Foreign Affairs Select Committee: Open Letter

Dear Mr Duncan Smith
I copy below an e mail I have just sent to Donald Anderson in response to the reports and interviews on television and radio yesterday, 17 July. I hope it is not too intemperate, but I have been greatly disturbed by the inability of the Committee to bring the government to account, in contrast to the pressures it exerts on other individuals.  This is not a level playing field, and can only lead to further questions being raised.  
I view the matter of trust of paramount importance, and I have been utterly dismayed by the "integrity" displayed by this government in a whole range of matters.  I was first alerted to the smear and bully boy tactics, the suppression of information and the supply of misinformation, in the FMD epidemic, which I followed closely.  (Many questions in connection with the FMD epidemic, and with handling future outbreaks, are still unresolved).  It was at that time that I became disillusioned with politics.  Subsequent events, culminating in the "grounds for going to war with Iraq" question, have served to reinforce this view.
I feel the country is in desperate need of an honest and sincere leader, completely disentangled from the web of spin and deceit, which in itself seems to have acted as a cocoon for the politicians concerned, distancing them still further from the electorate and normal life and values. I am afraid I really do watch and listen to Mr Blair with utter incredulity at times, and I almost feel that he has deceived himself.
I would be most grateful if you could consider my comments.
Yours sincerely
Anne Lambourn (Mrs)
Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2003 2:43 PM
Subject: Foreign Affairs Select Committee: Open Letter

For the attention of the full Foreign Affairs Select Committee
Dear Mr Anderson
Private Session of Foreign Affairs Select Committee with Andrew Gilligan July 17 2003
I wish to express my very grave concern about the above mentioned proceedings of the FASC today. 
I consider that the treatment of Mr Gilligan was unacceptable, and has served to bring this House of Commons Select Committee into disrepute. The tactics employed seemed to be nothing short of bully boy tactics.  It seems as though it was indeed a hanging trial, and if shown to be so may well represent an infringement of  his human rights.
The public condemnation of Mr Gilligan by you in your capacity as chairman of the FASC gave the impression that you were announcing a decision arrived at by the whole committee.  The fact that this was not the case (as later exposed by Mr Maples and others), and that only one Opposition MP was present, may leave you open to the criticism of misleading the public. I certainly  believed from your public statement that the proceedings involved the full Committee, until I learned otherwise.
I understand that Mr Gilligan was subjected to a barrage of questions about his past reporting, which was unrelated to the Iraq question.  The Committee members present were apparently extraordinarily well briefed on these matters.  It is common knowledge that Mr Campbell has been extremely irritated by past reporting by Mr Gilligan, and even if there is no link between Mr Campbell and this most recent development, I am afraid there is now the perception that there is a link.
The Committee of past weeks, which seemed to be so ineffectual in its attempts to obtain access to government documents and witnesses of fundamental importance to the whole Inquiry, contrasts dramatically and strangely with the Committee of today.  We witnessed today the baring of teeth, and an unpleasant personal attack on an individual who dared to publicise material that was not favourable to government. 
I understand also there is a grave charge that you personally misrepresented what Mr Gilligan said.  As this is a matter of such importance to the public, there is an urgent need for the full transcripts of the proceedings to be made available immediately, for independent scrutiny.  Otherwise suspicions will only be fuelled. Furthermore, it is important that you are seen by the public to be treating Mr Gilligan fairly.
Over the past few years, there has been an unwelcome and disturbing pattern emerging of whispering/smear campaigns against prominent individuals who have upset people in high places.  That is the perception that many members of the public now have, and this perception, coupled with the very considerable distrust of the government by increasing numbers of the electorate, ought to be worrying Parliamentarians.  I would argue that the electorate is not apathetic, but rather is full of distrust, and does not like what it sees.
I am convinced that the events today with the Select Committee have damaged government, and the reputation of Parliament in the eyes of the public. The integrity of Parliamentarians, which individual MPs (such as Betty Boothroyd in her capacity as Speaker of the House) have fought so hard over the years to maintain, seems to be slipping away fast in all the spin and deception that I have now come to associate with New Labour.
For me, and for many others, the Committee has lost credibility.  It has not been able to obtain all the relevant information and call all the relevant witnesses.  After today, my worst fears regarding its "independence" have been confirmed.  A full judicial inquiry, using the skills in cross examination afforded by lawyers, is what is now required.  This is now the only way to extract some straight answers to the many questions that are still unresolved. It may also go some way towards restoring faith in politics.
I would be grateful if you could circulate this to the full Committee.  Also, could you possibly acknowledge receipt.
Yours sincerely
Anne Lambourn