Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 13:16 UK

Plaid MPs defend legal bill claim

Tony Blair
Lawyers told the MPs it would be legal to try and impeach Tony Blair

Legal advice backing a move to have former prime minister Tony Blair impeached was funded from Parliamentary office expenses, it has been revealed.

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price proposed forcing Mr Blair from power in 2004 over the Iraq war using ancient powers.

Caernarfon MP Hywel Williams now says he, Mr Price and colleague Elfyn Llwyd split the £4,500 bill for outside legal advice as an "incidental" office cost.

The impeachment bid, dismissed by Labour as a stunt, came to nothing.

More than 20 MPs, including the now London Mayor Boris Johnson and Liberal Democrat and SNP members, signed a Commons motion tabled by Mr Price calling for Mr Blair's impeachment.

They wanted a Parliamentary committee to decide whether there were grounds for Mr Blair to face misconduct charges, saying he had destroyed "the fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy" in his handling of the case for the Iraq war.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Mr Price said he and his party colleagues had been told by two lawyers that it was possible to invoke the procedure, last attempted against Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston in 1848.

Hywel Williams MP
Hywel Williams said the legal fee office cost was 'proper use of public money'

The legal judgement by two senior lawyers who shared the same chambers - Matrix - as Mr Blair's wife, Cherie Booth was published in September 2004.

The cost of the judgment, and the way the bill was met, was revealed by Mr Williams after he made his expenses public.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Friday, he defended the three Plaid Cymru MPs' decision to share the legal bill as a £1,500 cost on each's budget for Parliamentary office supplies.

He said: "It is absolutely the proper use of public money.

"It [was] to hold the government to account for their actions. We were seeking to impeach Tony Blair for taking us into this immoral and illegal war and we needed legal advice.

"We have a fairly small pot of money to run our research staff, but this was a big and extremely publicly important matter.

"It was trying to hold the prime minister of the day to account using a mechanism, impeachment, which hadn't been used for 200 years. We needed specialist advice and I'm very glad that we got that advice."

Adam Price MP
Adam Price MP had the idea of trying to impeach the Tony Blair

He rebutted claims the move was a party political action that should have been funded from Plaid Cymru's budget.

He said: "It was not specifically to oust the leader of another party, it was to hold the prime minister of the day to account for taking us into an illegal war and also for the secrecy that surrounded that.

"I think a great many people throughout the UK will be happy that we did that. Many labour supporters supported us in what we did."

There have been four separate inquiries into different aspects of the Iraq war, including the Butler report into intelligence failings and the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

But there has yet to be an inquiry focusing on the way the government's decision to join a US-led invasion was made.

In 2006, more than 100 MPs from across the Commons backed a call for an inquiry by senior MPs into the handling of the Iraq war and its aftermath.

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