Chilcot report: MPs plan to impeach Tony Blair over Iraq War using ancient law

Move could be made because of Labour leader’s alleged misleading of Parliament

Peter Yeung
Sunday 03 July 2016 15:06
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Tony Blair is reported to be finalising a response to Chilcot with former Downing Street allies
Tony Blair is reported to be finalising a response to Chilcot with former Downing Street allies

A number of MPs are seeking to impeach former prime minister Tony Blair using an ancient Parliamentary law.

The move, which has cross-party support, could be launched in the aftermath of the Chilcot Inquiry report because of the Labour leader’s alleged role in misleading Parliament over the Iraq War.

MPs believe Mr Blair, who was in office between 1997 and 2007, should be prosecuted for breaching his constitutional duties and taking the country into a conflict that resulted in the deaths of 179 British troops.

Blair hints he could reject the findings of the Chilcot inquiry

Not used since 1806, when Tory minister Lord Melville was charged for misappropriating official funds, the law is seen in Westminster as an alternative form of punishment if, as believed, Mr Blair will escape serious criticism in the Chilcot Inquiry report.

Triggering the process simply requires an MP to propose a motion, and support evidence as part of a document called the Article of Impeachment.

If the impeachment attempt is approved by MPs, the defendant is delivered to Black Rod ahead of a trial.

A simple majority is required to convict, at which point a sentence can be passed, which could, in theory, involve Mr Blair being sent to prison.

Last year, current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the former prime minister could be made to stand trial for war crimes, saying that he thought the Iraq War was an illegal one and that Mr Blair "has to explain that".

He added: “We went into a war that was catastrophic, that was illegal, that cost us a lot of money, that lost a lot of lives.

“The consequences are still played out with migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, refugees all over the region.”

It is believed the 2.6 million-word report, due to be published in July, will not make “any judgements on the legality [of the Iraq War]or anything like that, that is not the purpose”.

Chilcot will instead focus on the decision making behind the conflict and whether any lessons can be learned. Launched by the US with strong UK backing, the war lead to the deaths of between 150,000 and 600,000 Iraqis over four years.

Earlier this year, Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party, said the report will show that Mr Blair committed to the invasion of Iraq in private with President George Bush before 2003.

He said: “If, as I believe... Chilcot finds that there was a prior commitment from Blair to Bush at Crawford ranch [Bush’s Texas home] in 2002, that would provide the reason for pursuing the matter further.”

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