Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Clare Short's post Iraq war staff 'told to do nothing'

Lord Boyce: "I thought Dfid (Department for International Development) were particularly uncooperative"

UK development experts were told to sit in their tents and "not do anything" in the aftermath of the Iraq war, former defence chief Lord Boyce has claimed.

He told the Iraq inquiry soldiers did much of the reconstruction, with the international development department "particularly unco-operative".

They were not sure the Iraqis "were poor enough to deserve aid", he said.

International Development Secretary Clare Short quit in protest at the lack of UN involvement in Iraq.

She declined to comment on Lord Boyce's allegations.

In the run-up to the war, Ms Short had repeatedly said Britain should not invade without a second UN resolution.

But she said she was persuaded to stay in the Cabinet by then prime minister Tony Blair, who she said promised her department a leading role in post-war reconstruction.

You had people on the ground who were excellent operators from DFID who were told to sit in a tent and not to do anything because that was the instruction they received
Admiral Lord Boyce, Former Chief of the Defence Staff

She eventually quit over the lack of UN involvement in the reconstruction effort, and has reacted angrily in the past to suggestions that her opposition to the conflict hampered preparations for post-war reconstruction, telling MPs in 2004 such claims were "inaccurate and misleading".

But Lord Boyce said Department for International Development (DfID) experts had received instructions not to help with the reconstruction.

He told the inquiry in London: "I thought DFID were particularly uncooperative, as led by Clare Short.

"You had people on the ground who were excellent operators from DFID who were told to sit in a tent and not to do anything because that was the instruction they received. I actually met them."

'Poverty relief'

Sir Kevin Tebbit, who was the senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, suggested DFID was fundamentally at odds with the rest of the government at that time.

He told the inquiry: "DFID felt a second UN resolution was absolutely essential before they could agree to do anything. That meant that it was only late in the day that we were able to get them fully engaged.

"Their focus on poverty relief rather than backing a strategic objective of the British government meant they were not sure at first the Iraqi people were quite poor enough to deserve major DFID aid."

Tony Blair had to intervene "to finally hammer out the terms of proper support", he said.

The Iraq inquiry is hearing from senior diplomats and policy advisers who shaped policy in the run-up to the war.

The crucial question of the legality of the war will not be addressed until early next year, when Tony Blair is expected to give evidence.

Ms Short has since resigned the Labour whip, after launching a withering attack on Mr Blair and New Labour. She now sits in the Commons as an independent.

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