A month has now passed since the long awaited Chilcot Report into the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was published. This has unquestionably been a difficult time for all the families of those who lost loved ones and our first thoughts must be with them. It is also important we never forget the thousands of service personnel who suffered life-changing physical and mental injuries selflessly serving our country.
The issue of whether to invade Iraq in 2003 transcended traditional party political lines and I recall as a candidate to become the local MP for South Swindon in 2005, where I spoke in opposition to the invasion, that residents here in Swindon held strong views on both sides of the debate. The United Kingdom cannot turn the clock back, but we can and we must ensure that the necessary lessons are learnt and acted upon.
As the current Solicitor General, I was interested in reading the section of the Chilcot Report relating to the process through the then Attorney General provided the government with legal advice prior to the invasion. I believe profoundly that the correct procedures are now in place within government to ensure that the scenario we found ourselves in during 2003 cannot and will not happen again.
There is no doubt in my mind that the failure of good governance in the build up to the invasion has had an adverse effect on public trust in politicians. Therefore the move away from the ‘sofa’ government of New Labour towards more formalised governmental procedures is an essential component in the quest to rebuild the trust that was so badly damaged by the Iraq War. The government has also taken the step to establish a National Security Council and appointed a National Security Adviser to enhance decision-making.
We are rightly proud of Swindon’s long-standing links with the armed services, and Armed Forces Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate those connections and remember the debt of gratitude that we owe to all those who currently serve in the military, but also service families, veterans, and cadets, past and present.
Armed forces personnel and their families make many sacrifices through their service to keep this country safe, however upon returning to civilian life, they can face challenges accessing services we take for granted. I am therefore please that the Armed Forces Covenant, something I argued strongly for, has been enshrined into law. The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation to ensure that the armed forces community is treated fairly and their particular circumstances recognised.
Alongside learning the lesson of Iraq, we must remember that there are times when intervention, despite being hard, is right and necessary, as with our intervention against Daesh. The atrocities committed by Daesh against Christians and other minorities, as well as the majority Muslim population in Iraq and Syria must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
It is vital that in tackling Daesh and any future threat to our own national wellbeing and international peace and security more generally, that we remember the lessons from the Chilcot Report. Military intervention must only ever be used as a last resort when all diplomatic options have been exhausted.