[News] 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War Backbench Business Debate, 13 June 11.30am


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Backbench Business Debate: 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War
Thursday 13 June after the business statement by the Leader of the House

A 6-hour long Commons Chamber debate to discuss the Iraq war ten years on will take place on Thursday; the debate is due to follow a Business statement by the Leader of the House.

The debate is expected to commence at 11.30am but may be later if there are any urgent questions or statements granted on the day.

The motion for debate is:
That this House has considered the matter of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War.

About Backbench Business Debates:
There are 35 days during the current Parliamentary schedule where business is decided not by the government but by the Backbench Business Committee. Topics for debate can be suggested by backbench MPs from any political party. The Backbench Business Committee then selects topics for debates on their merits and considers criteria including:

· topicality and timing
· why holding a debate is important
· the number of MPs who are likely to take part
· whether a debate has already been held or is likely to be arranged through other routes


MPs are to debate the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War in a general debate in the House of Commons. The debate is expected to commence between 12 midday and 12.30pm following the conclusion of the statement on the Royal Bank of Scotland. Timings are approximate as Parliamentary business is subject to change.

To watch the debate live go to Parliament TV: Player

Transcripts of proceedings in the House of Commons Chamber are available three hours after they happen in Today's Commons debates - UK Parliament
I'm in France on a 1 bar 3G signal so no chance to watch it, even though the rubbish weather might make it a consideration. I wonder how many of those who were arguing vehemently in favour 10 years ago will be conspicuous by their absence? Also wonder if Gorgeous George might make one of his rare visits?


Discussions about the anniversary of the Iraq War are currently focussing on the reasons behind the vote to go to war with the now-Opposition Party answering questions on behalf of the Government who were in power at the start of the war.


During the Iraq War general debate yesterday The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds) was able to utilise the time to update the House of Commons on the progress of the Chilcott Inquiry. You can read his comments and those from other Members taking part in the debate below:

Mark Simmonds:
13 Jun 2013 : Column 538
The inquiry is a complex and substantial task and it is considering an eight-year period. When he set up the inquiry, the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), described its scope as “unprecedented”, and Sir John has said that its final report is likely to exceed 1 million words.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion [Caroline Lucas] asked when the process will be completed and the report published, and the short answer is that it is up to Sir John and his team. The inquiry is independent of the Government, although I assure the hon. Lady and other hon. Members that the Government are co-operating fully with it. Indeed, the Foreign Office alone has made some 30,000 documents available, which gives a further idea of the scale of the work. Those doing the inquiry have indicated that they intend to begin what is called the “criticism phase” of their work this summer. That will give individuals who may face criticism in the report the chance to make representations to the inquiry. Thereafter, the inquiry and Sir John will have to assimilate those representations into the final report. I do not have a definitive time scale for when that final report will be published, but it is essential that Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues do that work in a thorough and professional way.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): That is absolutely right and it is important that John Chilcot gets all the information required for the report. He will have seen the remarks by David Owen that hint at collusion by Tony Blair and the Prime Minister’s office to ensure that private correspondence between George Bush and Tony Blair will not be available to the inquiry. Can the Minister say that that will now be made available and that we will be able to see the private correspondence between Tony Blair and George Bush?

Mark Simmonds: Let me be clear with the hon. Gentleman. The debate about the private correspondence between Tony Blair and George Bush, and the Cabinet minutes from the time, concerns their public publication. The Chilcot inquiry has seen both sets of documents, which I hope goes some way to assuage the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.

Paul Flynn: The inquiry is already two years late given the date it originally promised to report and, as the Minister says, it is an important report. Had the United Kingdom not joined the war, Saddam would still have been removed and the war would have gone on because our support was not needed. The crucial point— I do not know whether the Minister has confirmed this—seems to be what Bush and Blair cooked up in 2002, because the decision to take the United Kingdom into the war was probably taken then. That is the essential point—not why the war took place, but why the United Kingdom was dragged into it by Tony Blair.

Mark Simmonds: That is part of Sir John Chilcot’s remit, and we must wait for the report to come out before the UK Government will comment on that.

Mr Baron: Is my hon. Friend at least able to accept that we went to war on a false premise and there were no weapons of mass destruction?

13 Jun 2013 : Column 539
Mark Simmonds: No, I am not prepared to comment on that. As I said, the current Government will not comment on the process that led to participation in the Iraq conflict until after the Chilcot report has been published.

Andrew George: Even if the Government are not prepared to concede that point, does my hon. Friend agree that the issue raises questions about the capacity of Parliament to scrutinise the evidence? Even if we accept the evidence from the time at face value—although a lot of us were very sceptical of it—the only thing it concluded was that Saddam had the ability of potentially reaching UK assets in Cyprus within 45 minutes, and that was all. Was that really sufficient evidence for Parliament to decide that we should go to war?

Mark Simmonds: Those are all matters that Sir John Chilcot will be looking at, and I am sure my hon. Friend would prefer there to be an independent inquiry looking at what happened, rather than a Government inquiry. We have made a conscious decision not to comment on the decision to go to war until the inquiry has reported, but as I have said, I recognise that it was a decision of huge significance.

To read the whole transcript of the debate please go to: House of Commons Hansard Debates for 13 Jun 2013 (pt 0002)


MPs were also able to use the 6-hour long debate to query whether votes on going to war should be 'whipped votes' or 'free votes'.

Whipped votes - follow the party line, if it is a three-line whip MPs who are also Government Ministers are expected to vote with their party, if they don't they may be asked to resign from their Ministerial position.

Free votes or conscious votes - these have no whip and MPs can vote according to their conscience rather than toe the party line.

An extract from MPs' comments on the Iraq War vote is included below:

Ian Lucas:
13 Jun 2013 : Column 544
We know that the decision was important not just to Members of this House, but to an enormous number of people outside. It had a profound impact on British politics. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the war led to a fundamental loss of trust in the Labour party, and it is right that the Labour party should acknowledge that. Those who knocked on doors in the subsequent general election were made well aware of that, which is one of the great qualities of our democracy.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend not just on the position he took 10 years ago, but on the way he is presenting his case today. A number of Labour MPs took the same decision. Indeed, if it had not been for the votes of the Conservative party and others, the motion would not have been carried. Has he given consideration to the suggestion that votes on war should be matters of conscience, and not be whipped?

Ian Lucas: The 2003 vote was whipped and I still did what I thought was right. Members of Parliament should always do what they think is right.

Mr Straw: May I echo the point made by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) that it was a whipped vote in name only? The vote was perfectly open. Given the extent of the rebellion on both sides, people were able to make their own judgments. Inside the Government, there was a clear expectation that anybody taking the Queen’s shilling would vote with the recommendation of the Cabinet, but it was open to Ministers to resign—two did, very honourably. Others chose to stay.

Ian Lucas: I think that votes on important matters in this House always have consequences. This vote had consequences for those MPs who did not support the Government on that particular occasion.

This extract was taken from the transcript of the whole debate which can be found at: House of Commons Hansard Debates for 13 Jun 2013 (pt 0002)

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