Adam Ingram denied pressure was put on the security services
Transcript of the Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram's interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Question: Why were we using cluster bombs in built up areas when we specifically said we would not?
Answer: Well I don't think that is an allegation that stands up to full examination. What we've said from the outset has been consistent - that cluster bombs are not illegal, they are effective weapons against defined targets.
Q: It's not the question I asked you.
A: No, well I'm giving the answer and then you maybe want to ask me another question. But they're not illegal weapons. They are used in specific circumstances where there is a threat to our troops. Now clearly there were circumstances where there were concentrations of military equipment and Iraqi troops in and around built up areas - now how were we to tackle those people? Were we to have close combat with them with more casualties on our side? Is that what people wanted to see? I would hope not.
Q: Right, well let me ask you the question again in precisely the way I asked it to you before. You had told us we would not use cluster bombs in built up areas. Why did we do so?
A: Well I don't think if you examine what was said by Geoff Hoon or indeed by the earlier statement by Baroness Crawley
Q: Baroness Crawley
A: Well Baroness Crawley is not a defence spokesperson. She was answering a question on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.
Q: Of the Government?
A: On behalf of the Government and the Ministry of Defence.
Q: Quite so.
Fortunately we had very few tragedies on our side and I would put it down to the very careful use of the powerful weapons we had to take out the Iraqis.
A: ..in the House. But she's not a defence spokesperson, as you say,
A: She's not a defence minister.
Q: She was speaking for the Government but she wasn't speaking for the defence ministry?
A: Well, no that's not the point I'm making John.
Q: Well I've lost you in that case.
A: No, you've not lost me - you presented her as a defence spokesperson. Now the point I'm making is that that was said in February - in April you then said, you then recounted what Geoff Hoon had told your programme.
Q: ..told me in a long interview and I asked him about using these weapons and he said they would be used in battlefield areas where there would be a minimum of casualties.
A: ..and that's exactly what I have said. That they were used in the battlefield.
Q: Built up areas?
A: Well, there were troops and equipment in those areas. Now I make the point to you.
Q: Well yes they were all over Iraq - of course they were - clearly they were everywhere.
A: Yes and therefore were posing a threat to our troops and therefore we had to take the appropriate action.
Q: With cluster bombs?
A: Well, with a whole range of ammunition.
Q: Including cluster bombs?
A: ...but Geoff Hoon - yes of course cluster bombs and we've actually said..
Q: Right. Well, so the allegations wasn't such a strange one was it? The one that you denied right at the beginning of the interview turns out to have been precisely accurate.
There were troops, there was equipment in and around built-up areas and therefore the (cluster) bombs were used accordingly to take out the threat to our troops
A: John if you let me answer the question rather than trying to hector and prove your case by shouting.
Q: No, I'm trying to be very clear about it because you told me right at the beginning of the interview that it was the wrong allegation that I had made. It turns out - and that was made in that report - it turns out to have been precisely accurate doesn't it?
A: No it's not - not in the way in which I interpreted your earlier statements. What I'm saying is that the way in which we presented this argument, that they are used in a targeted way against specific military targets and the use of them is to minimise casualties on our side. Now all ammunitions - all weapons - can create tragedies and it's not just cluster bombs, it's a tragedy of war that there are casualties. Fortunately we had very few tragedies on our side and I would put it down to the very careful use of the powerful weapons we had to take out the Iraqis.
Q: And you have no idea how many children will be blown to bits by the cluster bombs that did not explode and now are abandoned and left around the built up areas?
A: Well that's a ridiculous allegation.
Q: Oh you can tell me can you?
A: That's a ridiculous allegation - 'they have been abandoned' and..
Q: Ah you've found them all then have you?
A: No of course we haven't found them all because it takes time to identify them. We have 200 personnel working in this particular area. We have weekly meetings with the NGOs who have the prime responsibility of the clearance. We provide maps. There was an allegation in your programme there that we weren't providing maps - we do provide maps. We have a massive programme of education in Basra and those other areas where we have used such weapons. And let me tell you...
Our teams have already destroyed in the region of 100,000 unexploded ordnance
Q: Ah so children are very good at following those education programmes aren't they?
A: ..but just let me tell you one salient fact. Our teams have already destroyed 100,000 - in the region of 100,000 unexploded ordnance. Now they're not necessarily cluster bombs.
A: But unexploded ordnance poses a threat to all of the citizens of Iraq and to our forces who remain there. So to say that we've doing nothing is absolute nonsense.
Q: I didn't say..I didn't say you were doing nothing
A: You've said we've abandoned the people of Iraq - that was your allegation.
Q: I did not say you had abandoned the people of Iraq, I said that these bomblets had been abandoned where they lay which is...
A: No they have not been.
Q: ..which is precisely the case.
A: They have not been, they have not been.
Q: Can I just give you a ...
A: No, they have not been John - they have not been and I am saying to you..
Q: But they have been - we have just heard from three charities - three NGOs - each of them involved in this exercise, each of them giving us graphic detail about the way these things are lying around the country and how children and other people are being blown to bits by them.
A: John, John, that could happen in terms of any unexploded ordnance.
Q: Well not if you hadn't dropped cluster bombs it couldn't.
A: No and if we hadn't used them then we'd probably have had more casualties on our side and then what you'd have probably been saying to me...
Q: Do you know that? Can you be sure about that?
A: Well that is what we have take into consideration - that we have ammunition and weapons on our side to try and minimise casualties to our own troops.
Q: But were not going to be used in built up areas, but were used in built up areas.
A: Well what we said was they would be targeted on specific military targets. There were troops - there was equipment in and around the built up areas.
A: Therefore the bombs were used accordingly to take out that threat to our troops. Now do you accept that is a useful and effective way of protecting the lives of our service personnel?
Q: It's not for me to accept or reject anything - it's for the audience to do that and I'll leave it to them Mr Ingram. Let me put to you another point if I may, and that is this whole question of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was supposed to have. It is active, detailed and growing, said Tony Blair. It is up and running now, it could be activated within 45 minutes. We are now 45 or more days since the war ended, none has been found.
A: Well what we have said is that was the very task to locate these and 12 years of efforts on behalf of the United Nations of course didn't fully identify it. But let's put this in context. On the 7th March, Hans Blix on behalf of the inspectors, published a 173 page report which damned completely what Saddam Hussein's regime was doing in respect of the procurement, the development and production of weapons of mass destruction.
Q: Do you want me to tell you what Hans Blix said - he said, one must not jump to the conclusion that they exist.
The Prime Minister has already said that there have been two examples of what could be construed as pointing to weapons of mass destruction
A: Have you read the 173 page report?
A: Well, no you haven't and that..
Q: Do I need to? Do I need to when I've just told you the conclusion that he came to - one must not jump to the conclusion that they exist.
A: I think...
Q: ..that possibility is also not excluded. So it was possible, but it wasn't proven.
A: Well for 12 years, 12 years the United Nations believed it was happening. Time after time, resolution after resolution, culminating in resolution 1441 came to a different conclusion. The nations who make up the United Nations had a different perception and understanding of Saddam Hussein's regime. Now what we're doing, extensive searching is going on, we are interrogating a wide range of people who've a knowledge of all of this. A jigsaw is now beginning to come into place. The Prime Minister has already said that there have been two examples of what could be construed as to pointing to weapons of mass destruction and biological...these are biological agents that could have been procured and developed within these mobile...
Q: So why did Donald Rumsfeld tell us it is possible that they decided they would destroy them prior to a conflict? What did Donald Rumsfeld, the American Defence Secretary, mean by that?
A: Well I think Donald Rumsfeld, if you read all of what he said.
Q: I have done that.
A: ..yes ok. He didn't just say that. He also went on to say that all the efforts were being made to find these weapons of mass destruction and he was working on the firm assumption that there were such weapons of mass destruction. He postulated a possibility that they may not be found and that is the only part of his statement that you're now alighting on.
A single source said that this report had been concocted under pressure from Number 10...there was no pressure from Number 10
Q: Well right, now given that possibility has been postulated by no less of a figure than the American Defence Secretary himself, Why was Tony Blair in a position back last year - last September - to say that these weapons could be activated within 45 minutes?
A: Well, that was said on the basis of a security source information. Single sourced - it wasn't corroborated..
Q: ..single source, so you concede that?
A: Well I think has already been conceded - in fact I think your earlier programme today was based upon a single source within the security services - an unnamed, anonymous source incidentally..
Q: It was, who told us that the report that was initially developed..
A: ..a single source who has not been corroborated..said that this report had been concocted under pressure from No. 10...there was no pressure from Number 10. That all the information that was contained..
Q: No, no, can I tell you what the allegation was because I think you may have been a little misled on that. The allegation was not that it was concocted by Number 10. The allegation was that report was produced, it went to Number 10, it was then sent back to be "sexed up" a little - I'm using not my own words but the words of our source, as you know. Now given that - is it possible..
A: Well, it's not true that allegation.
Q: That isn't true?
A: No, it's not true and you know Number 10 has denied that.
Q: Well I know that Number 10 has denied it. I'm asking you to deny it yourself.
A: So who's word are you taking here?
Q: Oh, well I'll tell you again it isn't a question for me to take any words but hang on a minute Mr Ingram, if I may, you've asked me the question. What we have here is a source within the intelligence service..
Q: ..unnamed - naturally unnamed. Do you want to give me the names of all those sources that you got your information from on this programme now? I think not probably.
A: No but when we present a dossier on behalf of the security services, it has their imprint on it. It has their authoritative and best assessment. Some of it will be corroborated information, some of it will be single sourced. And the judgement call was to play out all of the information which we could without exposing the basis upon which that information was garnered to the wider public.
There was no question in the minds of even those who were opposed to war in the United Nations about what Saddam Hussein was up to.
Q: Who's judgement was it to advise the Prime Minister to say these weapons are ready for use within 45 minutes?
A: That was one element within a comprehensive report.
Q: I see, so Tony Blair, took that one element from a comprehensive report and told the House of Commons that we were under threat within 45 minutes notice, that's why we went to war remember Mr Ingram.
A: Because of that one statement?
Q: Because of the combination, things that Mr Blair said, but specifically..
A: No we did not go to war because of that one statement.
Q: Well, let me tell you what Geoff Hoon said - 'our primary purpose is those weapons of mass destruction that present a real threat'.
A: Let me tell you why we went to war. We went to war..
Q: Well, I've just told you Mr Hoon said, unless you want to tell me he said something else.
A: We went to war because of all of the evidence, all of the information we had about Saddam Hussein's regime which culminated in resolution 1441 which is set out in graphic detail in a 173 page report produced by Hans Blix. There was no question in the minds of even those who were opposed to war in the United Nations about what Saddam Hussein was up to. They knew what he was capable of, they knew what he had done and they knew he was guilty. The judgement call was the best way of prosecuting that to a conclusion. The judgement call of this country and of the Parliament of this country was that we should take the appropriate action, go to Iraq, as I have been in the last two weeks. I've been in the southern area of Iraq. I've spoken to Iraqis. I think they're beginning to sense freedom. They want freedom. The barbarism of that regime has been removed from them. The threat..
Q: I take that point.
A: Well that's good and now I hope that..
Q: But that is not what the war was fought for.
A: The war was fought for..on the basis of all of those allegations, much of which was substantiated, not just in a security document produced by our services, not concocted by Number 10 or pressure from Number 10 to produce it in a particular way. But their best knowledge and their best assessment to what they could play out into the public domain and based upon the knowledge which was out there. The whole world knew what Saddam Hussein was up to, in terms of the weapons of mass destruction, that's why we prosecuted that war - that's why we were right.