of the Government’s decision-making process, and the relative lack of use of established Cabinet Committee machinery.
Two changes which occurred over this period had implications for the application of intelligence to collective ministerial decision-making. One was the splitting of the Cabinet Secretary’s responsibilities through the creation of the post of Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator. The latter is able to devote the majority of his time to security and intelligence issues in a way that the Cabinet Secretary, with all the many other calls on his time, could not. It was represented to us that this change was particularly necessary after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. However, the effect is that the Cabinet Secretary is no longer so directly involved in the chain through which intelligence reaches the Prime Minister. It follows that the Cabinet Secretary, who attends the Cabinet and maintains the machinery to support their decision-making, is less directly involved personally in advising the Prime Minister on security and intelligence issues. By the same token, the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator does not attend Cabinet and is not part of the Cabinet Secretariat supporting Cabinet Ministers in discharging their collective responsibilities in defence and overseas policy matters. We understand that the Intelligence and Security Committee will shortly review how this arrangement has worked.
The second change was that two key posts at the top of the Cabinet Secretariat, those of Head of the Defence and Overseas Secretariat and Head of the European Affairs Secretariat, were combined with the posts of the Prime Minister’s advisers on Foreign Affairs and on European Affairs respectively. We believe that the effect of the changes has been to weight their responsibility to the Prime Minister more heavily than their responsibility through the Cabinet Secretary to the Cabinet as a whole. It is right to acknowledge that the view of the present post-holders is that the arrangement works well, in particular in connecting the work of the Cabinet Secretariat to that of the Prime Minister’s office. We should also record that it was clear from the departmental policy papers we read that there was very close co-operation between officials in the Prime Minister’s office and in the FCO in policy-making on Iraq. It is nonetheless a shift which acts to concentrate detailed knowledge and effective decision-making in fewer minds at the top.
In the year before the war, the Cabinet discussed policy towards Iraq as a specific agenda item 24 times. It also arose in the course of discussions on other business. Cabinet members were offered and many received briefings on the intelligence picture on Iraq. There was therefore no lack of discussion on Iraq; and we have been informed that it was substantive. The Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy did not meet. By contrast, over the period from April 2002 to the start of military action, some 25 meetings attended by the small number of key Ministers, officials and military officers most closely involved provided the framework of discussion and decision-making within Government.
One inescapable consequence of this was to limit wider collective discussion and consideration by the Cabinet to the frequent but unscripted occasions when the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary briefed the Cabinet orally. Excellent quality papers were written by officials, but these were not discussed in Cabinet or in Cabinet Committee. Without papers circulated in advance, it remains possible but is obviously much more difficult for members of the Cabinet outside the small circle directly