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Blair to be impeached over Iraq war

Aug 26 2004

Martin Shipton, The Western Mail

 

PLAID CYMRU MP Adam Price announced last night that he will impeach Prime Minister Tony Blair for taking Britain into the Iraq war.

Using a parliamentary procedure that has lain dormant for more than 150 years, Mr Price intends to make a formal accusation in the House of Commons accusing Mr Blair of "High Crimes and Misdemeanours".

The essence of the allegation is that the Prime Minister deceived Parliament and the British people over the need to go to war, and entered into a secret treaty with President Bush to join an invasion of Iraq while keeping his own Cabinet in the dark.

Mr Price disclosed his impeachment plan during an exclusive TV interview on S4C's Wedi 7 news programme last night.

Writing in today's Western Mail, Mr Price explains why he is initiating a procedure last used against Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary, in 1848. The process can be started by a single MP on the floor of the House of Commons. If MPs agree there is a case to answer, the Prime Minister would face trial by the House of Lords. If he is found guilty, he could be removed from office.

Mr Price told us the idea had come to him after going to see Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 early last month. He then commissioned a report that runs to more than 20,000 words from Glen Rangwala, an international lawyer and academic of Cambridge University, and Dan Plesch, an academic from Birkbeck College, London.

Lawyers have been instructed to draft charges against Mr Blair that Mr Price plans to outline in the House of Commons during October.

In the meantime he and his team will be gathering as much support both within Parliament and outside. Only a small number of MPs had been contacted by yesterday to stop the plan leaking out in advance of last night's announcement.

He says the plan to impeach the Prime Minister already has the support of the four Plaid Cymru MPs, the five SNP MPs and two prominent Tories - Spectator editor and Shadow Arts Minister Boris Johnson and former Shadow Welsh Secretary Nigel Evans.

Mr Price said, "I urge everyone to read the report, which I believe provides a compelling case that the Prime Minister engaged in deliberate deception to make a case for war. I defy anyone who reads it to conclude there is no case to answer. The value of impeachment is that it will force the Government to seek to rebut our case in detail.

"There will be two sets of charges against Blair - that he deceived Parliament and the public about the threat posed by Iraq, and that he entered into a secret agreement to go to war. There are many instances where he said one thing in public at a time when we now know that there was intelligence information available that contradicted his statements.

"There are two possible interpretations - either he engaged in deliberate deception or he was so grossly incompetent that he did not understand what he was told.

"My belief, after looking at the issues in great detail, is that there was deliberate deception. But if the second option were right, there would be such culpable incompetence that he should not be Prime Minister in any case. Either way, I believe he has committed an impeachable offence.

"Andrew Gilligan was right, but the issue goes far wider than the Government's dodgy dossier. The terms of the Hutton and Butler Inquiries were very narrowly drawn, but if you look at the statements made in them it is clear that the Prime Minister has a case to answer. He must have his day in court. It's important to elicit further information from Number 10.

"Since the publication of the Butler Report they have tried to close down discussion about the reasons for going to war. Like other MPs, I have had a number of parliamentary questions unanswered because the Prime Minister and other ministers say they have nothing further to say.

"Impeaching the Prime Minister puts further pressure on them to give proper answers. For the Prime Minister to try to feign a close down of these issues is quite disgraceful.

"It is important to make it clear that it is the Prime Minister's own conduct that is at the centre of this - not the Government as a whole. That is why a vote of no confidence would be unfair and inappropriate.

"The point is that Blair went outside collective Cabinet responsibility and acted on his own, or rather with a small cabal. He kept the Cabinet in the dark.

"I have no particular quarrel with the Treasury or the Department for Work and Pensions over this matter - the focus is on the Prime Minister himself.

"There is a long established convention that ministers who make misleading statements should resign, and there are recent precedents for this. Both Peter Mandelson and Beverley Hughes resigned in such circumstances.

"It would be absurd to suggest that the issues over which these two ministers resigned were more important, or the deception more serious, than that of taking Britain to war."

Asked what the appropriate penalty should be for Mr Blair, Mr Price said, "Removal from office. I am defending the principle that if as a minister you mislead Parliament and the people, you have to resign.

"The answer to those who say this is a matter that should be decided in the ballot box is that the responsibility for the deception lies very clearly with the Prime Minister, not the Government as a whole.

"If you allow a minister to get away with deception, the very electoral process is damaged as people's trust in the democratic process is weakened. It is the responsibility of Parliament to uphold this vitally important principle."

Last night a 10 Downing Street spokesman said, "We understand this report is going to be published tomorrow.

"We can't comment on a report that hasn't been published."