Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

The full story: Gordon Brown at the Iraq inquiry

Gordon Brown: Military action in Iraq was "the right decision... for the right reasons"


Nick Robinson
Compare and contrast.

The prime minister and the former prime minister.

The man who took Britain into war and the man who wrote the cheques for it.

Gordon Brown strode confidently into the front door of the building hosting the Iraq inquiry where Tony Blair had been smuggled in the back door.

Mr Brown expressed his sadness for the loss of life where Mr Blair angered many by refusing to do that.

The prime minister smiled at the waiting audience where his predecessor had avoided eye contact with them.

Gordon Brown's aim today appears to be to look and sound different from Tony Blair whilst simultaneously opening up no gap of substance with him and the decisions he took. "Everything Mr Blair did in this period" he said "he did properly".

As for his role as Chancellor Gordon Brown insisted that he'd funded every request the military had made. This despite the assertion by the former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie that lives have been lost due to lack of resource.

So, in summary Gordon Brown expressed no regrets about the decision to go to war and none about the financing of it.

Unlike Tony Blair, though, he did go out of his way to express sorrow about the loss of life.


1700 Well, that's it for our live coverage of Gordon Brown's appearance at the Iraq inquiry. Thank you very much for all your contributions. We'll be back next week for prime minister's questions - will David Cameron pick up then on anything Mr Brown said today, we wonder? Hope you can join us then to find out.

1653 The SNP's Angus Robertson says Mr Brown was "clearly keeping a great deal hidden". Both he and Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd said the Iraq inquiry had been very damaging for Labour. "It is clear that the level of deception played on the public was shocking," Mr Llwyd adds.

1645 Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox says Mr Brown's evidence did not "add up". "He admitted that planning for the war was deficient, but with typical weasel words he tried to pin the blame on everyone else." Mr Fox accused the PM of giving an "evasive performance… answering the questions he wanted to hear, rather than the questions which were put to him".

comment from blogger
He knew what he wanted to say and said it, sometimes regardless of the questions he was actually being asked.

1623 Robert Fox, defence editor of the Evening Standard newspaper, tells the BBC the performance of the inquiry panel was the least convincing thing about the day's action. They just didn't ask, with anywhere near enough force, why Mr Brown thought it was so imperative to use force? Was force really the only option? Mr Fox also says the issue of WMD "disappeared over the horizon" - and was allowed to do so by the panel.

BBC 5Live's chief political correspondent John Pienaar
1620 BBC Radio 5 Live's chief political correspondent John Pienaar says that given the fierce debate in military circles about resourcing levels for Iraq, the public may conclude the panel's questioning of Mr Brown on the key issue of funding lacked real edge.

comment from blogger
It is an old Westminster cliche that Gordon Brown is best when his back is pressed against the wall, a political dagger at his throat. So it has been today during his two public sessions before the Chilcot inquiry panel.

1612 Author and former soldier Patrick Hennessy says it was very frustrating because the questions people want answers to weren't asked. He says Mr Brown was leading the discussion, not the panellists, and he was not picked up on controversial statements. For example, Mr Brown said soldiers would never be on the ground without enough equipment. Yet Mr Hennessy says he was there in Iraq, fighting without enough body armour, so the PM's statement simply wasn't true and he should have been pulled up on it.

Nick Robinson
1610 The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson compares Mr Brown's performance with Mr Blair's. He says the former strode confidently in the front door with a smile for the audience, the latter had to be smuggled in the back door. The former went out of his way to express his regret for the loss of life the war brought - the latter did not.

1605 Rose Gentle, whose soldier son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004, tells the BBC she didn't get any answers from today's hearing. "I am angry and disappointed, but at the same time we really expected that we wouldn't get the truth," she says. "Gordon Brown had to turn round and say he was all for it, because he wouldn't say he's against it."

1555 Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg tells his party's Scottish conference that Mr Brown has, for years, tried to place the blame for going to war on Tony Blair, but today he has finally "come clean" and admitted he believed the invasion was right. How can he be trusted now, Mr Clegg asks?

e-mail sent in by reader
At politician school, is the first phrase they are taught 'lessons to be learned'? How many times have we heard that phrase today?

BBC chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg
1534 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says she expects the prime minister and his aides will feel that things went pretty well today. As far as the inquiry panel is concerned, she thinks they did rather better than on some other occasions, but there will still be plenty of members of the public who will wish they could have been tougher.

1527 The prime minister emerges from the conference hall and gets into his car, ignoring questions shouted by reporters. As he heads back to Downing Street, we're left to ponder what we learned today….

e-mail sent in by reader
A confident and assured performance...Disassociating himself from the neo-cons was a deft way of distancing himself from Blair and Bush.

1526 Sir John thanks Mr Brown and everyone present in the hearing room. The prime minister also says thanks, nods towards the audience and leaves.

1524 Mr Brown is asked if he has anything else that he wants to say. He says he feels he hasn't yet had the chance to pay full tribute to the work done by the armed forces. He also says the decisions surrounding Iraq were difficult and required "strong leadership". They were the right decisions, but he feels we have a duty to learn lessons. Europe and America must work close together, and efforts must be made to strengthen institutions like the United Nations.

1522 The PM answers this question by saying, in terms of Iraq, "that you have to look at what the alternative would have been". There is no doubt that the improvements in people's living conditions are significant, he says, but "obviously the loss of life is something that makes us all sad, it makes me very sad indeed". "War may be necessary, but it is also tragic", he adds.

1520 Sir John says he has one more final question. Life is undoubtedly much better in Iraq, yet serious acts of terrorism do go on and its democracy is still fragile. So, overall, has our involvement in Iraq really created a just peace there and shored up the role of the international community more widely?

1517 Sir John says he has a specific question that is "puzzling" the committee. Establishing an effective, non-corrupt police force is key, but do we even have a plan for how to create this? Mr Brown says this is an issue he is currently dealing with in Afghanistan. He says you definitely need good training and pay, and it is also best if police officers are local and in touch with the communities they serve. He says a light-touch, non-military police is the best option. "You cannot conjure up a democracy overnight," the PM adds - "You've got to be realistic about the objectives you set."

e-mail sent in by reader
It does seem all rather jolly between the committee and the prime minister. But Gordon Brown has been more straight forward with his answers, compared with Tony Blair who usually ducked and dived. It is probably more to the point that it was not "his" war. He may have played a key part, but essentially it will always be Bush and Blair's war.

1513 Mr Brown says "getting money out of the central Iraqi government for Basra was difficult" and this slowed progress somewhat. Eventually, he says the UK decided to set up a specific Basra development agency to cut out much of the bureaucracy and this began to move things forward.

1510 Sir Roderic Lyne asks about a major Iraqi-led operation in 2008, known as the Charge of the Knights, about which the UK was not consulted. Mr Brown says it would have been better if British forces had known in advance about it, but does not accept that it shows there was a conflict of interest between Britain and Iraq.

1506 With a smile, Mr Brown says: "We did not want to be seen as occupiers." He argues the UK should be proud of those who worked so hard after the war to bring about economic development in Iraq. That phrase - "a just peace" - is mentioned again.

1504 Mr Brown says he learned lessons from Northern Ireland that if you can show people the possibility of economic prosperity, you can convince them that returning to violence is not worth it. He says Basra has proved that to be true.

1501 Mr Brown is asked how he came to a decision about when to withdraw British troops from Iraq. He says he talked extensively to Mr Blair and Mr Bush, to Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and to British military commanders. He says he also made judgements based on the capability of Iraq's own security forces, and on the country's economic and political situation.

Brown uses a lot more "we" than Blair, who was all about the "I" at the inquiry.

1455 Panel member Sir Martin Gilbert asks whether the increased scale of Britain's commitments in Afghanistan gradually affected what could be done in Iraq. Mr Brown replies by insisting that "nothing in Iraq suffered". He says that the two operations were "particularly stretching for our forces" but that troops were still able to cope.

1449 Mr Brown says when he became PM he assured President George W Bush that the UK was committed to "finishing the job" in Iraq. He says the US president was perfectly satisfied with that and the two men had "fairly amicable" conversations about the whole issue.

1447 Here we are again. After a short coffee break, Mr Brown is back in the chair for the last section of his hearing.

BBC chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg
1442 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg gives her thoughts on the latest session. She says Sir Lawrence did ask some probing questions, but Mr Brown's response was often to reel off a list of prepared facts and figures - so much so that at one point Sir John Chilcot had to ask him to slow down.

e-mail sent in by reader
Is Gordon Brown recalling the same sequence of events as others involved in this? In his opinion everything has gone swimmingly well and there have been no major problems. Everything that has been asked for has been provided. Why isn't everyone saying the same?

e-mail sent in by reader
Although Brown seems to keep repeating himself, he is coming across as far more confident than Blair did when he was interviewed.

1435 Time for another coffee break. When they return, Sir John says the focus will be on Mr Brown's time as prime minister rather than chancellor.

1433 Sir Lawrence asks if Mr Brown was comfortable that we had taken on a position as a joint occupying power when we didn't have the same resources or clout as the Americans? He doesn't really answer the question, but says he was focused on Basra and improving the situation there. Health and education were priorities, as was job creation.

1427 Mr Brown keeps referring to a "just peace" - he says that the UK is learning lessons from Iraq about how that should be achieved. Sir Lawrence points out that it was a pretty tough way to learn, that a lot of grief was endured in Iraq to learn those lessons.

What a mess. The MoD overspent by £1.1bn and the Treasury "gave them more than originally budgeted" but not enough.

1421 The PM says he does not accept claims that the UK has not properly funded its helicopter programme, arguing "we have done everything we can" to make provision adequate, including buying ready-to-use helicopters from other countries.

1419 Mr Brown says he thinks "there is an issue with procurement" of equipment because things always seem to end up costing much more than the original estimate. He says there is also a huge time lag in getting certain items. For new Lynx helicopters, the decision to get them was made in 2005, but they will not be ready until 2014. He says lessons must be learned on these issues, but insists none of them made any difference to operations in Iraq.

comment from blogger
All in all, despite his obfuscation, Brown emerges as a man who looks prime ministerial. He backs war against dictators, but has learned the lessons of Blair's excesses - that's the impression he seems to want to give.

1414 Mr Brown says the spending review of 2004 also amounted to a real terms rise for the MoD. "Of course they started with a bid for lots more money", he says, but points out that's true of all departments.

e-mail sent in by reader
Brown full of facts about funding and equipment. Still don't think the war was right, but hopefully this will finish off accusations that forces weren't properly funded.

1411 He says he wrote to Tony Blair to warn him that if every department "started using the system in the way the Ministry of Defence was using it", there would be a budget hole of £12bn. But Mr Brown keeps on saying that ultimately, the MoD did end up with more money than the Treasury had originally said it could have.

1408 Mr Brown says he had to work with the MoD to sort out how it was running its budget. He says the ministry was trying to increase spending in some areas on the basis of unrealistic savings in other areas.

1406 Mr Brown says the MoD was allocated a rise of 3.6% at the start of 2002, but the department wanted to increase it by 9%. He says the MoD eventually did get more than the 3.6% but he couldn't increase spending by as much as it wanted.

1402 Mr Brown says he wants people to be absolutely clear that with the country at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he would never have allowed troops to be inadequately equipped.

All this talk of snatch, mastiff and bulldogs makes the Iraq war sound like a Guy Ritchie film.

1355 Mr Brown laughs a little as he talks about all government departments, including defence, always asking for more money when spending negotiations begin. His face hardens though when he says again that "the defence budget was rising in real terms every year".

e-mail sent in by reader
Mr Brown says defence costs increased before the Iraq war. Does this mean they knew long before they would be invading Iraq and does this mean they knew they needed to spend money on the MoD before they went to Iraq?

1353 Mr Brown says he has to stress it is not for him to make decisions about what military vehicles are needed on the ground.

1352 The PM says there was "one fundamental truth" - that no request from military chiefs was ever turned down. More specifically, as soon as military chiefs asked for alternatives to Snatch land rovers, he says that request was met within six months. He adds that there was a real terms rise in overall defence spending from 1997 onwards for military chiefs to spend as they saw fit.

1350 Sir Lawrence tells Mr Brown that family members have three main questions - were you aware of concerns about a lack of armoured vehicles in Iraq; did you receive any requests for funding to buy more and were any concerns raised with you about the use of lightly-armoured Snatch land rovers? Mr Brown answers by first saying his sympathies go out to the families and will do anything in his power to answer the questions they have.

1347 Mr Brown says he knows that "in an ideal world" military chiefs "would like to spend more" on equipment but argues that the defence budget was rising generally, even before the additional spending on Iraq was allocated.

1346 Mr Brown says a lot of the reactive spending on equipment was to adapt it to the specific terrain and conditions of Iraq. This could not have been done any sooner, he says, because it wasn't clear until the middle of 2002 at the earliest that conflict in Iraq was a distinct possibility.

1343 Sir Lawrence says it is "striking" how much of their own money the Foreign Office and DfID had to spend on protection for their own staff as the security situation deteriorated in Iraq.

1342 Mr Brown says the MoD had automatic access to the special reserve, but access for the Foreign Office and Department for International Development (DfID) was not automatic. They had to request money from the Treasury for extra funds to pay for their work on Iraq's reconstruction.

Chinook flying over QE II Centre where Chilcot inquiry is questioning Brown: yes, deployment where needed.

1337 Mr Brown says the impact of the Iraq war on the UK economy was much less than that of the recent global financial crisis. But he says the war did "make my life more difficult" as chancellor because so much money did have to be found to fund it.

1333 Panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman is now asking the questions. Mr Brown talks about the so-called "special reserve" - the billions set aside for UK counter-terrorism and security which was, in 2003, largely diverted to Iraq.

For all his faults, Brown excels when he's on the defensive. His only task is making sure it isn't political. Then he wins.

1332 Hello again. Lunch is over and Gordon Brown is back in the hot seat. We are expecting the questioning this afternoon to focus squarely on defence spending.

comment from blogger
As Brown left the inquiry for the lunchtime break, he made a point of turning to the public gallery behind him to say "hello" twice and smile twice. The faces I could see did not crack and returned a stony stare.

1312 The SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson tells the BBC it "beggars belief" that Mr Brown can still insist the war was "right" when even the attorney general seemingly questioned its legality. "It seems Brown is claiming not to know, or not to be involved, as and when it is convenient for him," he adds.

1300 Maj Gen Patrick Cordingley, a former Gulf War commander, tells the BBC he was "cynical" all the way through Mr Brown's evidence this morning. He says the issue was not funding for urgent operational needs - they were indeed most likely met. Instead, he thinks the military was - and still is - chronically underfunded over many years and so couldn't possibly have done the job properly. It was starting from too low a base.

Nick Robinson
1242 From BBC political editor Nick Robinson: It was like watching a skilful chess player who had a defensive move prepared for every possible attack. Yes Iraq had been the right decision for the right reasons but of course he had regrets. As for those missing weapons of mass destruction he had believed the information he had been given by the intelligence services. Financially he had given the armed forces everything they could have wanted and what's more he wished he had managed to persuade the Americans to take reconstruction more seriously. It was only when Sir Roderic Lyne, the skilful former diplomat, pushed him on whether he had been told by Tony Blair what the then prime minister had told President Bush did Gordon Brown stumble. Once again he avoided the question, so blatantly that this time the audience broke into laughter. Yet throughout this morning Gordon Brown will feel he has not made a mistake. The big problem for him may come when the issue turns to money and the decisions around the Ministry of Defence budget which caused problems not so much in Iraq but later in Afghanistan. Nick Robinson's Newslog.

1237 Jocelyn Cockburn, solicitor for some of the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, insists the armoured vehicles provided in Iraq were inadequate and she hopes Mr Brown is asked about that issue this afternoon.

Sir Menzies Campbell
1226 Sir Menzies Campbell, former Lib Dem leader and opponent of the Iraq war, tells the BBC News Channel he agrees with Laura Kuenssberg's view. He says there seems to be much Mr Brown didn't know - or didn't want to know - particularly about the issue of legality.

BBC chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg
1225 The BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says that on some quite crucial issues Mr Brown claimed not to know what was going on - he said he didn't, for example, know the attorney general had doubted the legality of the war. She also says Mr Brown is trying to argue that the decision to go to war was only made at the very last minute when this is not the impression that has been given by other key figures to the inquiry. Follow Laura on Twitter

e-mail sent in by reader
The questioning is so tame! There is no cross-examination whatsoever. Brown is not being pressed on any of the answers that he gives. This is turning into yet another New Labour whitewash. No wonder Brown was prepared to be "questioned" before the General Election.

1216 And now it's time for lunch. Mr Brown thanks the panel and heads off for a break. He'll be back at 1330 for two more hours of questions.

1215 Sir John says there have been suggestions that the Foreign Office felt it didn't have enough money to play its role in reconstruction in Basra. Mr Brown says "everybody would like more money than they receive", but an extra £20m was given to the Foreign Office. He also says money from Iraq's own reserves was directed into reconstruction in Basra.

1211 Was there any friction between the MoD and the Treasury, the PM is asked? Mr Brown says no, there was a good system in place and someone was actually brought into the Treasury from the MoD to help make the process run smoothly.

1207 Sir John asks about money for so-called "urgent operational requirements" that came up as the conflict progressed. Mr Brown interrupts and says no limits were ever set on those demands, there were simply estimates of what they might be, but if more money was needed, it was given.

comment from blogger
In distancing himself from Blair et al, Brown has emphasised how he - as chancellor - did little more than control the purse strings.

1203 Mr Brown says that as chancellor he insisted every single request for military equipment that was made should be met. In fact, he says he knows of no request that was ever turned down.

e-mail sent in by reader
Many people on here say that Brown is evading questions. As far as I see, he's admitted that lessons have been learned, he's admitted that Parliament should vote on war, he's admitted he wasn't fully involved. The only one he really evaded was WMD's, and he's stated that wasn't his reason for going to war. Are people being negative because he's not saying what they want to hear?

1200 Mr Brown says he allocated £500m in 2002 to get the necessary equipment ready for a possible invasion. Extra money was also earmarked for troop training.

1159 Mr Brown again says he made it clear to Mr Blair that when it came to military planning, "no option should be ruled out on the grounds that it was too costly". He says his estimate for the cost of reconstruction was £45bn.

BBC 5Live's chief political correspondent John Pienaar
1158 BBC Radio 5 Live's chief political correspondent John Pienaar says Mr Brown's remarks have been revealing although, on occasions, he seemed to answer the questions he wanted to rather than those actually put. The most striking part was when he endorsed the war without qualification, perhaps going further than he needed to. However, it has become clear that although Mr Brown held the purse strings, he did not attend many key meetings in the run-up to the war at which strategy was discussed.

Is Gordon Brown trying to bore the inquiry into submission?

1155 Mr Brown says the original estimate for the cost of the war up to 2006 was £2.5bn. That was revised to £4bn - a figure which turned out to be quite accurate. He adds that the country spent about a billion pounds a year extra to fund the Iraq war.

"I feel" "I believe". Brown uses the 'faith-based' leitmotif Blair utilised to side step empirical questioning about Iraq.

1153 Sir John Chilcot now picks up the questioning and says he wants to begin asking about financial issues surrounding the war.

Sir Roderic Lyne
1151 Sir Roderic moves on to asking about the insurgency that grew up after the war itself. Should we have expected it? "I don't think we could have anticipated everything," Mr Brown says. "We never wanted to be an army of occupation", but we didn't make it clear enough, quickly enough to the Iraqi people that control of their own affairs was being returned to them, he says.

comment from blogger
Gordon Brown's ability to bear a grudge is legendary, but even by his standards, his Chilcot testimony about Robin Cook was remarkably terse.

e-mail sent in by reader
The PM's line seems to be that he wanted strong international will and co-operation to counter Iraq's threat - although he refused to say what that threat was - but that when some of our major allies disagreed with the UK's willingness to go to war it was right to go ahead with war anyway. This is more in line with a 19th century send in a gunboat attitude than a 21st century international co-operation attitude.

e-mail sent in by reader
Definition of "international community". For Brown this seems to be the US and the UK. It does not include most the world... who did not support the invasion of Iraq.

TimReidBBC tweets: Brown blames USA for lack of reconstruction planning after war. Says "I cannot take personal responsibility for everything that went wrong".

1147 Mr Brown says it was "a big decision" for the British to take responsibility for the Basra area. He says it involved planning for the economic, social and political transformation of the area.

1144 Shouldn't we have tried to exert more influence over the Americans to persuade them to focus on reconstruction, Sir Roderic asks? Mr Brown says that he did make his feelings on the issue clear to them.

1140 Mr Brown says the cabinet did not really focus on reconstruction until a few weeks before the invasion because there was still a belief that an eleventh hour diplomatic solution could be found.

e-mail sent in by reader
Tame and ineffective questioning answered by evasion of the truth and waffle - to be expected when the panel has no barrister and was set up by Gordon Brown.

1136 One of the lessons of Iraq, Mr Brown says, is that the United Nations or another international agency must have a reconstruction arm. He says he always thought "reconstruction would be a problem" in Iraq, but Britain "couldn't persuade the Americans" that this had to be a significant planning priority.

1133 Asked again about legality, Mr Brown insists: "Everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly."

Gordon Brown is trying to redefine the Iraq Inquiry questions even as they are put to him. Talks about 'his thesis' on the situation...
LutineBelle on Twitter

1131 Mr Brown says the point of taking military action was to force Iraq to come into line with international obligations, but regime change did end up being the result of that action.

comment from blogger
Rather than open up, Brown has a habit of deciding what he wants to say and repeating it over and over and over again. Nothing diverts him.

1130 Sir Roderic says Tony Blair did seem to support the American objective of regime change in Iraq for its own sake, but Mr Brown says that was not Britain's position.

1127 Mr Brown says Iraq was a test of whether the international community could hold together. Unfortunately, he adds, not everyone could be persuaded to take action and by doing nothing they were sending a message to any potential dictator around the world that he could get away with anything.

1123 Did Mr Brown have any personal reservations about going to war? "Nobody wants to go to war," he replies, but again he says it was the right decision.

1122 Mr Brown answers indirectly, saying that in future he thinks Parliament should have a vote on whether to go to war. But he repeats his earlier point that invasion was "the right decision for the right cause".

1121 Sir Roderic asks whether the cabinet really was in a position to say yes or no war - or whether "the die had already been cast" by Tony Blair and all Mr Blair really wanted was an endorsement for his position?

1119 Was Mr Brown aware though that the attorney general hadn't been quite so certain about the legality only a couple of weeks before? He replies by saying again that the cabinet was given an unequivocal answer. If Mr Brown had known that the attorney general had been wavering about the legality, would it have made a difference? No, I don't think it would, he replies.

BBC chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg
1118 BBC News Channel chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg notes that Mr Brown repeated the line that his concern was about the credibility of the international community. She says that's not what Mr Blair argued - his argument was that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man, a genuine threat, and Mr Brown tried to say that wasn't the issue. She also says he deliberately didn't answer the question of whether the threat from Saddam was actually growing. Follow Laura on Twitter

1115 Mr Brown says he wasn't involved in discussions with the attorney general, but for him it was a "straightforward issue". At the crucial cabinet meeting on 17 March, Mr Brown says the legal advice from the attorney general was "unequivocal" - yes, it was legal, so on that point, that was all he, Mr Brown, needed to know.

1113 Right we're back after Mr Brown's coffee break and Sir Roderic opens by asking whether Mr Brown was happy about the legality of the war.

BBC chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg
1107 From the BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg: There are already differences between Mr Brown and Mr Blair's evidence. Firstly, Mr Brown made a very careful, deliberate decision to pay tribute to British troops at the outset. Secondly, Mr Brown said he was in the loop - but not in the lead - when it came to decision making.

1104 Coffee break time. Mr Brown will resume his evidence in about 10 minutes.

1103 Mr Brown says he was given intelligence about Iraq which, at the time, "seemed plausible" but that we have subsequently discovered was "probably wrong". He is asked again if he thought the threat of WMD was growing - he replies again with: "I was convinced of a more basic fact - that a breach of the international community's laws and decisions was unacceptable".

1059 Sir Roderic asks if the cabinet was sufficiently briefed to make a fully informed decision about whether to go to war. Mr Brown says he certainly was.

1058 Should there have been a full cabinet committee discussing plans for war? Mr Brown says "lessons have been learned from the informality of the previous procedures" surrounding Iraq. He says meetings are now held over Afghanistan and the structure of government decision-making has had to change when wars are being carried out.

1056 "Shouldn't you have been cut in earlier?" Sir Roderic asks, meaning, was Mr Brown denied access to some of the most important information in the run-up to the planning? No, Mr Brown says, he role was not to interfere. His role was to sort out the funding and take part in cabinet discussions.

1051 Mr Brown is now being asked about the Middle East peace process more generally. Why wasn't more progress made on that issue by March 2003? The PM sighs audibly and says it is very difficult to get both sides in that dispute to take steps forward at the same time.

BBCLauraK tweets: Brown adamant - there was no 'financial barrier' from Treasury that influenced the military.

1047 Mr Brown says even in the last weekend before the invasion diplomatic efforts were continuing. He says he doesn't accept the premise of a question from Sir Roderic that Mr Blair and US President George W Bush were discussing plans for war during 2002. "Until the diplomatic route was exhausted", Mr Brown insists, "there was no decision made to go to war".

1044 Sir Roderic asks whether there was a "current threat" of aggression from Iraq in March 2003. Mr Brown doesn't answer that directly, but repeats his previous point that some countries were not prepared to take action under any circumstances. Sir Roderic asks again - but again the PM answers in a different way, choosing to focus on the obligation he felt the international community had to "deal with problems of rogue states". Sir Roderic even asks the question a third time, but the answer is the same.

e-mail sent in by reader
"..the threat of weapons of mass destruction had not been the main reason he backed the war - it was Iraq's disregard for UN resolutions which had "put at risk" global security". Such a defence for supporting the Iraq war could also justify backing any American (or Israeli) military action against Iran.

1040 Mr Brown says that by March 2003 - the month the war began - he felt the government had exhausted every option other than an all-out invasion. He says "some countries" would never have supported the US and UK-led action no matter how long Iraq had continued to defy the international community.

1037 Another panel member, Sir Roderic Lyne, is now asking the questions. He asks if Mr Brown, as a senior cabinet member, should have been privy to more information in the run-up to the war? "I think I knew what was happening at the time. I don't think I needed to see every paper," the PM replies.

1034 Mr Brown says the Treasury did not in any way interfere with the military planning and there were never cost grounds pushed for choosing one option over another. "There was no financial barrier to doing what needed to be done," he says. This is clearly a point the PM is very keen to hammer home - he's said it several times now.

1033 Mr Brown says one of his "regrets" was not being able to "push the Americans" further in drawing up plans for the reconstruction period before the invasion was carried out. "I wish that it had been possible to follow that through much more quickly in the aftermath of the first few days of the battle," he adds.

BasseCopette tweets: Oh Brown...dont use the Iraq Inquiry to grandstand! First answer - bad move!

MildredCButton tweets: Once again we see the witness trying to lead the inquiry.

1029 Mr Brown says the cabinet was "anxious to avoid war" if at all possible. He says Britain's original role in the conflict was not going to be in taking control of the Basra area, as it eventually turned out to be - he says the area of the country that was designated Britain's responsibility changed over time.

1026 Asked if he and other cabinet colleagues were kept in the loop about all developments, Mr Brown says "of course". He says that, from June 2002, the Treasury had to begin making preparations for financing a possible war, and in September of that year, the department began looking at plans for the reconstruction of Iraq afterwards.

1022 Mr Brown says Mr Blair and then foreign secretary Jack Straw "shouldn't be faulted" for the great efforts they made to find a diplomatic rather than military solution to the Iraq problem.

1020 Mr Brown says he was always clear that financial constraint would not affect what military decisions were taken. If a more expensive option was better, then it would be funded.

1019 The PM is asked whether he was "absolutely in the loop" when it came to the decision to invade. Did he have private discussions with Tony Blair in the run-up to it? He answers by saying the foreign and defence secretaries, as well as Mr Blair, were the main figures, but they reported to the rest of the cabinet. Was he part of planning at the highest level? He says that from about June 2002 he was discussing what would happen in the event that military action was taken.

1016 Mr Brown says 14 UN resolutions had been systematically ignored by Iraq and the international community had to act. He agrees that it was these violations that were his prime reason for backing the invasion.

1014 She tries again with the same question… Mr Brown says he was given information by the intelligence services which "led me to believe that Iraq was a threat that had to be dealt with". Iraq, he adds, had been persistently asked to disclose weapons that the international community believed it had - and it was "a serial violator" of these requests.

1012 Baroness Prashar asks about the threat from weapons of mass construction. Did Mr Brown see "a real and present danger" from weapons held by Iraq? Mr Brown calls Iraq "an aggressor state" and says the community was justified in taking action against it - but doesn't specifically answer the WMD question.

1010 Panel member Baroness Prashar asks Mr Brown what he felt about using force to back up Britain's foreign policy ambitions. He says if the global community is going to have any credibility then it must be prepared to take military action when necessary.

1008 Mr Brown says it was "the gravest decision of all" to decide to go to war. He says the international community had tried to control Saddam Hussein for years but to no avail. But he says there are lessons to learn, not least that it has taken "seven years to win the peace in Iraq".

1005 Mr Brown looks calm as he is asked the first question - does he think taking military action was the right thing to do? The PM replies that it was the right thing and was done for the right reasons, but he wants to pay his respects right from the off to all those who died in the conflict.

1004 Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot welcomes everyone. He reminds them that the hearings are taking place in the run-up to a general election and repeats his desire for them not to become a political football.

e-mail sent in by reader
Ideally I would like to see Gordon Brown answer all the questions fully and honestly, but my expectations are low. It seems that politicians can only give honest answers once they are out of politics.

Gordon Brown
1001 And here he is… Mr Brown has entered the inquiry chamber.

0959 As he prepares to begin his evidence the protesters outside have been chanting "Gordon Brown to the Hague" - a reference to their desire for him to face a war crimes tribunal. But it is still a much more low key occasion than Tony Blair's appearance.

0958 Mr Brown is the biggest name to appear at the inquiry since his former boss Tony Blair in January. Mr Blair certainly had no regrets over the war - but will Mr Brown feel the same? He has said he doesn't want there to be any "unanswered questions" about the role he played, so perhaps we can expect a revelation or two...

0956 We'll be bringing you expert analysis of today's events, as they happen, from our political correspondents. We'll also be publishing a selection of your thoughts, as you send them by email or via Twitter.

0954 Several of today's newspapers also accuse Mr Brown of risking - or even costing - soldiers' lives in Iraq by slashing their funding. Mr Brown has strongly denied doing anything of the sort. He told PM's questions last month that troops were prepared for war with "proper funding" and "every urgent operational requirement" to arise post-invasion was met.

0951 A handful of protesters have gathered outside the inquiry to greet Mr Brown and their shouts can be heard as he walks inside. One holds up a "blood-stained" cheque for £8.5bn - the estimated cost of the war - while another has a Gordon Brown mask on, also splattered in fake blood.

Gordon Brown
0950 Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Gordon Brown's appearance at the Iraq inquiry. Mr Brown is due to start giving evidence at 1000 GMT. His motorcade has already arrived at the conference hall. We're expecting the five inquiry panel members to quiz him on his time both as chancellor and PM. As the former, he was the man holding the purse strings when Britain went to war and he will no doubt want to answer accusations that he "guillotined" the defence budget shortly after the invasion.

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