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Oral evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 18 June 2003

Members present:

Donald Anderson, in the Chair
Mr David Chidgey
Mr Fabian Hamilton
Mr Eric Illsley
Andrew Mackinlay
Mr John Maples
Mr Bill Olner
Mr Greg Pope
Sir John Stanley


Witness: DR THOMAS DAVID INCH, OBE, Former Deputy Chief Scientific Officer, MoD at Porton Down and former Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, examined.

Q211  Chairman: We continue our inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. We welcome Dr Inch. Dr Inch, as a Committee we look to you for specialist advice on the scientific aspects of our inquiry, helping us to pose the correct questions on matters of science. We ask you to draw on your wide experience in this area. For the record, I should say that you were employed by our Ministry of Defence from 1965 to 1985 at Porton Down. Latterly you were Deputy Chief Scientific Officer with responsibility for all the basic chemical defence research. Before attending the Royal College of Defence Studies in 1985, you were, for a time, Deputy Director of Porton Down. You joined BP in 1986 where you were Vice President, responsible for BP's research and technology in the USA from 1990 to 1993. From 1993 until 2000 you were Secretary-General and Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Chemistry. There will be a number of technical questions that the Committee will pose to you. We know from your experience that your answers will be extremely valuable. Dr Inch, I have first a general question. The inspectors were absent from Iraq between 1998 until 2002. The assumption in the Government's paper is that during that time the regime continued to work on its programmes of prohibited weapons of mass destruction and missile programmes in violation of a whole raft of UN Security Council resolutions from the end of the Gulf War. How credible, from your experience, is that?

Dr Inch: Can I give a kind of disclaimer at the start? I have had no direct links with Porton or the intelligence community for about 15 years. So everything that I say is kind of public record material and common sense deduction. It is not quite true that I have not spoken to some of the people at Porton because I am still involved in the Royal Society working party on decontamination and detection in regard to anti-terrorist issues. As chairman of the advisory committee to the National Authority on the Chemical Weapons Convention, I deal, from time to time, with chemical weapons convention issues. But I have no direct links in terms of the intelligence on the Iraq situation.

Q212  Chairman: That is the disclaimer?

Dr Inch: That is the disclaimer. I think you have to take the information in the dossier very much with a pinch of salt. The intelligence behind the dossier may be quite good, but I think that my interpretation of what is written raises more questions than answers. In many general terms that reflects some of the problems of making good technical assessments of the bits and pieces of intelligence information that comes your way. Sometimes the scientific community is in agreement with the intelligence community; and sometimes the scientific community disagrees strongly with the intelligence community's assessments. Perhaps I can give two historical examples as it is important to understand this. In the early 1970s the US intelligence community reported that there had been an accident in Sverdlovsk in Russia and that there had been an accidental release of anthrax from which many people had died. At that time in the US the chief scientific adviser was not convinced by the intelligence information; he did not think that it all held together. The signs and the symptoms did not fit the intelligence report. After the Iron Curtain came down that same person went to Sverdlovsk and was able to make a thorough interpretation. The scientific community had missed one or two important facts and the intelligence community was absolutely right. The total picture that emerged post-event was very convincing. That is one plus to the intelligence community. Rolling on to the early 1980s, the US intelligence community claimed that a new form of toxic material - T2 toxin - was being used in Laos in Cambodia which was subsequently dubbed "yellow rain". The American intelligence community went public at that time, and the information reached the Secretary of State and the President of the United States who went public on that information. Subsequently there was enormous pressure on our intelligence community to support the arguments. In this country our scientific community was never convinced; nothing really held together; the materials in question were insufficiently toxic; and there was a whole raft of other information that just did not fit. Eventually it was proven to our satisfaction that yellow rain was simply the droppings from flocks of bees. That is a big negative for the US intelligence community who, in my view, made in their interpretation a whole range of fundamental errors in not carrying out the proper checks and studies. When you apply those two lessons, there are signs of dilemma and you have to look at some of the statements in the dossier to see whether you can make sense of them. The short answer is that I do not know that you will be able to unless you have the right raw data from which to make some kind of an assessment. I can give you some pointers from the report of the kind of things that worry me as I look through some of the reported statements in it.

Q213  Chairman: Please do.

Dr Inch: On page 18 of the report at paragraph 3 it says that the intelligence suggests that: "These stocks would enable Iraq to produce significant quantities of mustard gas within weeks and of nerve agent within months". From a technical perspective I find it very difficult to understand unless the intelligence was very firm, very clear and very precise why it should be possible to make mustard gas within weeks but it would take months to make nerve agents. If you have the facilities in place, the previous knowledge and so on, and the plants available, it does not seem to me that it takes more time to make one than the other. The question is: how good was the intelligence? That would be the kind of question that I would wish to probe to find out whether it was hard or soft material that we are looking at. There are other examples.

Q214  Chairman: It may be helpful to the Committee, if, having trawled through the dossier, you were to give us a separate memorandum with your concerns as a scientist about some of the matters that you find in the dossier.

Dr Inch: I can do that.

Q215  Chairman: If there are one or two startling examples you can give them now, but are you prepared to do that?

Dr Inch: Yes, I would be very happy to do that. There are some general matters on that point in terms of questions about some of the technical claims within the document.

Mr Olner: With regard to supplying that further information, does Dr Inch know the deadline for our work?

Chairman: Yes, of course. Dr Inch, we are conducting a rather speedy inquiry, so our clerk will give you the deadline.

Q216  Mr Chidgey: Dr Inch, it falls to me to examine this area of chemical and biological issues with you, mainly because I am the only Member of the Committee with anything approaching an applied scientific background. To quote Newton, the more I know the more I know how little I know. I am hoping that you can help us a little on this. In this series of question that I am going to ask you I shall be trying to get you to explain to us how readily you can convert, for example, from an industrial process - the processing of the basic ingredients that go into chemical and biological weapons - to military objectives to create weaponised material. I am quite deliberately using general terms so that you can be more specific. On the back of that, one of the issues that exercises me is just how stable is the weaponised material? How readily can it be stored, transported and placed within warheads and how difficult would it be to detect those processes? There is the change from industrial to military use, the creation of weapons material, transporting it, making it ready for use, all those kind of technical, challenging issues for the scientists and engineers, which for a layman are probably a complete maze. Clearly the telltale signs behind all this are essential in trying to gauge the accuracy of the information that is being presented to us in a political format.

Dr Inch: First, I shall comment on the stability. Some chemicals are obviously more stable than others. There are problems, mainly with something like VX, but the other materials are fairly stable and I would have thought that they would have been stored and stabilised in adequate conditions. That is not a problem.

Q217  Mr Chidgey: What would those conditions be?

Dr Inch: To illustrate the point, the two countries with the big weapons stocks are the US and the old Soviet Union. Under the chemical weapons convention both countries are committed to destroying those stocks. It is going much more slowly than anticipated because of safety concerns. It will be 10 or 12 years before those stocks can be destroyed. Clearly, there is no real problem with the stability of them. They will not be in the same high quality as when they started, but they will still be very effective weapons stocks. That is the situation, I think, with anything held in Iraq.

Q218  Mr Chidgey: How easy would it be to be absolutely sure that the storage facility was precisely the facility for chemical or biological weapons? Could it readily be mistaken or disguised as something else?

Dr Inch: You asked about production as well and how easy it is to transfer from a civil to a military use. In recent years there has been a major change in manufacturing technology in the chemical industry. One still has the enormous petrochemical type complexes which are very dedicated to making one material by continuous procedure. But the pharmaceutical industry, for example, which also makes highly potent compounds, is in the mode of just-in-time synthesis. They make a few tonnes of material and then quickly move to something else. It is the same in a lot of industries these days; the equipment is designed to be flexible and used in a wide variety of ways. Once upon a time, when health and safety concerns around the world were not very important, one could probably detect a plant making a highly toxic material by the extra safety precautions. In the modern world everything is governed by very tight safety regulations and it becomes increasingly difficult to judge whether a plant is making something that is highly toxic or something that may just be toxic.

Q219  Mr Chidgey: Does that kind of health and safety regime apply to Iraq?

Dr Inch: It is pretty general industrial practice and the kind of equipment and so on is readily available and may be bought. It is the kind of engineering practice that gets into the culture. One could still go against that, but the point I am making is that for many of the compounds involved there would be no difficulty in switching from one form of manufacture to another. Can I give you one other example because I think it makes the point very clearly? Under the chemical weapons convention, there are scheduled chemicals which are the highly toxic ones, and there is another class of chemicals called discrete organic chemicals which are also banned under the convention. The real inspection regime for those materials is only now getting under way. But I think that the OPCW inspectors in The Hague believe that about 30 per cent of the plants that they see worldwide, making discrete organic chemicals for perfectly legal purposes, have the capability to be modified very rapidly to make chemical warfare agents.

Q220  Mr Chidgey: My question on that particular point is whether, due to the way in which you describe the situation, we should not talk about dual-use facilities, but about multi-use processing facilities. In other words, the plants that you describe could do any number of things one of which is producing chemical weapons.

Dr Inch: One has to be a little careful. Dual-use chemicals are things like phosgene or hydrogen cyanide, in the kind of definitions that are highly toxic in their own right and could be used as a chemical warfare agent, although maybe not too effectively, whereas the facilities - you are absolutely right - are multi-purpose facilities rather than dual-purpose facilities.

Q221  Mr Chidgey: Given that situation, if you were in the position of trying to define whether or not Iraq was operating a chemical weapons warfare programme and you were presented with a site that was a pharmaceutical chemical complex, what would you be looking for? Clearly the plant itself is not sufficient evidence to say that it is definitely a processing plant for chemical weapons.

Dr Inch: Personally, I would have given as much attention to carrying out some environmental analysis on the plant as I would to the facilities, given the situation in Iraq. We read in the report that they have gone to great lengths to hide things. I do not believe that you can hide the fact that you had been making some toxic chemicals on that site. If a site had been declared as a chemical weapons producing site, or if the original inspectors at the end of the Gulf War knew it was a site, you would not find out the information, but if there was intelligence pointing to quite new production facilities that were being denied as production facilities by the Iraqis, then I believe that the trace analysis and so on of certain residues would probably give confirmation of whether or not that was a correct statement.

Q222  Mr Chidgey: On that basis, what is your view of the assessment that Iraq was continuing to produce chemical and biological weapons after the inspectors left in 1998?

Dr Inch: I have to say that I have no view. I do not think that there is any compelling evidence to say that they did, but again there is no compelling evidence to say that they did not. You really need to make a close inspection of the data available.

Q223  Mr Chidgey: Do you have a view on the assessment that Iraq had a usable chemical and biological weapons capability in breach of UN Security Council resolutions, which has included the recent production of chemical and biological agents?

Dr Inch: I have no view. I think you really need to judge the data. There are some other statements on the dual-use facilities. It says: "New chemical facilities have been built, some with illegal foreign assistance". Again, that is talking about the import of precursors and so on. I would have thought that that evidence needed to be pretty hard if it exists, and it should be quite clear. Under the various UN embargoes and under the chemical weapons convention now signed by over 150 countries and under the terms of the Australia group regulations, which is the western group which embargoes supplies of materials and products, Iraq would definitely be a "no go" area for any of those materials from any respecting western government. Under the convention it is the responsibility of national governments to ensure that there are no exports to places like Iraq. Otherwise the treaties and so on are not being properly implemented.

Q224  Mr Chidgey: Dr Inch, if you could attach to the note that you are going to give us on the dossier the specific questions to which we should seek answers in regard to this matter it would be very helpful.

Dr Inch: I shall try to do that.

Q225  Sir John Stanley: We are in some difficulty because we are taking a great deal of evidence the rest of today and again tomorrow. Your subsequent paper will be of great interest to us. Could you help us with some pointers? At the outset you said that there were some specific points where you felt that the Government's assessment should be treated with a pinch of salt.

Dr Inch: Yes.

Q226  Sir John Stanley: On the one example that you gave us in paragraph 3 on page 18, if I understood what you said correctly, you were saying that the Government were probably under-estimating the degree of threat rather than over-estimating it because from what you said you were suggesting that not only could the mustard gas be produced within weeks but that the nerve agent could as well. Did I understand you correctly? Is that what you were saying to us?

Dr Inch: I was not making any comment on that. What I was saying was that I would have thought that to be able to make that kind of statement in terms of weeks for mustard gas and months for nerve agents, that there must have been some pretty good intelligence that suggested where and how those two time scales were going to differ. That would be a question that I would want to ask: how good was that?

Q227  Sir John Stanley: Can you point out to us the particular paragraphs and points in the paper where you felt the comment should be treated with a pinch of salt?

Dr Inch: It was in those general terms really. It is probably easier to do it in writing, but I found that there were too many weasel-words in the report, as I read it. They could do this or they might do that and so on, rather than saying that the evidence was hard. That was some of the concern that I had.

Q228  Sir John Stanley: Perhaps I can follow on the point that Mr Chidgey was making. As you know, the Prime Minister, in the final debate that we had in the House on 18 March before we went to war in Iraq, set out very clearly the Government's view as to the scale of the potential CW, BW stocks that may still be in Iraq. Just for the record, the Prime Minister said in col. 762: "When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme". Against the scale of those stocks - the implication behind that was that much of that was unaccounted for and might therefore still be around in Iraq - and from your scientific standpoint, are you mystified, as certainly those of us who are not scientists are, that after this length of time after the war, in the post-war period with the access that we have now had to the Iraqi scientists, and after large numbers of the people on the 50 most wanted list are now under interrogation, that we have still been able to turn up virtually nothing?

Dr Inch: I am totally confused by this intelligence, particularly about the missile stocks and so on. It is very difficult to see where it has all gone in such a short space of time, particularly when such movements, I would have thought, would have been monitored by our total air superiority. You cannot move that amount of weaponry around without seeing it, I would not have thought. The chemical basis is a different matter. There are even problems in interpreting the reasons for some of the chemical stocks. It is difficult to be certain of what the situation was there. For example, if you take the aflatoxins, which are signalled up strongly in the report, they are potent carcinogens and not particularly toxic and they were in dilute solutions, gas. It is given in litres rather than in solid form. It is difficult for me as a scientist to think why anyone would want to use aflatoxins as a chemical weapon. If you have a slow carcinogen and were to use it on people who may have a nuclear capability, and you want to trigger a nuclear response that is the kind of chemical to use. When you have something that is slow acting, you only have to think of the possibility of using something like that that has insidious slow effects on the civil population to see what a country like Israel might think of that.

Q229  Sir John Stanley: Do you have any view as a scientist that these stocks are largely unaccounted for? Would it be relatively easy to hide them in some incredibly clever way so that we would be unable to unearth them? Presumably if they are to be hidden, there must be substantial numbers of people who must be involved in the hiding operation, so can you give any explanation as to why we cannot trace where they are?

Dr Inch: None at all. Handling this amount of material is not a trivial exercise. If you are trying to move it around quickly, I would find it difficult to conceive that some accidents did not occur in the process and you would not have had some kind of civil report of deaths from poisoning. That is extraordinary to me.

Q230  Sir John Stanley: Does it suggest to you that the scale of stocks may not have been anything like the scale as reported in the assessment?

Dr Inch: That is one conclusion. You have to ask how good is the housekeeping, and how good is the record keeping in the first place. I do not really know enough about the way that the Iraqis function, but you may remember the time we had major problems with our nuclear housekeeping. It may be 30 years ago now, but I remember that there were problems trying to make all our numbers add up and that is a much more sensitive issue.

Q231  Mr Illsley: Dr Inch, I have two questions. The first is that a few minutes ago you referred to the telltale signs after perhaps chemicals had been removed from a facility and that you would look at the environment of that facility to see whether production had been carried on there at any point. How long would that trace remain after the production had finished? Is there a timescale that can be measured in months or years?

Dr Inch: It depends on the facility and the atmospheric conditions and whether there was moisture and so on. If it is in a plant, in a building, I think you would find traces for a very long period afterwards. Our analytical methods now are so sensitive that it is difficult not to find some kind of traces that would give some indication.

Q232  Mr Illsley: Do you have any knowledge of the quality of the scientific community in Iraq in terms of their capability of producing chemical and biological weapons, and perhaps even nuclear weapons? I ask that question because one or two reports were received and logged in this country of mobile weapons facilities. Recently in the press the scientific community in this country now are beginning to think that the mobile weapons facilities were simply tankers to produce hydrogen for barrage balloons, which does not suggest the top quality weapons that we might have been led to believe were in Iraq if they are still producing vehicles to produce hydrogen for barrage balloons. Does the Iraqi community lag behind in terms of its expertise or do they have the capability to produce these weapons?

Dr Inch: They certainly have the capability to produce the weapons by conventional methods. Whether they have the technology to think in terms of mobile laboratories is a different matter. Last year, at this time, in preparation for the chemical weapons convention review conference, I was one of the co-ordinators at the conference in Bergen that actually looked at new synthetic technologies for chemical weapons. The idea was that other developing technologies may mean that anyone wanting to break out of the chemical weapons convention could get away with it undetected, so we looked critically at a whole range of techniques such as solid phase synthesis, combatorial chemistry and nanotechnology devices of one kind and another. The conclusion was that it was all possible, but it required a lot more work and the answer was probably not yet. If that was the kind of conclusion from the developed, western nations in terms of the state of technology, then it is pretty unlikely that anyone in the hierarchy could do it better than was already possible elsewhere. So in terms of the mobile situation for chemicals, I find it very unlikely. I am not sufficiently familiar with the biologicals although I realise and read that there has been great doubt, as you say, about those procedures too.

Q233  Mr Illsley: One of the theories put forward is that perhaps some of the WMD production facilities and the weapons themselves might have been loaded into railway carriages and/or lorries and transported into another country. Would they have the technology to do that as well? Could they just load the stuff up and transport it across the border in a train or in a lorry?

Dr Inch: I think that is possible.

Q234  Chairman: You mentioned the state of technology. Can you also comment on the quality of housekeeping in Iraq and the general reputation for Iraq in that field? Are they particularly conscious of health and safety?

Dr Inch: I could not answer that question. I have no knowledge of that. If you ask that question about Iran, I have better contacts. I am pretty sure that they are as good as we are and that they are getting as good as we are now at housekeeping. That is another issue, but on Iraq, no.

Q235  Mr Olner: Do you think it would be fair to say that because chemical weapons have been used by Saddam Hussein on Iran and on his own Kurdish population, and seeing that they have not signed the chemical weapons convention, that he was still pursuing acquiring chemical weapons and biological weapons?

Dr Inch: I really have no knowledge of that. It has always been of enormous advantage to him to create the impression that he was. Some people think that chemical weapons are more of a kind of bugbear on the battlefield than they are a weapon of mass destruction. The fact that someone thinks you have biological and chemical weapons means that any forces opposing you have to take all the necessary precautions. They have to wear the protective clothing; they have to have all the injections and suffer Gulf War syndrome and the rest of it. To force any potential opposition into that kind of posture has to be an advantage to anyone. If you go back to the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill took strong steps to stop the Germans from using chemical weapons by pretending that we had things that we could return in kind, whereas that may not have been very true. At times there is a powerful argument for making people think that you have something that you do not have.

Q236  Mr Olner: And you suffer the consequences, of course, if people think you have them and take action.

Dr Inch: That is right.

Q237  Mr Olner: In some respects, with justification.

Dr Inch: Yes.

Q238  Mr Olner: On a technical point, how possible is it for chemical weapons or biological weapons production facilities to be maintained without detection? Chemical plants are very easy to see. How small can they be and how easily can they remain undetected?

Dr Inch: You can make chemical weapons in the garden shed if you wish.

Q239  Mr Olner: So you are saying that there is no possible way that we could easily detect that these were being produced?

Dr Inch: No, not on that kind of scale. That kind of scenario, of course, is always attractive to a terrorist organisation, but in terms of a state waging war, the quantities that you would make would be totally useless.

Q240  Mr Olner: Who do you think would know how safety conscious the Iraqis were? I believe that they would take enormous risks, because life is so cheap, to move those things about which we would not even contemplate.

Dr Inch: The UNSCOM inspectors must have a very good idea from what they saw previously as to what kind of safety precautions were taken. The safety status within the Iraqi production plants and laboratories and so on, must be very well documented.

Q241  Chairman: Our next witness is a former UNSCOM inspector.

Dr Inch: It must be very well documented.

Q242  Mr Maples: We and the public have been surprised that we have not found any of this stuff in Iraq. The numbers sound very big. I am just looking at the report again. It mentions 8,500 litres of anthrax, for instance. I have been doing the arithmetic in my head and that is not a very large volume of anthrax, only about 300 cubic feet or so. Are we talking about huge quantities of the stuff?

Dr Inch: No.

Q243  Mr Maples: If you split that 8,500 litres of anthrax into about half a dozen places, it would be very difficult to find.

Dr Inch: If my memory serves me correctly, in China there are something like 3 million chemical rounds left over from wars in days gone by that they are still trying to clear up. There are some big stocks around. So in those terms it is pretty small numbers.

Q244  Mr Maples: So they would be difficult to find?

Dr Inch: Yes. There are not big stocks. The point has been made around this room that with all the human intelligence now available, someone ought to be pointing the finger in the right direction.

Q245  Mr Maples: Without someone pointing their finger in the right direction it would be quite tricky?

Dr Inch: It would be quite tricky.

Q246  Mr Maples: On biological as opposed to chemical weapons, to maintain the production facility and a sample of the toxin that you want to grow or to culture, do you need to store it in large quantities? Or are manufacturing times quite short once you have decided to go ahead, and therefore all you really need to do is to maintain a production facility and a sample of whatever it is you want to grow.

Dr Inch: Apart from anthrax, most of the other biological agents they talk about are actually chemicals; they are toxins produced by biological species. Ricin is from the castor oil bean; the aflatoxins are fungal products - botulinum toxins and so on - and have to be treated like a chemical; they do not cause a disease but they kill you like a poison; they create a fever or something. They are really just chemicals by any other name.

Q247  Mr Maples: It is a manufacturing process?

Dr Inch: It is a manufacturing process.

Q248  Mr Maples: Whereas with anthrax you actually grow the culture?

Dr Inch: That is right and produce spores which is much more lethal. The ricin is a particularly interesting one as we have had a case in this country. It is isolated from the castor oil bean. The normal method of isolation, because of heat treatment, destroys the toxin during the process, so you have to adopt a slightly different extraction process to get the ricin out. The problem with ricin at the end of the day is that it is a powder which is not easy to disseminate. Western countries that evaluated ricin during or at the end of the Second World War lost interest in it because of the difficulty of spreading it about. Those are some of the problems; why bother when you have mustard gas and nerve agents?

Q249  Mr Maples: The only one of Iraq's weapons that is discussed in this paper which is genuinely a biological weapon in the sense of creating a disease which is spread is anthrax?

Dr Inch: Anthrax.

Q250  Mr Hamilton: Dr Inch, earlier you said that you were surprised that there were no accidents in Iraq or no reports of any accidents when chemicals were being moved around. Is it such a surprise in a dictatorship where there is no free press that no reports were made public? It could be that there were accidents and that people were killed. Would you necessarily have known about it in a country like Iraq?

Dr Inch: No. That may be some of the information that is in the raw intelligence data which would be good supportive material.

Q251  Mr Hamilton: The intelligence services would know only if someone had told them. Presumably if someone was so disgusted by the death and destruction caused by the accident they may tell one of the western intelligence agencies. If that did not happen, how would we know? We would have had no surveillance.

Dr Inch: That is quite right, but as I read the dossier, there is information in there that tells us what Saddam was thinking and what he planned to do. That could have come only from intelligence sources, somebody telling the intelligence agencies that that was what was happening. If one were receiving that kind of information from within Iraq, one would expect to see within the documentation other similar information about some of the more practical details.

Q252  Mr Hamilton: Do you draw the conclusion from the fact that there were no intelligence reports, as far as you know - I accept that you were not party to those but none have come through to us of any accidents being concealed or otherwise - that the chemicals were not there in the first place?

Dr Inch: No, I am not drawing any conclusions. I am just saying that one would have expected to see something.

Q253  Mr Hamilton: Some of my colleagues have explored arguments about concealment, quantities and toxicity. I want to be clear in my own mind about the kind of quantities of chemical agents that are necessary. Obviously, it will vary depending on the agent itself, compared with the quantity necessary versus the toxicity. It is quite important. As my colleague John Maples was saying, if you can conceal a small amount of chemical agent in a very small place, but it has huge toxicity and can kill a lot of people, could that go some way towards explaining why we cannot find these agents.

Dr Inch: For battlefield use, for loading up into the missile systems you really need many tonnes of any particular chemical agent, irrespective of how toxic it is. You really have a major problem of dissemination and in the modern battlefield you have to get quantities down quite quickly against a protected force if you are to cause great damage. It is a different matter if you are attacking the civil population that is not protected, in which case a smaller amount would have an enormous effect. If the planning is for military use then large amounts of material are required. Of course, when he was poisoning his own people, much smaller amounts of material could be used and used effectively.

Q254  Mr Chidgey: You say many tonnes, but can you give us a figure? Is it thousands of tonnes?

Dr Inch: I think it is many hundreds of tonnes, if you are going to wage warfare against a military group with chemicals. If you are attacking a civil population, a few tonnes can do an awful lot of damage.

Q255  Mr Hamilton: Would you be prepared to make any guess as to why Saddam - I appreciate you do not know his mind but he may have been prepared - did not use chemical or biological agents in the invasion in March and April?

Dr Inch: I do not know what his tactics were. I have no idea. He did not use them in the Gulf War either.

Q256  Mr Hamilton: Could it have something to do with the difficulty of deployment, as you have just described?

Dr Inch: I do not know. At the time of the Gulf War, quite clearly he had quite large amounts of material. He did not deploy it then.

Q257  Mr Illsley: You were talking about chemical weapons when you said he never deployed them in the Gulf War?

Dr Inch: Yes.

Q258  Mr Illsley: The reason I ask that is that yesterday we heard evidence that tended to suggest that chemical weapons were deployed, but never used.

Dr Inch: That is what I meant. I am sorry if I said deployed. He did not use them in the Gulf war. They were available for use; and we know he had them for use because we destroyed a lot of them afterwards.

Q259  Mr Pope: Dr Inch, the most likely chemical weapons that Iraq had were presumably like mustard gas, phosgene and nerve agents. How quickly can they be deployed? What is the time frame from making a decision to use them to firing. The reason I ask is that the dossier refers to 45 minutes several times. That seems to me to be a really short time frame to deploy what must be a fairly complicated weapon. I do not know what the procedures are. How quickly can it be done?

Dr Inch: I do not know what the military procedures are. If you have your shells, bombs or missiles filled with chemical and they are ready for release, it does not seem to me to make any difference whether it is a chemical weapon or conventional artillery. It is ready to be fired.

Q260  Mr Pope: I worked on the basis that the missiles and the chemical agents that could be deployed within the missile would generally be kept separately and that it is not safe to keep them together. Therefore, there needs to be a technical procedure to insert the chemical agent into the missile and that takes a while.

Dr Inch: It depends on the weapon system. To illustrate the point, one of the major problems on the disarmament side is how long it takes to demilitarise and to destroy chemicals already loaded into bombs and other weapons. You need special facilities to handle the bomb or the shell. You have to drain it, clean out the chemical and destroy the chemical before you destroy the rest of the weapon. It is much more difficult to destroy chemical-filled weapons than it is for chemicals. A lot of chemicals are stored in the weapon system to be used or they have been in the past.

Q261  Mr Pope: What is the easiest way of deploying chemical weapons? Is it by dropping a bomb from an aeroplane? Is it by firing a missile such as a Scud, or would it be by a small battlefield weapon like a mortar shell, or spraying? What is the most common way of doing that?

Dr Inch: It is horses for courses. When the Cold War was on most of our worst-case evaluation was on the basis that the Russians would use a multi-barrel rocket, which is effectively mortar shells in a multi-barrel situation. Most of the worst-case planning was about how much chemical could be put down by using multi-barrel rockets. That is probably the most effective.

Q262  Mr Pope: One of the things we know about the Iraqi regime is that it had many of those rocket-type launchers. Going back to the 45 minutes, the dossier makes quite a lot of play about that. When I read the dossier the first time I thought that the idea that these kind of chemical weapons can be deployed within less than an hour was extraordinarily worrying. Do you think that the Government overplayed that or do you think it was a reasonable assessment?

Dr Inch: I do not understand why it was put in. I cannot see the significance of it other than saying that it is a terrible situation. If you are at war, all weapons have to be deployable fairly quickly - unless they were suggesting at that stage that the chemicals were stored way back and that they had to be brought up.

Q263  Mr Pope: I think part of the reason why they put it in was because they were alleging a variety of matters. They were alleging that Saddam was developing a missile system that could reach our sovereign basis in Cyprus; they were alleging that he was a threat to his neighbours; they were alleging that he would be a threat to any allied forces that entered the region. The worry was that he could deploy those terrible weapons really quickly and there is not a long lead-in time. That is the politics and that is why they put in the claim that they could be deployed quickly. I want to get to the bottom of whether that is a reasonable thesis to put forward. Was it accurate to say that they could be deployed in that way?

Dr Inch: One of the pointers about the report is that one really needs to see the raw data that generated that claim. What was the true basis for saying 45 minutes? Is there some significance to that statement that most of us failed to appreciate at this time?

Q264  Chairman: The Government appear to have qualified the 45 minutes by saying "from the time of the order". One interpretation of that is wholly meaningless because the order would be given only at the point when the delivery system was ready.

Dr Inch: Yes.

Q265  Chairman: What significance do you attach to the addition of the words "from the time of the order"?

Dr Inch: I am afraid that I cannot say any more. I am just totally baffled by why it should be there. That is why I say again that one has to probe the raw data much more carefully to find out why it was there and what the significance was and what the military thinking behind it was.

Q266  Chairman: If it is meaningless, clearly the insertion of it could only cause confusion and lead to an impression of an imminent threat which may not be there.

Dr Inch: That is the only conclusion one can reach.

Q267  Andrew Mackinlay: In the great debate about the justification for the conflict, do you think that too much emphasis has been placed on ready-to-use weapons and not enough on the industrial infrastructure, the skills that existed and were available and were being exercised in pursuit of these weapons?

Dr Inch: I think we tend to forget at times, particularly when one looks at the dual-use chemicals and the kind of infrastructure, how critically dependent all societies are on the chemicals that we use, in our homes, in all our materials - everything is chemical. Of course, Iraq was a fairly sophisticated society with reasonable demands. With a petrochemical industry one would expect them to have a reasonably sophisticated chemical industry capable of producing many of these things. Many of the compounds concerned are not themselves petrochemical in origin, but are used to convert petrochemicals into other products.

Q268  Andrew Mackinlay: What you say is correct, unfortunately. It seems to me that we will have a great problem looking ahead to other despots. If we are trying to frustrate proliferation, for ever and a day we shall have increasing problems as regards dual use. States will claim a legitimate need to have them for the well being of their peoples and the development of their commerce and industry.

Dr Inch: That is absolutely right. That is why again under the chemical weapons convention there is an enormous drive to increase the inspection of discrete organic chemical facilities that I mentioned. There is something like 4,200 or 4,300 around the world and probably a lot more. So if 20 or 30 per cent of those have the capability of being diverted to other things, you have a major inspection problem. That is one of the major concerns of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. How does one carry out worldwide effective inspection of those facilities, not necessarily because of states trying to break out of the convention, but because terrorists may try to subvert some of those activities?

Andrew Mackinlay : Would it have been easy for the regime to have hidden their WMD capacity just prior to the opening of the conflict, to have destroyed it or to have spirited it away? The nature of these things cannot be seen from satellite or other surveillance techniques. Is that correct? Could their disposal or despatch to other locations or hiding them within the state be done fairly easily?

Q269  Chairman: We are talking of a period of six months or so.

Dr Inch: What surprises me most is the intelligence information that went into the compilation of the dossier, the ideas about the number of sites and particularly the suspect sites that were used for the production of chemicals. However, over the past few weeks, when the inspectors have been inspecting, they have not found substantial evidence in terms of traces of materials that would be manufactured on those sites. They may not have found the weapons, they may not have found the bulk materials, but I would have expected there to be some evidence of the presence at one time of some of the chemicals concerned. That is much more difficult to hide if one is carrying out the analysis in the right kind of way.

Q270  Mr Olner: It may be small-scale manufacture.

Dr Inch: Yes, small-scale manufacture too, if you know what the site is.

Q271  Mr Olner: If by necessity it is small, it will be very difficult to find.

Dr Inch: You have to sample in the right place.

Q272  Andrew Mackinlay: It is possible that things have been discovered but for wider security interests they have not yet been disclosed because they are putting together a jigsaw puzzle and you want to corroborate what you are doing and find the trail.

Dr Inch: That could be possible.

Q273  Mr Chidgey: One issue that has become apparent in the post-war situation is a switch of emphasis to the importance of the interrogation of the scientists and engineers and so on involved in this programme, this delivery. Be that as it may, in that context, would it be absolutely standard practice for the administration in Iraq to have absolutely full records of what was being produced and where it was going as a matter of course? I am trying to get at whether it would have been feasible for a chemical weapons and biological weapons programme to be in production without a full record of what was happening being kept and there being monitoring? It strikes me that it would be very unsafe not to have that.

Dr Inch: There must be reasonable records. You have to know what you are making, where you are going to store it, whether it will go into the weapons, whether you are producing the warheads for it and so on. You have to have an overall plan. I do not know how else you would operate.

Q274  Mr Chidgey: That would not just have been held centrally, I presume. Presumably the manufacturing plants and processing plants would have had their own records too.

Dr Inch: They should have had their own records.

Q275  Mr Chidgey: It would have been country-wide?

Dr Inch: Yes.

Q276  Andrew Mackinlay: I have two more questions. One flows from a previous point. Yesterday, the former Foreign Secretary put to us a rhetorical question. He said he could not understand why the UN weapons inspectors have not been allowed back, certainly into the United Kingdom jurisdiction in Iraq. Is it true that the function of the diligent United Nations weapons inspectors would be different from those who are trying to pursue a trail of seeking these weapons? Another legitimate reason for not allowing them back would be that their narrow remit would frustrate the detective agency, as it were - I forget the terminology of the group that is in there now, the survey group, whose functions are different - and they would impede the work of the survey group if the UN weapons inspectors diligently went about doing what was their narrow remit.

Dr Inch: There are a number of areas here that trouble me. There is the problem of inspection post-event, the importance of understanding the industrial processes and whether or not they can be easily diverted. There is the problem of obtaining analytical data which is totally rigorous and indisputable. The people most experienced in that now are the inspectors who routinely carry out industrial inspections, the OPCW in The Hague. The United Nations groups under Hans Blix, was totally independent of that group and had a much wider remit. Now, the kind of special investigation teams are, I think, independent in both those groups. That is not to say that there is not some read-across and some collaboration - I do not know the detail - but it does raise a number of issues as to how you get, even at this stage, very authentic and authenticable information. There has been set up under the Chemical Weapons Convention a so-called group of designated labs. They are not easily maintained in terms of the quality of analysis they produce: 20 or 30 labs participate in the programme and only about a dozen at any one time are designated as being capable of doing a good job. Most are in Europe; one in Singapore, one in South Korea, one in China and one in the United States. None unfortunately in Arab countries, so there is no kind of read-across there. There is no clarity at the moment, even if samples were to be found in Iraq, that the products would be actually going to some of those independent labs for analysis. Maybe the situation is clearer now than it was, but it is still a little confused and not well planned.

Q277  Andrew Mackinlay: If you were advising the British Prime Minister or President Bush as to how to pursue this as at this time, what vehicle, what grouping, what combination would you have been suggesting?

Dr Inch: I would have certainly tried to involve some of those international teams who sit in The Hague and I would also want to make sure that, for any final analysis, it went to the independent labs around the world which are trained up for those purposes.

Q278  Andrew Mackinlay: And you do not think it is happening at the present time?

Dr Inch: I believe that the United Kingdom Government have pushed for some of those things to happen but whether that is happening I do not know.

Q279  Mr Hamilton: Dr Inch, just very briefly to help my technical understanding. We have been talking about the delivery of chemical weapons on the battlefield. Can you just explain to me why those chemical weapons are not destroyed by the ordinance that is used to project them into the enemy territory.

Dr Inch: That is part of the design of the material. Some of them are reasonably stable. That is all part of the design and there is not a problem there.

Q280  Mr Hamilton: I presume that there is an awful lot of heat generated by an explosive device.

Dr Inch: They are low-explosive devices; they are not the big weapons; they are not high explosives. It is the minimum amount of energy required to disseminate the chemical.

Q281  Mr Illsley: Given the difficulties that the international communities faced in Iraq in that the inspectors have had difficulty finding weapons and, as we understand it, some part of the military were sent to search and try and locate weapons and they failed and the difficulties faced by the Iraq tear-away group, is inspection going to be a thing of the past as a way of monitoring weapons of mass destruction in role countries? Is it working as it should be or do we have to look for an alternative way of policing weapons of mass destruction?

Dr Inch: It depends which ones we are talking about in terms of the nuclear problem. Chemical is very difficult and, in a sense, the current policing activities probably internationally ... Although they were intended originally to build confidence and they have gone some way to doing that but, as absolute deterrent, I do not think they work or will work. The problem that we now have on this kind of system is not so much the inter-state activity but the terrorist activity. Some of us believe very strongly that the only way to counter that is by much more national implementation of the inspection system and greater awareness amongst the legitimate citizens and the problems that could occur, but internationally because of the commercial confidentiality and the dual use of these materials, any legislation would be so draconian that I think it would be totally unworkable.

Q282  Mr Illsley: Finally, just a personal opinion given what you said this morning about not finding trace elements and the length of time it takes, do you think we are going to find any weapons in Iraq?

Dr Inch: I have no idea. I am totally open. I started by saying that sometimes intelligence get it right and sometimes they get it wrong and I think that we are still in that situation. From the Committee's point of view, I would have to take a much closer look at some of the data to see how much you believe.

Q283  Chairman: Like all the best scientists, we are still confused but at a much higher level of confusion. Thank you very much indeed.

Dr Inch: I will try and let you have a few notes on this.

Chairman: We look forward to your further memorandum.


Memorandum submitted by Mr Terence Taylor

Examination of Witness

Witness: MR TERENCE TAYLOR, President and Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies - US, examined.

Q284  Chairman: Mr Taylor, we welcome you again. You gave evidence to our last inquiry in weapons of mass destruction. You are a member of the directing staff for the International Institute for Strategic Studies; you are the President and Executive Director of IISS in the United States; you have much experience in international security policy matters as a UK Government official, both military and diplomatic, and for the United Nations, both in the field and at UN Headquarters; perhaps very relevantly, you led the UNSCOM inspection teams in Iraq in the 1990s, saw military field operation experience and in the development and implementation of the policies; and you were also a career officer in the British Army. I think you heard the final part of Dr Inch's careful evidence in respect of the role of weapons inspectors. Can you set out what your role was in the old UNSCOM and to what extent that was changed with the UNMOVIC.

Mr Taylor: It is a very interesting question. I was a chief inspector mainly employed for investigations into biological weapons and, for each of my missions, the detailed mission was given to me by the Executive Chairman and, for most of my time, that was Ambassador Rolf Acais(?) who was in charge at that time. The missions were cleared in detail with him, for they varied in type. Some would be of the surprise inspection variety, some may be more routine in background investigation and others were destruction missions. I was involved in the destruction of the main biological weapons agent production site at al Hakam.

Q285  Chairman: I recall that the Foreign Secretary said that certainly your successors, UNMOVIC, were not meant to be detectives but were ascertaining whether or not there was a degree of co-operation from the regime demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1441; is that different from your role then?

Mr Taylor: No, it is not different. Inspections will not make any progress without some co-operation from the Iraqi side - this was as true in 1990 as it was in 2002/2003 - so the onus was on Iraq to show and tell and not for the inspectors, to use Dr Blix's word, to play catch as catch can, but that is what we were doing for most of the 1990s, which is why it took four-and-a-half years of dedicated forensic investigation to find the evidence which forced the Iraqis to admit that they had a biological weapons programme. In other words, this was what is now called the 'smoking gun'.

Q286  Chairman: You were actually ready to sign off Iraq in respect of its biological weapons programme until there was this major defection.

Mr Taylor: That is not quite true. That is fundamentally untrue. Certainly after a number of years and a lot of effort by a lot of people of which I was just one, there was some wilting and thinking that perhaps we were not going to find anything. We were urged to keep going and, in March 1995, we had a breakthrough in that Iraq failed to account for 40 tonnes of growth media, which we knew they had imported. We knew the companies that had sent it to them, we had the transit documents and everything, so they could not deny that, in one year, they had imported 40 tonnes of growth media. This was far, far in excess, many, many times what Iraq would need for legitimate purposes.

Q287  Chairman: Let me provide a platform for Mr Hamilton. Can you comment generally from your experience during the 1990s on the degree of co-operation UNMOVIC received from the regime.

Mr Taylor: UNSCOM in the 1990s. It was very familiar to that which UNMOVIC received in 2002/2003. Generally, on my inspections we were allowed access. There were some difficulties sometimes, but they were usually overcome through negotiations. So, generally speaking at least on my part, there were no limitations on the access; I could go more or less where I wanted. Of course, they had a comprehensive concealment plan. They also were monitoring our communications and also they had penetrated UNSCOM from New York right the way through to Baghdad. So, we had this challenge that we had to face. We knew this and so we had to try to deal with this situation and we had to be very creative about how we went about our inspections, in order of course to achieve surprise.

Q288  Chairman: Were there allegations that UNMOVIC had been similarly compromised?

Mr Taylor: I have no hard evidence that that was the case, but the Iraqis have a very good intelligence and security service and it would not surprise me that they would try, but I have no evidence that they tried this.

Q289  Chairman: We have heard that one of the reasons why there was a reluctance initially to provide intelligence was the fear about the compromising of sources and the leakability of UNMOVIC.

Mr Taylor: I think that is a reasonable fear; I think it has substance to it; and the experience of the 1990s showed that very graphically indeed. I think that governments, when handing over sensitive information and wanting to protect their sources, would have to take that into account. I think it would be very imprudent to just simply hand over information; it would have to be sanitised in some way. I have to say that I have not seen any evidence.

Q290  Mr Hamilton: Mr Taylor, in your opinion, what significance do you think the Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein himself of course attach to the development and retention of weapons of mass destruction during the 1990s after UNSCOM left Iraq in 1998 and immediately prior to the war and invasion in March of this year?

Mr Taylor: There was certainly no evidence that they had given up these types of weapons as a strategic priority. I think that central for Saddam Hussein was a nuclear programme. High importance was also given to the biological and chemical weapons. Throughout the 1990s, they tried everything that you could conceive of to hide as much as they could and to give away as little as possible. Once the co-operation began to fade away in 1997, by 1998 inspections were not achieving very much at all and I am sure you will recall that the western military efforts were focused on the Balkans at that stage, so Saddam Hussein and the regime felt that they were not going to be threatened by substantial use of force, hence the co-operation faded away. So, they would retain their remaining capabilities. They had an objective of getting the inspectors out of the country. They were trying all sorts of means to do that. One can only conclude that one of the reasons for that was to retain their capabilities and, free of inspectors, it would be unwise to assume that they would stop doing what they were trying to do during the 1990s. We have to recall that, even when inspectors were there, they were, for example, caught importing missile parts. I had the galling experience of going to al Hakam while they were continuing to build their biological weapons facilities before we had actually proved that this was the case. So, I think that any senior government policy maker would have to take this experience into account when making judgments about what happened between 1998 and 2002 and taking account of the Iraqi behaviour from the time the inspectors returned until March of this year.

Q291  Mr Hamilton: Presumably then, from what you say, you do not think that the regime every came anywhere near close to deciding strategically to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction. There was constantly the determination to develop those weapons whether biological, chemical or nuclear.

Mr Taylor: Yes, I believe that to be the case and I think you will recall that, in Dr Blix's reports, he repeatedly said time after time, I think in all his Security Council reports, his disappointment that they had not realised what was required of them. I think that of course they realised what was required of them but they were not prepared to do it, so they were trying to retain just as much as they could and only give away ... I think that the pattern throughout from 1991 to 2003 was only to hand over information if the inspectors already knew it and that was true between 2002/2003.

Q292  Mr Hamilton: Was therefore the last round of inspections from November 2002 until the conflict started doomed to failure from the start?

Mr Taylor: Not necessarily. Their chances of success were low, I have to say. It would require a strategic decision by Saddam Hussein himself. On 7 December when they presented their so-called full, final and complete declaration, this was the last chance for immediate compliance and I registered with great disappointment that that declaration was well short and my personal view was that, given the pattern of behaviour, inspections were very unlikely to succeed.

Q293  Mr Hamilton: In your opinion, Mr Taylor, was the only way left to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, assuming that they did exist and you have more experience than most in that, through conflict of the type we saw in March?

Mr Taylor: I would not go as far as that. I think that if the Security Council had been fully united, 15 to zero, on threatening serious consequences, there was just a chance because one of the regime's paramount requirements was regime survival. In the end, Saddam made his third big strategic mistake which was altered in his overthrow, the first one being the invasion of Iran, the second one being the invasion of Kuwait and you cannot do that three times. His strategic mistake was not declaring something extra in that full, final and complete declaration in December. If the Security Council held together in that final month if you like, there was just a possibility that, within the regime itself amongst the hierarchy, they might have seen a chance of survival by giving up at least a major portion of their weapons of mass destruction capability. So, I would not say that it was absolutely certain but I could sense that the use of force was more likely than not.

Q294  Mr Olner: From what you have just said, if the French position had been adopted and they had given the weapons inspectors forever and a day to find things, they would never have been found.

Mr Taylor: I think it very unlikely unless the Iraqis made a mistake and they were not likely to because they learned from their mistakes in the 1990s. I think that the inspectors in 2002/03 had a more difficult job because they learned from their mistakes. Like, for example, producing forged documents which they did to me, but we soon detected those, so they did not do that again. I doubt very much whether they would have. It would have taken years.

Q295  Mr Maples: As a result of something you said to my colleague Mr Hamilton - it is the same point in a way - I just want to make sure that I understood you correctly. UNMOVIC were never going to succeed without some level of Iraqi co-operation.

Mr Taylor: Yes, that is correct. The requirement was for the Iraqis to co-operate fully, absolutely fully. They could probably make some progress if there was more than minimal co-operation, but all there was was minimal co-operation.

Q296  Mr Maples: External intelligence from whatever British and American intelligence sources were prepared to give them and their own efforts on the ground would not have resulted in discovering Iraq's weapons of mass destruction without some level of co-operation from the Iraqis.

Mr Taylor: That is correct.

Q297  Sir John Stanley: From your very extensive background as a chief inspector, when you went through the British Government's assessment paper Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, did it basically ring accurate to you or did you at a particular point feel there was anything that might be exaggerated or overplayed?

Mr Taylor: In its main substance, it seemed to me to be very accurate. Of course, I was not party to intelligence information myself, so I was judging it from open sources and from what I knew and from what I could judge. I suppose it is fair to say that I am an insider in many ways and, having studied the information in detail, I think that in main substance, the UK Government's dossier was correct. On certain details of certain aspects of particular weapons, I really cannot judge because I can only assume that this came from very specific intelligence that I did not have access to, so I cannot really form too much of an opinion, I can only speculate about certain aspects.

Q298  Sir John Stanley: From that standpoint, are you, again with the huge background you have of trying to get access to the key people and so on in Iraq, given the fact that the war has now ended and given the fact that presumably we had identified previously who were the key people in the WMD programme - we have access to them and we have had access to other people within the government including a lot of the top people whom we have now picked up - are you surprised that we have not so far managed to unearth anything of any significance?

Mr Taylor: I am disappointed but, in a sense, not surprised because most of the people who have come into the hands of the coalition, either voluntarily or otherwise, were people like General Hasadi and Dr Rihab Tahab and so on who never really gave us any new information at all and I do not know what interrogation is going on at the moment and what the results of those interrogations are, but it would not surprise me that they are not at the point of telling the coalition any details. Most of the information that was valuable during the 1990s came from mid-level and below people in the organisation who were either perhaps wrong-footed in some way or simply honestly answered the questions. I do not believe that a lot of progress will be made until the Iraq survey group, which has of course only just started its work and you have to remember that, up until now, we have had the military exploitation teams, some 200 people with very basic equipment who do not have the knowledge and depth of the programmes and the people they are talking to and so on, so only now is the Iraq survey group starting and my hope is that if the security situation can improve, that, if we do get the information in the end, it will come from the more junior members involved in the programmes, the lab technicians, storemen even and military people from the special security organisation who are responsible for protecting particularly filled munitions that might be ready for use, the inner core of the regime who are very hard to get at. Unless there is a big change of heart by some of the more senior members who are already in coalition hands and I do not know what bargaining is going on in that regard. There is the fear of prosecution as well, particularly by more junior members. They are worried that if they say, "I have been involved in biological weapons programmes" or something like that, they might be prosecuted. There are all sorts of complicated factors involved and maybe they worry about their families. If they do come into the coalition and do give information, then there are still elements out there that might make their lives difficult and their families' lives difficult. It is a very challenging situation and I think that it will take a little while.

Q299  Mr Chidgey: Returning to the September dossier, what is your view of the assessment that Iraq has useable chemical and biological weapons capability in breach of UNSCR 687 which includes recent production of chemical and biological agents?

Mr Taylor: From all the information available, I think it would be very surprising if they did not have operational biological and chemical weapons, very surprising indeed. They certainly had all the capability to do that. They never satisfactorily accounted for all the munitions, filled and unfilled, and they never satisfactorily accounted for all the material by a long way. We are not talking about marginal differences, we are talking about hundreds of kilograms, we are talking about hundreds of munitions, that is things like 155 mm artillery rounds and 122 mm rockets, air delivered bombs. It would be extraordinary if there were not filled weapons somewhere. How many is the challenge. For a number of technical reasons, they held a large number of unfilled munitions, chemical ones for example, and kept a limited number ready filled. This would be for storage reasons, for security reasons and for a number of other factors.

Q300  Mr Chidgey: So you do therefore believe that the discovery of the empty 122 mm munitions which have been found are the tip of the iceberg?

Mr Taylor: I believe so. There is a very large number unaccounted for which UNSCOM and UNMOVIC both agree. This is the problem with Iraq. They never answered the questions and it is not good enough to say, "We don't have any weapons of mass destruction" without accounting for hundreds of munitions which are things that are visible in large numbers and could be found if they say they were buried somewhere or were dismantled somewhere, there should be traces. Of course, with UNMOVIC with, at its height, only about 150 people and not all of them working on chemical weapons you have to remember, so we have a very tiny number of people doing this, so unless the Iraqis took them there and said, "Here it is", they were not going to find it.

Q301  Mr Chidgey: How straightforward is it in your view to conceal elements of chemical and biological weapons programmes within civil industrial facilities? Is it relatively easy, in your experience, to convert from clandestine CBW work to legitimate civilian work and then back again?

Mr Taylor: Yes. I would not say that it is easy, they have to know what they are doing, and the Iraqis certainly had some very good process engineers, chemical and biological, who really did know what they were doing. The main production site for biological agents, Anthrax and Botulinum which they turned into toxin, was actually a combined single-cell protein plant which made additives for animal food and they did that, and also a bio-pesticide plant, both in the same location, al-Hakam, but we had monitored the flow of materials into that place and it did not match up with what they said they were doing. They could run a production run, clean it out and then a production run of weapons material. They may even bring in different staff to actually run the production lines. That was a regular feature. They also did it at al-Dawrah which was a foot and mouth vaccine plant, which was again one of their main production sites for biological weapons agents. What they would do there was move out the regular staff doing the vaccine production and bring in a staff to run a production line for two or three days and then go back to normal again. This was classic techniques by the Iraqis and with their chemical production - I was talking then about biological - they dispersed it. UNSCOM found a document where they had dispersed the capabilities amongst civil chemical plants so that they could produce the required chemicals' precursors to make chemical weapons in a number of different places. This is not speculation; this is hard evidence. We have the documents. All of those things I have said are hard evidence.

Q302  Sir John Stanley: Just continuing on the concealment issues, we have heard evidence from Dr Inch and indeed from yourself about the length of time residues of BW and possibly CW are likely to be around once production has taken place. We have heard evidence about the difficulty of moving some of this stuff around. I assume that applies particularly to BW. We have the evidence of the amount of volume of this that has been supposedly unaccounted for. The quotation I gave from what the Prime Minister said on 18 March: 6,500 chemical munitions, that is substantial volume; mustard gas, somewhere between 80 tonnes and 100 tonnes, suggesting again very large volumes. Against these issues like difficulty of moving, the longevity of the residues, the tonnage volumes and the fact that we now have access to a number of people and obviously a lot of the country, it does seem certainly mysterious to me that we have so far made so little progress in uncovering this. Is it a matter of surprise to you?

Mr Taylor: It is a matter of disappointment but perhaps I am not quite so surprised. I would distinguish between biological and chemical. The biological agent production is easier to hide, smaller facilities are needed and to clean up afterwards and so on. I am not one who believes that the residue is a problem in that regard. On the chemical side, if you have a highly dispersed and many different facilities for production of chemicals and where the Iraqis were probably restricted in having the number of field chemical weapons available for operational use. I am sure that was somewhat restricted. They had a record of putting munitions in hides in locations which you would not expect. If I were to give an example, they had, as a result of our breakthrough in 1995 in forcing the Iraqis to admit that they had a biological weapons programme and, after the defection of General Hussein Kamel al-Hassan, the Iraqis gave us a little bit more. They thought that the General was going to tell us, so they gave us a bit more. Then they reported that they had deployed, in 1991, four sites with operational biological weapons and the command and control system to go with those. Three of those sites were just out in the desert, in the countryside - holes in the ground camouflaged and covered with tarpaulins. They were not meant to be left there for a very long time. This is the kind of pattern that I would expect. The stocks being moved around. The weapons of mass destruction stocks were regarded by the special security organisation and probably for use by the Special Republican Guard where a very limited number of people would know where they are and where they would be hidden and they would be constantly and regularly moved as far as they could do in a certain erratic pattern. So, there is plenty of experience on the Iraqi side of having this flexible, mobile deployments both for operational weapons and for the facilities. I have noted it looking at the other programmes too, not just the Iraqi one. The old Soviet programme, for example, had production facilities in box cars which they moved around on the railway in order to make sure that they were not vulnerable and they managed to develop a system there. So, it is a feature. Where you have a regime that has run a clandestine programme and protected it very carefully, not only of course from the coalition oversight and the coalition operations, but they hid it from their own people and that is why it is so deeply recessed and so deeply hidden. That is another feature with the old Soviet programme. I remember a deputy foreign minister of then what became Russia saying that it was the best-kept secret in the old Soviet Union. It was so deeply hidden using dual-use facilities and nobody really knew where it was except for a very small number of people. The Iraqis were well capable of doing something like that given the very nature of the regime.

Q303  Sir John Stanley: Just one other important issue and this really goes back to your time as a professional soldier. If as a professional soldier you were given this sentence, which is the sentence in the Government assessment, I would like to understand how you would construe that as to what it actually meant. The assessment is and I quote, "Intelligence indicates that the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so." Can I ask you as a military man, how would you understand that sentence in terms of the capability facing you?

Mr Taylor: I would read it - and of course I do not know where the intelligence came from and I do not know about its accuracy - that that would have been based on the Iraqis having ready-filled biological and chemical weapons. The fact that they would have filled munitions would not surprise me. Unlike conventional munitions which would be ready to fire immediately, these munitions ... If I think back on the way in which we used to handle our nuclear weapons because I was actually involved in one of the units that guarded the nuclear weapons and moved them out to their missile batteries and we had a very short time in which to do that. So, from that firsthand historical experience, I would imagine that there were special controls for these chemical weapons and they were not placed immediately with the artillery batteries, with the 120mm multi-barrel rocket launchers or the artillery or with the air force base, so somebody had to do some kind of handover to get them into the hands of the people who were actually going to fire the munitions. I am entirely speculating but that is how I would account for the 45 minutes. Otherwise, if it was conventional ammunition, the ammunition would be ready with the batteries.

Q304  Sir John Stanley: Does that Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so imply to you that the stocks of those munitions were within 45 minutes' drive of the artillery tubes or does it imply to you that the stocks might be quite a substantial distance away but that, from 45 minutes of an order being given, those stocks would be rolling out of wherever those stocks were held?

Mr Taylor: I think it is a normal practice for countries that have weapons of this type, special weapons, that there would be deep storage. When it came to possibly being used in a conflict, they would be moved to hides and temporary locations, probably being moved around, taking account of the deployment of the artillery. So, both would be moving and, so at a certain point through special instructions, then there would be a convergence and the two would come together and be useable. I would find that sort of timing not to be unusual. I would think it probably could be credible. I am not commenting on the quality of the intelligence.

Q305  Sir John Stanley: It is really interpretation because obviously this was what was given to the public. Are you saying that it does not necessarily imply that the stocks were going to be held within 45 minutes of the artillery tubes but that it would imply that the stocks were held some distance away but, from the moment an order was given, the stocks would be rolling out from wherever they were being held?

Mr Taylor: Yes and married together. I imagine that the term "ready to deploy" does not necessarily mean "ready to fire". I imagine that "ready to deploy" means that the ammunition is married to the delivery means.

Q306  Sir John Stanley: Married to it within 45 minutes?

Mr Taylor: I imagine that is what it means.

Q307  Mr Pope: The allegations that the Committee has heard against the Prime Minister in particular and against the Government in general are of the gravest nature. The allegation is that the Prime Minister has misled Parliament about the reason for going to war, that Iraq did not have chemical or biological weapons, that it was not an imminent threat and that the Government exaggerated the nature of the threat in order to provoke the conflict. Those are essentially the allegations that we heard yesterday. Obviously I cannot ask you to defend every word that has ever been uttered by a government minister but, in general terms, do you think that the Prime Minister has misled Parliament and the country over the nature of the threat that Iraq posed?

Mr Taylor: I have difficulty in answering the question completely because I did not have access to the intelligence, so I did not see the intelligence and so I cannot comment on that. I think, as you can probably tell from my earlier remarks, that there was substantial, I would say overwhelming, evidence, a mountain of evidence, that Iraq had research, development and production facilities and useable weapons and almost certainly operational biological and chemical weapons. If I were sitting in a position in early March 2003, that would be a conclusion and I think I would be irresponsible if I came to some other conclusion. By that, I do not mean that that automatically means armed conflict. I think that then the political judgment has to be made about that fact. I think it is interesting that all 15 members of the Security Council did not disagree that Iraq was hiding its weapons programmes. There was no disagreement about that. They did not disagree that Iraq was in breach of 1441. There were two issues on which there was agreement. There was disagreement about what you did about those facts. The general thrust - and I cannot comment on the quality of intelligence because I did not see it - of the Government's position alerting Parliament and the public to the dangers, the very real dangers, of the chemical and biological weapons and their delivery means and, in my personal view, the nuclear capabilities as well and one must not lose sight of that because my personal view is they are the most dangerous and most important that we should be worrying about, that if Iraq did not comply, it required serious consequences. Anything else would leave the region and the wider world in a more dangerous situation. I cannot think of any other way of putting it. However, on the 45 minutes and these other detailed questions, I cannot comment.

Q308  Mr Pope: There seems to be a difference between possessing a weapon and organising a programme to produce the weaponry and that Iraq appears to have been non-compliant in both areas. It not only had chemical and biological weapons but it also had programmes which it concealed from UNSCOM in the time that you were involved in it. Do you think it is a reasonable conclusion for the United Nations, or indeed individuals, to draw the worst conclusions from the fact that they concealed the programmes of manufacturing these weapons?

Mr Taylor: The catastrophic results that can arise from the use of these weapons, particularly in relation to biological and nuclear weapons, requires urgent and effective action. The chemical weapons are hideous and dangerous and we must not forget all along that the Iraqis used these weapons. This is a country that used these weapons on its own people of course and against Iran and, while we were inspecting, the Iraqi senior officers were quite clear that they saw great value in these weapons. Whatever others may think and I hear some voices say, "Well, chemical weapons are not so serious" and so on, that was not the view of the Iraqi military hierarchy. They thought they were very important and absolutely vital to their survival and overcoming, particularly in relation to Iran who they saw as a potential adversary, being outnumbered by using this particular weapon to make up the difference. Do not forget that they did develop - there was debate about how far they went - VX which is the most lethal of chemical agents in any known arsenal anywhere in the world. Only the Russians and the Americans who are now dismantling their arsenals had this particular agent. So, they were not just doing the basic things with mustard agent and other things, they were going for leading-edge chemical weapons because they assigned high value to them.

Q309  Mr Pope: This is really hopeful information. In the memorandum which you supplied to the Committee, you talked about the information attack on UN communications "at all points from our operations from New York to Baghdad." I wonder if you could elaborate on that. I was intrigued by that comment and I was not entirely clear as to what it meant.

Mr Taylor: I can only speak generally and I certainly cannot mention individual names and things like that, but I will just give you the range of the type of activities. It ranged from suborning people to steal documents from UN headquarters in New York and that would be true right through to Baghdad, having bugs obviously in hotel rooms where inspectors were staying and it also was found that there were listening devices inside the UNSCOM headquarters in Baghdad itself. They were monitoring our communications - we were open with those - but they were also monitoring the secure fax machines from which we sent back our assessments and our situation reports and we discovered that they were able to read those. We could only be secure with the use of, for example, laptop computers because they could read the communications sent on the linked desktop computers from the cables and so on if they had the right devices. Extraordinary measures would have to be undertaken if we were ever to achieve a surprise inspection. The UN and other international agencies will always make their best efforts to avoid these kind of things, but these are not national governments. They do not have classified information; they have protected information but not classified information in the way that one would have in a national government, in a ministry of defence, a foreign office or something like that. UNMOVIC, the most recent inspection agency, was obviously aware of the history, so I think they did take stronger precautions, but it is still a challenge when you up against the sophisticated and very determined information attack which I am sure continued, but it was very, very challenging. We managed to get round it in various ways, but I would rather not go into that.

Mr Pope: If I could just make a quick comment. I think everybody in this room is an elected member voted in favour of the conflict on 18 March.

Andrew Mackinlay: And would vote in the same way again tonight if a vote were taken.

Mr Pope: I just think that this kind of evidence is incredibly helpful. I personally feel better, having heard this evidence, about what I did on 18 March.

Q310  Chairman: Mr Taylor, you have made Mr Pope feel better today.

Mr Taylor: Chairman, that makes me feel better too, but that was not my objective!

Chairman: See if you can make Mr Mackinlay better as well!

Q311  Andrew Mackinlay: I notice that the gallant members of the press are not present; I look forward to the transcript which I certainly will use my best endeavours to ensure is of some interest to the press. Also, your very helpful memorandum and I will have to ask the clerk when it comes into public domain. I too found that very useful. Can I take you back. In relation to UNSCOM, you rightly pointed out the fact of the number of inspectors who were on chemical and who were on biological. In a sense, this is not new ground because Government ministers have said, "Look at the scale of Iraq, the size of France" and so on. They stated that point. I wonder if you could amplify upon what you were saying. UNMOVIC is presumably not appreciatively different. We do need to focus on the scale of these guys. They are a large country, a large territorial area, and, if you break them down into nuclear, biological and chemical, you are talking a relatively handful of people, are you not? Can you just beef up on that.

Mr Taylor: The effort has to be targeted and the Iraqis have to co-operate. Those are the two things that you have to remember. When I said UNMOVIC, remember that they are doing the chemical, biological and the missiles, and of course the International Atomic Energy Agency is doing the nuclear side, so there are more inspectors, but not that many, not a huge number.

Q312  Andrew Mackinlay: Anyway, I think we are all agreed that nuclear is the relatively easier part of the test.

Mr Taylor: I would disagree.

Q313  Andrew Mackinlay: Tell me why you disagree then.

Mr Taylor: The easy part to find or relatively easy part to find are the enrichment facilities and they were found pretty quickly by the UN Special Commission. Within a year, they had found them. What was never really uncovered were the components of the weapon itself, that is to say the non-nuclear bits if one might term it that way and I hope I am clear: the electrical firing circuits, the timing devices, the marriaging steel, the lenses and all the bits except for the core in which you put the fissile material. The Iraqis had many years of working on these components. I think the opinion of the IAEA and others and UNSCOM is involved also in it in some ways because the IAEA are the experts in uranium enrichment and fissile material but you need other people looking at weapon components. I think the judgment was that they were within two years, in 1991, of having an operational nuclear weapon. I was interested to see last December that Lieutenant General Alsaidi, who is not in Coalition hands, actually confirmed that view; he said they were within two years ---

Q314  Andrew Mackinlay: He actually confirmed that?

Mr Taylor: He said it publically; I remember him saying that they were within two years in 1991. Well, what went on in 1991 after that ... To be fair to the IAEA and, if you recall, I remember Dr Mohamed Elbaradei's, the Director General of the IAEA, in his last statement when summarising the inspection effort said, "First of all, we had to reconnoitre the sites and then we focused on whether or not the Iraqis had restarted their uranium enrichment facilities" and that was the last Security Council Meeting before military operations began, so they had not actually looked for weapons components and we never had a full understanding of that. That is what worries me a great deal. I think you will find this thinking reflected in the International Institute for Strategic Studies dossier which the produce, which was slightly different from what the Government ---

Q315  Chairman: Is this the one in September of last year?

Mr Taylor: Yes, this is the 9 September report. This dossier said that, if they managed to get the fissile material from somewhere else, in other words not through their own means of enrichment, they could have an operational weapon in less than a year, maybe in a few months. That was always something that worried those of us who thought about these issues. We worried about it all the time during the 1990s and I can remember thinking many meetings thinking and pondering over this when I was actually in the position of a commissioner. It is a real challenge to find that part of a nuclear programme. That is very difficult to find.

Q316  Andrew Mackinlay: I have a few more questions to ask in order that I understand this. In a sense as a parallel, you were telling us about the artillery pieces and the shells coming together in 45 minutes. It seems to me that what you have described, in terms of the components for a nuclear device, a lot of these could be over the decade manufactured in-house or, instead of being imported, they could be done in a very stealthily way because it is a long-term project and each individual component can then be dispersed and, basically in a relatively short time frame of a year, you can literally them together like Lego pieces, as it were, and all you need is the final ... Basically, to a layman, that is what you are saying. It could be all be out there dispersed in various locations, so it is not put together but the potential is there.

Mr Taylor: That was from my personal point of view my biggest fear if nothing effective was done. If the only thing that was done was just more inspections and we went on like that for many months, of course troops would have to be withdrawn from the region, you could not keep them there, so the pressure on the Iraqis would have reduced and inevitably, as it did indeed in the 1990s and this is, I am sure, what the regime was hoping for, and then they would have all the parts, they would have all the people and then, in two years' time, we could have found Iraq with an operational nuclear weapon. That was my nightmare and, looking very carefully at all the information available, looking at their behaviour throughout from 1991 to 2003, I think that the Government were faced with doing a risk assessment of a very challenging kind. Only doing something that would not actually address this in an effective way was probably the most dangerous thing that one could do for the region in a strategic sense. It would alter the whole strategic balance in that region if that were allowed to happen. I know that there is a lot of talk about imminent threats and one can play with that, but I think that if Iraq were allowed to get to the point of having an operational weapon, pulling back is terribly difficult as we know from other cases.

Q317  Andrew Mackinlay: You heard me ask the previous witness - I sort of bounced it off him - that in fact the coalition forces or the survey group, although it has only just gone in, could already have discovered stuff and, from your experience, there is clearly some commonsense in not necessarily revealing this at this stage because you are on a detective exercise now whereas UNMOVIC and UNSCOM were not supposed to be on a detective exercise. Lots of things have happened since as it were and we are in pursuit of things, so you sensibly would not reveal and say, "Here, we have it." Politicians might want to do it because they are probably quite desperate from the point of view of the hunger of the public and press to be assuaged but, in terms of really pursing this, you would not declare it yet, would you?

Mr Taylor: No and indeed that did happen in the 1990s. When we first discovered what people now call the 'smoking gun', the hard evidence that would convince the Security Council, all of them, 15 to zero, they have this programme and here it is. We did not make it public and in fact several months passed and then, on 1 July 1995, the Iraqis, because they knew that the Security Council was about to pronounce, admitted it. That took several months. I think that you have to be very careful when you are interviewing somebody which might lead you to somebody else which might lead you to somebody else. You cannot go public with the rest of the material, so it could take ---

Q318  Andrew Mackinlay: If you had UNMOVIC in parallel with this, it would actually really screw things up.

Mr Taylor: Of course, they are set up to deal with an Iraqi Government that was meant to co-operate with them. Now we have a different government in Iraq, effectively it is a coalition, and it is a forensic and archaeological search, if I might use that term rather loosely, and it is a very different situation. They are not faced with a regime that is determined to hide things but with a very different challenge in trying to uncover the truth about these weapons programmes of a very different kind which depends on the coalition forces being able to offer security to people coming in and people will only talk if they feel secure. UNMOVIC and the IAEA just cannot do that kind of thing at this point. Maybe at some time later, there may be a role for international organisations, particularly in long-term monitoring.

Q319  Chairman: Robin Cook, when we asked him yesterday, left us with the key question: why is UNMOVIC not going back? That is the most important matter. What answer would you give to him?

Mr Taylor: I would say that UNMOVIC is not structured to carry out this new mission, this fundamentally new mission, with a coalition in charge, with having to use all their intelligence resources and their interrogations of people coming in, offering security to them. They are about to deploy 1,200 and I think it could be up to 1,500 people, ten times the size of UNMOVIC, so it has to be led by the coalition and, with all the security implications, I think it makes it very difficult to include UNMOVIC as it is presently structured with the kind of people they have at the moment, they probably need some different kinds of people to do the missions.

Q320  Andrew Mackinlay: And the current stick of immunity or immunity from prosecution, that is the carrot and stick, was at the disposal of UNMOVIC.

Mr Taylor: That is correct. So, I do not think it is practical at the moment.

Q321  Andrew Mackinlay: You mentioned VX and I know I should understand the gravity of it but you did flag that up. He was developing VX in the past. Do we know that he definitely did abandon that? Can you explain to a layman the gravity of VX as it were because you said that this was the highest ...

Mr Taylor: It is a persistent nerve agent and, if it is properly produced, it is the most lethal nerve agent. It is delivered in liquid form, so it is persistent depending on the weather. In summer, it does not last as long, whereas Tabun and Sarin disperses very rapid and it is much more concentrated. You need a smaller amount to achieve the same effect. In terms of the production of VX, of course Iraq denied they were producing it but UNSCOM was of the opinion that they did produce weaponised VX and eventually UNMOVIC in their deliberations, and Dr Blix came to the same conclusion, believed they had done that. The Iraqis did have technical problems with the stability of the agent, and as far as I can tell, but of course we do not know what went on after 1998, there were some views that they did overcome the stability problems, others that they did not. I think they had a storage problem. I do not think the quantities were that large. Again, they had the capability, they had the people with experience, this was the kind of programme that they would restart given the opportunity when the pressure was off.

Sir John Stanley: I have just got one remaining question on the 45 minutes and then I would like to turn to uranium, if I may. On the 45 minutes, and this, I fear, will upset Mr Pope's radiant day, if I refer to the Today programme ----

Mr Pope: That will always upset my radiant day.

Q322  Sir John Stanley: On the Today programme of 29 May, Mr Humphreys asked the Armed Forces Minister, Mr Ingram, this question: "Why was Tony Blair in a position back last year, last September, to say that these weapons could be activated within 45 minutes?", to which Mr Ingram replied: "Well, that was said on the basis of a security source information, single sourced, it was not corroborated". The Armed Forces Minister, by virtue of that reply, suggested that the 45 minutes claim might not be very well substantiated because it was based on a single source and that was how he sought to deflect it. I would just like to ask you, from your extensive intelligence background, would you regard it as being certainly less than satisfactory to have a major point like this single sourced and, therefore, without corroboration?

Mr Taylor: My background is more as a user of intelligence as policy for military operations. I am more of a user. I find it hard to comment without knowing the quality of the report and who delivered it. In the past there has been information that certainly I have knowledge of which has come from a single source which has proved to be correct. You cannot always find that corroborating evidence. Of course, as a user of intelligence one would always ask for that and try to get it. I really cannot comment on the specifics of this case without knowing where it came from. Usually, as a user of intelligence you do not know, it just gets delivered to your desk or through your communications, you do not actually know the source, so you have to rely on the intelligence service giving you an idea that it is good quality, medium quality or whatever.

Q323  Sir John Stanley: Can I just now turn to uranium supplies. The Prime Minister in his speech to the House on 24 September last year, column four, said: "We know that Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa, although we do not know whether he has been successful". As we know, President Bush paid the British Prime Minister a great compliment by specifically referring to this in his State of the Union address on 28 January of this year when President Bush said: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa". Subsequently, of course, we know that Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, Head of the International Atomic Energy Authority, said that the claim about a uranium deal in Niger was based on forged documents. Can I just ask you, in your experience in Iraq, given the fact that there were undoubtedly people, possibly those inside Iraq but certainly people outside Iraq, who were very, very keen that military intervention should take place in order that the Saddam Hussein regime should be removed, did you come across any other examples of forged intelligence being deliberately put in the way of the intelligence services, the British and the American intelligence services, in order to serve particular political objectives?

Mr Taylor: I am not aware of anything of that kind.

Q324  Sir John Stanley: You are not, right. Have you got any comments about the issue of whether or not Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire uranium from Africa?

Mr Taylor: I am not aware of any specific information indicating that was the case. I know what you have read out but that is all I know, I am afraid I cannot add to that.

Q325  Chairman: What other sources could the relevant fissile material be obtained from?

Mr Taylor: There is a wide range of countries. It is well known that the former Soviet Union states, that is Russia itself and the other now independent states, are areas of concern and that is why a lot of effort has been put in by the United States, through its co-operative threat reduction programme, and by the European Union and Japan helping with the international science and technology centres to try to do something about trying to stem the possible flow of radioactive material from that area. That is where the biggest single source of material lies, in Russia. A lot of effort has been made to try and limit that. One could go to a number of countries around the world where there might be sources. Relevant to this particular case, I do not have any specific information.

Q326  Andrew Mackinlay: So I fully understand it, your evidence earlier was that your anxiety is all the components over a decade could have been procured and/or created and probably attention not drawn to them and they could be dispersed for relatively swift assembly.

Mr Taylor: Yes.

Q327  Andrew Mackinlay: Then you only need the final ingredient, the material itself, and in the marketplace around the world, alas, that would be available. It only has to be available once anyway, does it not?

Mr Taylor: Yes.

Q328  Andrew Mackinlay: A relatively small amount for one device.

Mr Taylor: I would not pretend that it would be easy to get that kind of weapons grade material, it is difficult, but the apparatus that Iraq had and the amount of money in the hands of the regime certainly made it something that those responsible for security would have to worry about. What I cannot offer you is any specific evidence of that, or where it might be obtained.

Q329  Andrew Mackinlay: The thrust of the former Foreign Secretary's evidence yesterday was that containment was working. I do not want to put words into your mouth, but it seems to me the thrust of what you are saying is that you would question that, would you not, because containment would not give the security or satisfaction to you or I to know that this guy had not got the capacity once the pressure was off

Mr Taylor: We certainly could not be 100 per cent sure it was working. Given the catastrophic possibilities of getting that wrong, I think you have to err on the side of caution. It is very important to do that in this particular case.

Chairman: Two final questions, if I may. The first one is on concealment. You said you were disappointed but not surprised that we have found nothing as yet. On the one side, clearly there have been many months in which Saddam Hussein has had the opportunity to conceal, and some who argue the possibility of trains taking the material elsewhere in Iraq or outside the country, some talk about many hundreds of miles of underground tunnels, learning techniques from the Yugoslavs and so on, that is agreed, but surely - I think Sir John made this point - with those in custody, no longer can there be the cement of loyalty to the regime, there must be many inducements offered - I think Clare Short said the farm in Texas or whatever. Would you not be surprised if one of the people in custody were not prepared to point out where this stuff is?

Q330  Andrew Mackinlay: Not publicly.

Mr Taylor: I suppose unless you have been in the same room with them it is hard to imagine, but I am not surprised they have not done that.

Q331  Andrew Mackinlay: If you arrested Geoff Hoon today or whoever, he or she would not necessarily be able to know all that is in their jurisdiction. It seems to me at the government level, whether it is a dictatorship or democracy, by the nature of things it is down, is it not?

Mr Taylor: May I just make a point?

Q332  Andrew Mackinlay: I was not trying to be flippant, I meant it as a genuine question. These guys would not necessarily know the exact details, locations, etc, etc.

Mr Taylor: If I could make two comments. One, the situation is nowhere near secure yet, the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein is not known. The nature of the regime was absolutely extraordinary and the threat that the regime internally and certain elements still exercise over people is extraordinary. This is one of the difficulties. Also, Sir, you are absolutely right, very few people have an overview of everything. Even the scientists at the senior level would certainly not know where the weapons were. They would know about research and development, they would know about possibly some production, they would know names of certain people, but the special security organisation which had the responsibility and some elements of the Special Republican Guard were the people that really knew. These were the hardest core part of the regime and that is really where I think those coalition members doing the investigation need to get to. The Iraq survey group really has not begun its work yet.

Q333  Chairman: This is the final point and I am not asking you not to be an analyst, but a psychiatrist. Here we have after November 8 of last year a resolution giving Saddam Hussein a final opportunity, with serious consequences if he did not co-operate. If he had destroyed those weapons of mass destruction, and he had an army building up on his doorstep, he had all these pressures on him, we know or at least we have heard that they are meticulous bookkeepers, so can you give any sort of explanation as to why under those circumstances he still prevaricated and still did not come clean?

Mr Taylor: I would have expected him to come clean if I was to match earlier behaviour, but what I would have expected, which surprised me, was that he did not decide to deliver up something new, something substantively new, not to give up the whole programme. That might have been enough and would have made things very difficult.

Q334  Chairman: When Dr Blix was forced into a corner on this, I think, on the Today programme, he was trying to explain his failure by the possibility that pride was one explanation which he sought to give and the other was the prestige of the regime which would be damaged in the region. How plausible do you think that Blix explanation was?

Mr Taylor: That is a very hard one to answer. I think they are obviously factors you had to think about, but my personal view is that this was about regime survival and making strategic mistakes. As I said earlier, I believe this was Saddam Hussein's third strategic mistake in the brinkmanship that he played. For him, the weapons of mass destruction were of a very high order of importance and given the divisions in the Security Council, which were obvious at that stage, he felt he could play this game for much longer, but it still surprised me that he just did not deliver up something more, though I do not think he could be expected to deliver up all of his weapons at once in that way.

Q335  Chairman: Mr Taylor, there is the final question: are there any matters which you think we have failed to cover now or any points you would like to leave with the Committee?

Mr Taylor: Well, I suppose I am repeating something I have already said, but I think it is important that the Committee thinks about what was on offer as an alternative, and I am sure you are doing this, so forgive me for perhaps pointing out the obvious. Given that the Government was faced with having to go ahead with military action, whereas the alternative was that one could only see more inspections, I think if you were to do a rigorous risk analysis, a really rigorous one, looking ahead two years, and there is always a challenge about this term about 'imminent threat', but we are in a kind of new environment with weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, and if you look at other weapons programmes, like India, Pakistan, I am not saying they are anything like Iraq, do not misunderstand me, but rolling back those programmes is extraordinarily difficult, so in that sense it is imminent that something had to be done about Iraq's weapons programmes. Inspectors were only there because there were large numbers of troops in the region. There would have been no inspectors in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 had it not been for very large numbers of troops. I think the regime was gambling that they would not be able to keep them there for a long period and eventually they might survive to live another day and continue on and revive their programmes. I think I would ask the Committee that they do a risk assessment that takes account of these things.

Q336  Chairman: On that risk assessment, looking at the key dossier of September 24 of last year, from your background, do you see anything which struck you as being exaggerated?

Mr Taylor: Excluding the detailed intelligence assessments, and the 45 minutes is one and so on, I find it hard to make a judgment on that, but the main thrust of the dossier seemed to me to be the best course, the best recommendation that the Government could make to Parliament and to the public about the state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes, and not forgetting of course the other issues associated with the UN Security Resolution in Iraq, so I think the main substance of the dossier was, in essence, a good judgment based on the evidence available.

Q337  Chairman: Thank you. You have been extraordinarily helpful to the Committee members.

Mr Taylor: Thank you.

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