Tony Blair’s former defence secretary Geoff Hoon has expanded on his allegations that he was told to burn a secret Iraq memo stating that the war could be illegal, it is reported
Tony Blair’s former defence secretary claims he was told to burn a secret Iraq memo stating the war could be illegal, adding weight to a campaign to have the former Labour leader’s knighthood removed.
The former prime minister called the allegations “nonsense” when they were first made in 2015 by Geoff Hoon.
Now Hoon, who was defence secretary when the war began, has given further details claiming that his principal private secretary, was told “in no uncertain terms” to burn the document by Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell, reported the Daily Mail.
Hoon reportedly said the principal private secretary was shocked by the order and they both decided to put it in a safe instead.
It is also alleged by the newspaper that Hoon agrees with claims that there was a deal made by Blair with George Bush to back the war a year before it happened.
When Hoon told the US officials that if the Commons voted against the war then UK soldiers wouldn’t be involved, he was given a “dressing down” by Blair, he reportedly told the Mail.
Other accusations he reportedly made are that the No 10 press office was behind the “45 minutes from doom” exaggeration of the threat by Saddam Hussein and that he was sacked and “hung out to dry” by Blair to distance himself from blame for the war.
In Hoon’s memoir See How They Run, he reportedly said he was shocked to be told to destroy secret information from attorney general Lord Goldsmith on the legality of the war.
A petition to reverse the Queen’s decision to award the 68-year-old the most prestigious knighthood in Britain has already racked up 600,000 signatures.
Loved-ones of soldiers killed in the conflict have described the award as an insult.
Sir Tony held office from 1997 to 2007 after winning three landslide elections and dragging Labour out of the political wilderness.
But his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 has earned him an army of critics that for many represents his lasting legacy.
Current Labour leader Keir Starmer, though, has backed the knighthood for Blair.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think he deserves the honour. Obviously, I respect the fact that people have different views.
“I understand there are strong views on the Iraq War.
“There were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.”
His remarks come amid mounting fury from military veterans and the families of soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
The twin brother of a soldier who died in Iraq said his “blood ran cold” on hearing Tony Blair was being knighted.
Lance Corporal David Wilson, who was 27, died from a gunshot wound at Basra airbase in 2008 where he served with 9 Regiment Army Air Corps.
His twin, Mike Wilson, now 40, said it is “an insult to David’s memory”.
Blair has faced fierce criticism for 20 years for sending troops into Afghanistan and invading Iraq in 2003 amid widespread public opposition.
In 2016, an inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot found Blair “overplayed” evidence about Saddam Hussein’s Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Mr Wilson added: “It is disgraceful, given the outcome of the Chilcott report, in which it was clear that he and Mr Bush has deceived us all to go to war in the first place, that Mr Blair should be allowed a knighthood.”
The decision to make Blair a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter was made entirely by Her Majesty with no input from Downing Street.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Appointments to the Order of the Garter are a matter for Her Majesty the Queen, there is no involvement of the Prime Minister or Government, so it wouldn’t be one for me to comment on.
“I would point out every former prime minister before Tony Blair has received the Order of the Garter or Thistle.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Powell denied telling Mr Hoon to burn the legal advice, adding he had sent copies of a separate “minute” from Lord Goldshmith on the legality of the war to the Whitehall private offices of Mr Hoon and foreign secretary Jack Straw months earlier.
The Mirror has approached Mr Powell for comment.