Chilcot fallout: Tony Blair didn't want me around, never had a single face-to-face meeting, says former Attorney General Lord Morris
- Lord Morris said his 'presence was questioned' at meeting of the War Cabinet
- Suggests that his successor Lord Goldsmith was 'too close' to the government to be independent
- Calls decision to go to war 'unlawful' and 'highly questionable' and argues that there should have been a second attempt at a UN Resolution
Tony Blair’s Attorney General during the NATO war on Yugoslavia has added his voice to criticism of the government’s conduct leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in the wake of the publication of the Chilcot Report.
The former prime minister was found to have sent in forces in 2003 when there was no "imminent threat" from Saddam Hussein and on the basis of "flawed" intelligence about the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction programme.
Lord Morris of Aberavon, who was a Labour Member of Parliament from 1959-2001, revealed the extent of the Blair government’s reluctance to take legal advice.
In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT UK’s Going Underground he said: "I never had a single face-to-face meeting with Blair in the whole time (on this issue) that I was Attorney General.
"I did attend war cabinets, indeed my presence was even questioned at one of them – why I should be there at all? I don’t think Blair really liked having too many lawyers, or any lawyer around. He’s a lawyer himself, but then lawyers were kept at a distance and I did all my work by correspondence.
"I laid down emphatically what is legal, what is not legal, and observed to the Geneva Conventions, and when the last proposal was made, to bomb half of Belgrade, I refused."
Questioned on the failure of the government’s legal processes in the lead up to Iraq, Lord Morris appeared to suggest that his successor in the role, Peter Goldsmith’s independence was compromised by his relationship with the Blair government:
"It’s a very difficult proposition for any law officer to try and maintain the integrity of the office and to try to ensure that he is independent – truly independent – of government. I’m not quite sure whether, in this instance, they became too close, and the Attorney job became impossible.
He went on to strongly criticise the process by which the government interacted with its legal counsel.
"It was very unsatisfactory, as Chilcot finds, there was no proper written advice given to the cabinet, circulated to them and discussed; there was an oral presentation given by the Attorney and there certainly needs to be something much more than that so that colleagues can go away, mull over what is proposed, and then be able to reach a collective decision on the basis of factual written advice, and that was never done."
Elsewhere in the interview, which will be show in full on this week’s episode of Going Underground on RTUK, Baron Morris called the decision to go to war “unlawful” and “highly questionable”, argued that there should have been a second attempt at a UN Resolution, criticised Jeremy Corbyn and dismissed the possibility of Blair facing criminal charges in the ICC.
Meanwhile Tony Blair has said he understands why some families of service personnel killed in Iraq "can never forgive me" as he continued to defend his actions following the damning report by Sir John Chilcot.
Mr Blair insisted the sacrifices made by British troops had not been in vain and maintained that it was right to remove Saddam from power.
He was challenged about the families of service personnel killed in the conflict, some of whom want him to face trial for war crimes.
Asked if he had considered whether that could happen, Mr Blair said: "No, but I do understand why they can't agree with me and will never forgive me for this decision.
"But I also think you put prime ministers in these positions to take decisions and to take them in what they believe to be the best interests of the country.
"That's not to say those decisions are right, but you always want your prime ministers to be sitting in that seat of decision-making and doing what they think is right. Because that's what you elect them to do."
He added: "I never expected to end up being prime minister in a time of war. I never expected to go into conflict. I came in in 1997 full of plans for the health service and education and all the rest of it."
The former premier has made a series of media appearances since the Chilcot Report's publication on Wednesday in an attempt to explain the decision which has come to define his time in office.
"They did not make that contribution or sacrifice in vain," he told Forces TV. "In my view, in my judgment, at the time and now, the world was and is better off without Saddam Hussein in power."
He said the military was fully prepared for the campaign to remove Saddam, but that the terrorist insurgency that followed was "tough".
Sir John found that "despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated" and planning for Iraq after Saddam's removal was "wholly inadequate".
Mr Blair said: "You can do all the planning but in the end it's the fighting that's going to be tough. Because, however much you plan, if you have people who are prepared to drive cars laden with explosives into markets where there are civilians and blow up the first 100 people they see, you are going to have a tough fight."
The full interview with Lord Morris on RT UK’s Going Underground on Saturday 9 July at 11:30, 14:30 and 21:30.
Belfast Telegraph Digital