On 6th July 2016, Earl Howe repeated a Government statement on the Chilcot Inquiry. The Bishop of Ely, Rt. Rev. Stephen Conway, responded to the statement.
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I take the opportunity to draw out what has already been implicit in what has been said so far this afternoon about the deep moral dimension of what we are discussing. I agree with the noble Lord that our troops need not only the assurance of our support, through the covenant, that they have been doing their duty, but the right to believe that what they had been entered into was right and that, when they sacrifice their lives or their continued health, they understand that they were doing something that was entered into with great integrity in the service of others.
In our reflection upon this over time, how can we—and the Government—ensure that we look again and restate our moral obligation towards not only our service personnel and their families, but those with whom we share our common humanity in Iraq? And how can we ensure that, in the operation of government, not only do we dwell on the practical, the process and the strategic, but that we are deeply aware of what is required in terms of waiting, paying due attention to our calling and being concerned about not only the consequential aspects of our decisions but the profound wisdom of them?
Earl Howe: The right reverend Prelate makes some extremely important points. It is important for us to say to our Armed Forces that the work that they did was beneficial. Saddam was a brutal dictator; he was a threat to Iraq’s neighbours and Iraq is undoubtedly a better place without him. We can see that, in its development as a country since the war, Iraq is a healthier and better place. Of course, we cannot deny that it is going through a difficult time and that the people of Iraq continue to suffer, but there are glimmers of hope: there have been free and fair parliamentary elections three times since 2003; unemployment has fallen by half; oil production has doubled; there is more freedom of speech; homosexuality is now legal; it is the only Middle Eastern country with a national action plan on women, peace and security; and a quarter of MPs in Iraq’s parliament are women. We as a nation have continued to support Iraq in every kind of way. Between 2003 and 2012, we provided more than £500 million in support, including £180 million in life-saving, humanitarian assistance. Our troops and our civilian personnel need to know that they have made a difference.