Howard removes support from Iraq WMD inquiry

Tory leader Michael Howard has announced that he is withdrawing his party’s support from the Butler Review of intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The Liberal Democrats have already said they will not take part in the review because they believe the scope is too narrow.

Mr Howard says he is taking the step because in recent statements Lord Butler’s Committee said it will concentrate more on structures, systems and processes than on individuals.

The Tory leader wrote to Tony Blair saying: “It has since become clear, however, that Lord Butler has chosen to interpret his terms of reference in what I regard as an unacceptably restrictive fashion.”

He adds: “After careful reflection of these matters, I have, therefore, decided with regret to withdraw my co-operation from the Butler Review.”

The inquiry was called by the prime minister following pressure when the allies failed to find any WMD in Iraq, added to the Americans launching an inquiry, and remarks from ex-weapons inspector David Kay.

Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said this withdrawal “must be one of the most embarrassing climb-downs by the leader of any major political party in recent times”.

He added: “This is not a day that Mr Howard will care to remember, but is one which his opponents are unlikely to forget.”