Butler: Poor briefings for Iraq War Cabinet meetings were ‘deliberate’

The Cabinet was deliberately not kept as well-informed as the prime minister, defence secretary and foreign secretary in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, former cabinet secretary Lord Butler has said.

By Joshua.Chambers

13 Nov 2013

Speaking at a Foreign Office seminar in February, Butler said of Iraq War decision making that: “A lot of very good official papers were prepared. None of them was ever circulated to the Cabinet, just as the Attorney General’s advice was not circulated to the Cabinet. So, the Cabinet was not as well informed as the three leading protagonists: the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. There were a lot of PowerPoint presentations, which is not nearly as good, because you cannot consider or think about it in advance. I think that was deliberate, and it was a weakness of the machinery that underlay that particular decision.”

Butler chaired the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2004. The minutes of the seminar have just been released.

Last week, Sir John Chilcott, announced that his Iraq Inquiry is still waiting for the publication of “a number of particularly important categories of evidence, including the treatment of discussions in cabinet and cabinet committees and the UK position in discussions between the prime minister and head of state or government of other nations”.

Earlier this year, the Foreign Office’s Departmental Improvement Plan said it expects to be criticised for its poor record keeping in the run-up to the Iraq War. “The gaps in our record keeping are becoming apparent, causing reputational and financial risk for the FCO. We are likely to attract criticism in the Chilcott [sic] Inquiry report,” it said.

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