assessments. There was never any question of ministers or officials or anyone else trying to override that.

Robin Cook: Does the Prime Minister recall saying in the September debate that we know Saddam has been trying to buy uranium from Africa? Has he been advised since then that it is accepted that the documents on which that claim was based were forged? Could he ... correct the record now and say he regrets in all good faith he gave the House information which turned out to be wrong?

Tony Blair: No I'm afraid I won't do that. There are two separate allegations. He started with the allegation of uranium from Africa. There was intelligence to that effect. I'm not going into the details. But there was intelligence judged by the JIC at the time to be correct. We are not in a position until we do the investigation properly to say whether that is so or not..

Kenneth Clarke: When the Prime Minister was discussing the question of Iraq with his fellow G8 leaders, presumably he recalled they all supported a unanimous Security Council Resolution 1441 saying military force, if necessary, would be required to disarm Saddam.

Did he remind President Bush that the case for war in Iraq without a second resolution and in the face of the opposition of the majority of the Security Council was that those weapons posed such an imminent threat that an immediate military invasion was justified without giving any more time to Dr Blix and his inspectors?

Do I understand the Prime Minister's position today to be he still believes that and he is telling the House he thinks that assertion was factually accurate, is factually accurate and will be proved to be factually accurate? If he is still standing by that does he understand how serious it will be if it turns out that is was not true at all?

Tony Blair: We disagree on this completely. The basis upon which we went to conflict was that in Resolution 1441 Iraq was given a chance to comply fully and unconditionally with the UN inspectors. The conclusion we drew six months later was that they were not doing so, and the problem on the UN Security Council was that we could not get an agreement even to the fact that if they carried on not complying fully and unconditionally with the inspectors, we could take action. That was obviously unacceptable.

The second point to make is that I stand entirely behind the dossier we put out and the intelligence in it. When we get a proper and fully documented account of what we have found we will present it to the people.

Clare Short: In trying to heal the divisions in the world which have appeared over the difference of view about how to handle the crisis in Iraq, did the Prime Minister apologise to President Chirac for misleading all of us about the position of France over a second resolution. I think the Prime Minister said to the House and to many of us that France has said it would veto any second resolution. It is now clear President Chirac said the inspectors needed longer but if they failed to disarm Iraq the Security Council would have to mandate military action. Does that mean he misled us and should apologise to us as well?

Tony Blair: We again have a complete disagreement between us on this. First the remarks that President Chirac said, they are on the record. Whatever the circumstances, France would say no. But there is a more important point. France made it clear it would not accept any resolution that had the automatic use of force in the absence of compliance by Saddam or would accept an ultimatum. That is what I said to her and what I said to this House and that is true.

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