Officials at the Department for International Development were inhibited in post-war planning for Iraq because of concerns about the legitimacy of military action, the official inquiry into the conflict was told today.
Sir Suma Chakrabarti, who was the permanent secretary at the department (Dfid), said concerns about both the legality and the wider political legitimacy of the conflict were "inhibiting factors".
However, he strongly denied earlier evidence to the inquiry by the then head of the armed forces, Admiral Lord Boyce, who said he had met Dfid officials in Iraq who had been ordered to stay in their tents and do nothing.
Sir Suma said that there had been no such order from either the then International Development Secretary Clare Short or her immediate successor Baroness Amos.
"There was no instruction from either Secretary of State Short or from Secretary of State Amos or from me for anyone to stay in their tents and do nothing," he said.
"I have also taken the liberty of checking with the people in those tents. They actually cannot remember meeting Lord Boyce."
Sir Suma suggested that there had been a "personality issue" between Lord Boyce and Ms Short, who subsequently resigned from the Government over the war.
He acknowledged however that Ms Short's attitude towards the preparations for the aftermath of the invasion had been "schizophrenic".
"Undoubtedly a theme of Clare Short's interventions in a number of meetings was that she didn't want Dfid officials to be in any discussion where it might suggest that war was certain," he said.
"But actually it was schizophrenic because at the same time she was saying that we should talk to the UN about the possibility of conflict."
He said that concerns about both the legality and the wider legitimacy had been "inhibiting factors" within Dfid.
"One is the legality point. I think the bigger point for Dfid in many ways is the political legitimacy point," he said.
"Unless we had (a United Nations Security Council resolution) other institutions and countries could believe in that would give the UN sufficient leadership, we were not going to be able to widen the pool of funding and expertise."
Sir Suma said that, throughout 2002, DfID was not told of the planning that was taking place within the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Ms Short was so concerned that she had raised it with Tony Blair "in the margins" of a Cabinet meeting on December 12.
The Prime Minister told her to speak to Lord Boyce but she "didn't seem to be making much progress".
It was only after the intervention of both Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew (now Lord) Turnbull and Mr Blair's foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning that DfID and the MoD were able to agree a way forward.
He said that, until that point, there appeared to have been opposition from within MoD to working with DfID
"I think it was from some in the military and I think it may have been from MoD ministers. I don't know to this day," he said.Reuse content