Iraq legal advice ‘flawed’

Legal advice given to Tony Blair on the eve of war with Iraq was “fundamentally flawed”, according to one of the UK’s most respected legal experts.

Lord Bingham, a former law lord, said the advice had two major flaws. He said: “It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had.

“Hans Blix and his team of weapons inspectors had found no weapons of mass destruction, were making progress and expected to complete their task in a matter of months.”

Only the UN security council could evaluate whether there had been compliance from Iraq under international law, Lord Bingham said, not individual states.

The war against Iraq is therefore “a serious violation of international law” he argued.

Lord Goldsmith stood by the advice he gave then-prime minister Mr Blair.

“I would not have given that advice if it were not genuinely my view,” he said.

Justice secretary Jack Straw gave him his backing.

“I do not accept Lord Bingham’s conclusions, which do not, I am afraid, take proper account of the text of security council resolution 1441 nor its negotiating history,” Mr Straw said.

But Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, whose party famously opposed the war, said the comments meant the UK needed an inquiry into the decisions made in the run up to war.

“Lord Bingham’s stature means that his devastating criticism cannot just be brushed under the carpet,” Mr Clegg said.

“This is a damning condemnation of what was an unjustified invasion which we now know to have flouted international law.”

The Scottish National party (SNP) also welcomed the comments.

The party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said: “Lord Bingham’s intervention is damning and unequivocal, and completes the case for a full public inquiry into Labour’s illegal war.”