Butler pledges to continue inquiry despite criticisms

Lord Butler has vowed to continue with his inquiry into the UK's WMD intelligence prior to the war in Iraq, despite both the Tories and Lib Dems withdrawing their support.

Tory leader Michael Howard withdrew his support from the inquiry yesterday, saying that Lord Butler's remit was "unacceptably restrictive". The inquiry's first press statement issued earlier this month stated that Lord Butler would focus only on "systems and processes" rather than on the actions of individuals.

However, Mr Howard's man on the panel, senior Tory MP Michael Mates, has dissented and pledged to continue his work on the inquiry. Mr Mates's decision, in flagrant disregard of his leader's wishes, will undermine Michael Howard and add weight to government attacks that the Tories had leapt upon a "passing bandwagon".

The Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismissed the Tory move yesterday as "shameless opportunism". The Lib Dems have also rounded on Mr Howard for his u-turn, saying that the Tory leader's political credibility had been "severely damaged".

Explaining his decision in a letter sent to Downing Street yesterday, Michael Howard said that a procedural document issued by the inquiry on February 26 had repeated a reference to "structures, systems and processes", and did not include amongst its aims "an examination of the acts or omissions of individuals".

Mr Howard added: "It makes clear that it will consider such acts or omissions only in the context of its examination of structures, systems and processes. There is no basis in the terms of reference for that view and I consider it a quite unjustifiable restriction on the Committee's approach.

"After careful reflection of these matters, I have, therefore, decided with regret to withdraw my co-operation from the Butler Review."

The six-man inquiry panel was to be made up of the Whitehall mandarin Lord Butler, Sir John Chilcot, Field Marshal Lord Inge and MPs from the three main parties. Michael Mates had been nominated to be the Conservative panel member, with Ann Taylor representing the government. When the Prime Minister announced that the inquiry was to be set up on February 3, the Lib Dems immediately said that they could not cooperate – also citing its narrow remit as cause for concern.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said that his key requirement – that that the inquiry should not only investigate the quality of intelligence, but also the judgments made by the politicians – had not been met, and so his party could not take part.

The Butler review will most likely begin taking oral evidence around the beginning of April, and it is anticipated that a report will be presented before Parliament breaks up for the summer recess in July.

The committee added that it did not intend to issue any statements about the progress of its work until publication of its final report.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

14 July 2004
Intelligence errors were made in good faith, Butler inquiry finds
Strains, oversights and systems failures, but not individual mendacity nor political pressure, lay at the heart of intelligence failings in the run up to war in Iraq, Lord Butler's inquiry has concluded.
01 March 2004
Tories pull out of Butler probe into WMD intelligence
The Tories have walked away from Lord Butler's inquiry into the quality of intelligence in relation to Iraq's WMD, saying that the remit of the probe was "unacceptably restrictive", it has been reported today.
06 May 2004
Scarlett selected as MI6 boss
John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, has been named as the next spy boss at MI6. Mr Scarlett, who gave evidence to the Hutton Inquiry in his capacity as JIC chairman, was in charge of producing the pre-war dossier on weapons of mass destruction for the government.
07 October 2014
Police Appeal For Witnesses To 'Horrific Attack' In Glasgow
An investigation into a "horrific attack" in Glasgow last week has been upgraded to a murder inquiry following the death of Stephen McGinlay. Mr McGinlay (26) was attacked by three men on St George's Road in Glasgow at about 17:50 on Thursday 02 October. He died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary on Sunday.
25 May 2012
Cameron Defends Jeremy Hunt's Handling Of BSkyB Bid
David Cameron has strongly defended Jeremy Hunt's handling of Rupert Murdoch's bid for BSkyB. This follows the discovery of new evidence showing that Hunt was privately pushing for the takeover to be allowed before he was appointed to oversee the process.