Category Archives: in parliament

Question: Arts funding and Government targets (to Estelle Morris, Minister of State for Arts)

See this entry in Hansard

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): How can the Minister reconcile the positive tone of the Secretary of State’s recent speech, which was warmly welcomed in the arts world because it appeared to be moving away from intrusive political objectives for arts funding, with the Government’s continuing and increasing addiction to quotas and targets? They affect museums, not least in the north-west. Does not she agree that the single greatest act of creativity and human ingenuity that the Government have encouraged in the arts is the invention of bogus statistics, which are designed purely to satisfy their meddlesomeness and Stalinist obsession with quotas?

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The hon. Gentleman falls into the trap of thinking that, as a country, we have to choose between art, museums and galleries as excellent and worthy in their own right and the contribution that they can make to other parts of civic and national life. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that it was a case not of “either/or” but of “both”. Like her, I am happy to defend art for art’s sake – I believe that we should always do that – but that does not detract from the contribution that art can make to wider social agendas. It is important that art can contribute to well-being, community cohesion, regeneration, higher educational standards and better mental health. We should not ignore that.

On targets, the Government are investing in the arts – including in museums and galleries in the north-west as well as in other regions. The taxpayer has a right to ask us what return there has been for that investment. We therefore ensure that the investment is targeted and brings about positive outcomes, such as more visitors from a wider range of backgrounds. I am pleased that we have those statistics because they allow us to show the success of the Government’s policies.

Question: Saddam Hussein and the Death Penalty (to Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

See this entry in Hansard

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Given that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have a principled opposition to the death penalty and given that Britain, as part of the coalition provisional authority, will shortly hand over Saddam Hussein for trial, can the right hon. Gentleman say what representations, if any, he has made to ensure that the future Iraqi authorities do not put Saddam Hussein to death? Or does he wash his hands of the matter?

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): We have made strong representations to the Iraqis about our position in respect of the death penalty. We were successful during the period of the Iraq governing council in persuading it to suspend the death penalty. It is known that Iraqi Ministers have said that they will support the re-establishment of the death penalty from 30 June, and it is also a fact that a number of countries around the world, including China and the United States, are retentionist and operate the death penalty. However, in respect of all those countries, not least and including Iraq, we shall make very strong representations about the need not to use the death penalty. Those representations will be made on both moral grounds, which are well supported in the House, and on very practical grounds. As we in this country found with the death penalty 50 years ago, one can end up not only convicting the wrong person, but executing the wrong person.

Debate: The Illicit Trade in Antiquities

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about this subject, and I want to start by setting out the terms of the debate. There are different types of debate in Westminster Hall; those in which we slam the Government for an alleged outrage, whether or not they have committed it, and those in which we plead for the Government to do something that they cannot or will not do. This is neither a slamming nor pleading debate, but a prodding one, in which I will seek to prod the Government to commit to doing what they know they should be doing and probably want to do anyway.

I slightly confused myself in coming up with the title. I was not sure whether it should be a debate on the illicit trade in antiquities or on the trade in illicit antiquities. Either way, we are talking about cultural objects that are a little or decidedly dodgy. What I really mean is the buying and selling or importing and exporting of cultural objects that have been removed from heritage sites and buildings illegally in Britain and elsewhere. The Minister may recognise that phrasing as one that we considered in the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003.

The defining principle in this debate is that prevention is better than cure. Much of the damage done in heritage terms is done at the time of removal of objects rather than in what happens to them subsequently. From a heritage point of view, the agenda is about ensuring that removal never occurs in the first place, and my remarks will address that intention.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) on securing this important debate on a subject about which I am passionate. All hon. Members who have spoken so far have alluded to Iraq, which, of course, is very much on our minds at present. Despite all the horrifying images of present-day Iraq, matters might improve eventually in that country. If and when life returns to something like normality there, Iraq will need one thing, above all; tourism. People like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I should go there.

I am not saying that there should be an organisation called “Simply Mesopotamia”, but it would be wonderful if people were attracted by the cradle of civilisation, the ziggurats at Ur and the hanging gardens of Babylon, such as are left after the depredations of Saddam. In their present post-Saddam incarnation, fascinating they remain. That was why those of us who supported the war were so dismayed to see the looting of the museum in Baghdad at the moment of liberation.

Read the full transcript of this debate at Hansard

Question: Sale of school Playing Fields (to Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport and Tourism)

See this entry in Hansard

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): The Minister said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that there had been significant change in respect of playing fields since the Government came to power in 1997. That is certainly true. They came to power saying that they would halt the sale of school playing fields to arrest the decline of sport in schools, since when the number of applications to sell playing fields has gone up every year. Last year – this is the most relevant statistic – of the 807 successful applications, 440 led to the total extinction of those facilities. Given the threat to sport in schools, particularly contact sports, from litigation and all kinds of other matters, against which Ministers say not a peep, will the Minister now tell the House what measures he has in mind – apart from encouraging people to run down concrete roads, and apart from an annual meeting of the playing fields monitoring group – to arrest the sale of playing fields?

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box. May I now inform him why no one should vote Tory again if they support playing fields? The planning applications that were made when his Government were in power were to shut playing fields. The planning applications for investment of £500 million are to build new facilities – we have to have planning applications to build new facilities. The simple answer to his question is: do not vote Tory – they will shut your playing fields down.

Debate: The European School, Culham

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak about an excellent school. The debate is very much a two-handed affair: the European school at Culham is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), but is attended by the children of a number of my constituents in west Oxfordshire and of constituents throughout Oxfordshire. My hon. Friend and I had a pact to apply for an Adjournment debate in the hope that one of us would be successful, and it fell to me. We want to put on record the role of this school and our concerns about its future, and we want some quality time with the Minister, whom I am glad to see in her place.

A lot of debates in Westminster Hall bring forward problems, but we like to think that we are bringing forward an opportunity for Oxfordshire and the country at large. Culham is an excellent school – a little gem. All we are asking is that everyone who has a stake in the school – the local education authority, the European Commission, the Government and the teachers, parents and board of governors – play a constructive role in trying to secure its future. That is what today’s debate is about: an invitation to the Minister to consider the school and to do what she can to help.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) on securing the debate and putting the case as succinctly and comprehensively as he could have done. We are trying to stop a very good school being closed.

Read the full transcript of this debate at Hansard

Question: Museum Exchanges and the Parthenon marbles (to Estelle Morris, Minister of State for Arts)

See this entry in Hansard

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Does the Minister agree that there is no point whatsoever in sending the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, since there is no prospect of those sculptures ever being viewed in situ on the temple? To do so would be to rip the heart out of the British Museum, which is one of the great cultural landmarks of Europe, and whose defence ought to be a matter for the Minister and her Ministry.

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): There are many facets to this debate, and I take the hon. Gentleman’s points. The British Museum contains world collections and receives more than 4.6 million visitors every year. People can see historic artefacts and heritage items gathered in one place. Although this is not quite to do with the hon. Gentleman’s point, the museum in Athens that could house the Parthenon sculptures, were they to be returned, is not yet ready, and we have no date for when it will be. In that respect, he was right. I am pleased that the sculptures are in the British Museum and part of a world collection. I am pleased that the number of people able to visit is increasing year by year.

Debate: Pigswill and the Foot and Mouth outbreak

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): On 24 May 2001, three months after the outbreak of foot and mouth, there entered into force the Animal By-Products (Amendment) (England) Order 2001. At the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there perished in this country a practice that has taken place for thousands of years, ever since mankind domesticated animals – the feeding of food waste to pigs in the form of swill feed.

I know that Members on both sides of the House want to contribute in this short debate, so I do not propose to waste time by disputing the logic of that decision, although I believe that it was illogical to penalise innocent swill feeders for the irresponsible behaviour of one, who may or may not have been implicated in the outbreak of foot and mouth. I hold out no hope that the Minister will do the right thing and revoke the ban, but it is right to draw his attention to its adverse effects, which, like so many pieces of regulation, is adding to the costs of business and industry.

Read the full transcript of this debate at Hansard

Question: Weapons of Mass Destruction, Iraq and the legality of the war (to Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence)

See this entry in Hansard

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Given that a vital part of the reconstruction of Iraq is presumably the discovery and removal of weapons of mass destruction, may I remind the Secretary of State of an answer that he gave to me more than six months ago, when I asked him whether the failure to find weapons of mass destruction undermined the legality of the case for war? He gave a four-word answer, which was, “They will be found.” Does the right hon. Gentleman still believe that? If not, does he not think that it is about time that the public saw all the legal opinion upon which the Government based the case for war?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity, but he needs to check more carefully the precise circumstances in which military action was taken. It was taken on the basis of resolution 1441. We know that Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction previously; 1441 was given by the United Nations to Saddam Hussein as a last opportunity to co-operate with the international community. The coalition forces judged that he had failed to take that last opportunity. I am sure that a fair-minded observer of these affairs, as the hon. Gentleman is, would reach that conclusion.

Question: Commons Townlands hospital in Henley (to Dr Stephen Ladyman, Junior Minister, Department of Health)

See this entry in Hansard

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Speech therapy is among the many services provided by the head injuries unit at the Townlands hospital, in Henley. How is it possible, at a time when this Government are allegedly pumping umpteen billions into the NHS, that it should be seriously contemplated that that hospital close? Will the Minister do everything in his power to live up to his Government’s promises and stop the closure of this valued and much-loved local hospital?

Dr. Ladyman: The reconfiguration of hospital services, as the hon. Gentleman perfectly well knows, is a matter for local decision. We have devolved these matters to local areas so that local people can be involved in local decisions. If I were in a position to ask the hon. Gentleman the sort of question that he has just asked me, I would ask him how many speech and language therapists there would be if we carried out his plans to cut spending by 20 per cent.

Speech: Gilligan, Hutton and the and the legality of the war

See this entry in Hansard

I suppose I should begin by declaring an interest of sorts, in that I edit a magazine which received Andrew Gilligan’s reports throughout the Gulf war – and very proud we were of those reports, none of which was remotely anti-war.

I shall now do a very unfashionable thing, which is to stick up for Andrew Gilligan. We heard from the Labour benches about how people have been pilloried and vilified. No one has been more pilloried and vilified than that LoL journalist. I propose to try to vindicate what he said.

This debate takes place after the Prime Minister has announced an inquiry into the Government’s extraordinary failure to give an accurate picture of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction before the war. I hope that Lord Butler will somehow in his findings pay tribute to the work of Andrew Gilligan in exposing the way in which Downing Street revised raw intelligence material in the hope of making it sound more alarming and making the threat sound more imminent.

To understand what I think happened – and I am paid to say what I think – one must remember the origins of Alastair Campbell as a tabloid journalist. He was political editor of the Daily Mirror, and went to Downing street as editor-in-chief of the propaganda campaign, in particular the propaganda campaign to convince the public – and especially gaming Labour Members, whose votes were very important – that Saddam was a clear and present threat to this country. In his office in Downing street, Alastair Campbell chaired a series of very important meetings. Very senior civil servants were there, among them John Scarlett, chairman of the JIC. Alastair Campbell told John Scarlett

> “I will chair a team that will go through the document from a presentational point of view, and make recommendations to you.”

Everyone who has worked on a newspaper, tabloid or broadsheet – as I have – will know that newspapers are basically monarchical in structure. If the editor is known to be partial to a certain online gaming story or a certain subject – pheasants, say – loyal underlings will provide the editor with pheasants. Or a story about topless models, or whatever it happens to be. That is how it works. He is the Sun King, and they are sunflowers who turn their faces towards him.

(Andrew Mackinlay: Their faces?)

(Mr. Johnson: The hon. Gentleman clearly has a keen understanding of these matters.)

As Lord Hutton himself observed, this may be subconsciously – he said “subconsciously” – corrupting. But I think that in the case of the influence of Downing street on the intelligence services it was clearly more than subconsciously corrupting, for there was a whole series of overt and explicit memos. In the spring and summer of 2002, the intelligence services had produced a fairly cautious document about the state of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It may be remembered that the original document, which was not published because it was too feeble, said that there was a chemical and biological weapons capability, but made no mention of actual weapons. It said that Iraq was at least five years away from producing a nuclear weapon. That, of course, was not exactly what the editorial staff in Downing street wanted to hear.

Phil Bassett, himself a former journalist and a member of the Downing street press office, sent a memo saying,

> “We’re in a lot of trouble as it stands now.”

Another memo went out from Downing street saying,

> “No 10 through the Chairman wants the document to be as strong as possible within the bounds of the available evidence.”

> “Therefore this is a last (!) call for elements that agencies think can and should be included.”

In due course, naturally, Scarlett obliged. He produced a dossier in which some of the language had been strengthened. But Campbell, the editor-in-chief, still was not happy. There was a sentence that read

> “The Iraq military may be able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so”.

Mr. Campbell pointed out that that was weaker than the wording of the summary, and requested that it be changed. That request was granted, along with requests for a dozen other material changes designed to beef up the language.

Some analysts on the Defence Intelligence Staff were uneasy about the 45-minute claim. Dr. Brian Jones – whose intimate involvement with the whole business was discussed earlier by the Prime Minister – said:

> “The way the intelligence was reported did not give us any confidence that the primary source knew very much about the subject.”

He went to see Dr. Kelly, who himself expressed some doubts about, for instance, the biological weapons claim gamers, but when they passed their concerns up to their superiors those concerns were ignored. Jones said he felt that

> “the shutters were coming down”.

An unnamed official was so alarmed by the draft that he wrote a highly unusual memo of protest:

> “The 20th September draft still includes a number of statements which are not supported by the evidence available to me… What I wish to record is that based on the intelligence available to me, it has NOT been established beyond doubt that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.”

As for the notorious 45-minute claim, he said

> “This is based on a single source. It is not clear what is meant by ‘weapons are deployable within 45 minutes’. The judgment is too strong considering the evidence on which it is based”.

Yet four days later the Prime Minister was at the Dispatch Box waving a dossier and making that claim no fewer than four times. He made it in his own foreword. He said:

> “The threat of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction is not American or British propaganda. The history and present threat are real”.

A couple of hours beforehand Jonathan Powell had sent a memo to Alastair Campbell – someone mentioned this earlier – saying:

> “Alastair, what will the headline be in the Standard”

after they had published this thing?

> “What do we want it to be?”

We do not have Campbell’s answer, but I think we can guess, because the Evening Standard duly obliged the Government’s propaganda machine and said “45 minutes from attack”.

The Sun said, “He’s got ’em . . . Let’s get him.” It was nonsense, of course. It was an inverted pyramid of piffle. To make matters worse, the Government allowed the tabloids to misconstrue the 45-minute reference to mean ground or air-launched missiles rather than battlefield weapons. In other words, a claim that was rubbish had been embellished at the Government’s behest and at the specific request of Alastair Campbell.

Let us go back to the fateful change and the psychology of the parties involved. The intelligence services are already straining to oblige their political masters and they have beefed up the language as far as they dare, but Campbell comes back to Scarlett and wants him to ratchet it up one notch higher. He wants to move the claim from the conditional to the indicative mood, as the grammarians would say. Why does Scarlett accede to that? Because he is in the position of a foreign correspondent who has before him a campaigning editor, but the story is not quite hot or strong enough, so he agrees to hype it up. He takes a risk because he thinks he can get away with it because the facts may well turn out to support his editor’s desire and he wants a quiet life and to be obliging.

That is, in essence, what Andrew Gilligan reported. He said that the Government probably knew that the figure was wrong. They and Campbell certainly did not know that the figure was right, yet they put it before the public and before Parliament as an incontrovertible fact. Gilligan said that his source was involved in the production of the dossier, which was certainly true. He said that there was anxiety in the intelligence services about the dossier, which has been amply confirmed.

Your is if you That’s not just champion picks gain the General and just champion counter pick instead a very important it as Safe Strong Meta and In General and roam the game winning player Using the entire game because of this enables them to know it as champion in pre-game champion counter pick you also have the correct champions against any patch release If you’ve followed us on Youtube then you know Ranked Boost hasn’t missed any patch release If you’ve LoL champion stats followed us on counter pick instead a huge advantage in pre-game champion select You’ll be caught off against tank assassins champions etc This simple strategy is very important it as champion counter picking up the Ultimate Package also includes every package in league of item team fight and team fights,ADC LoL Counter,Be able to.

I ask Labour Members who deride Gilligan whether they are happy that those facts were brought into the public domain. I also ask them in their triumphalism to reflect on whether it is possible that the Government made mistakes in the production of the dossier…

(Madam Deputy Speaker, Sylvia Heal: Order. The hon. Gentleman’s time is up. I call Dr. Gavin Strang.)