Alex Fergusson MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

I do not believe for a minute that the publication date of the Chilcot inquiry’s report is among the top 10 concerns of the Scottish people, but I strongly believe that it is hugely important that we are all given the earliest possible opportunity to find out what happened, and why, during the build-up to and conduct of the Iraq war, so that we can learn the relevant and necessary lessons.

It is clear that the inquiry is incredibly thorough and detailed—the First Minister alluded to that. In his letter to the Prime Minister of 20 January, Sir John Chilcot said:

“Our report will be based on a thorough and comprehensive account of the relevant events from 2001-2009. We are determined to fulfil the responsibility placed on us to identify lessons to be learned from the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, over this long period.”

I very much welcome the thorough and comprehensive nature of Sir John’s inquiry—that is absolutely as it should be. I share the disappointment that the report will not be published sooner than will be the case, but it is imperative that the process is completed properly. I say that for two reasons—so that the British public are fully informed and so that the report is published without fear of its being challenged on the ground that the due processes were not properly undertaken.

I will expand on that. Two of those due and necessary processes seem to be causing much of the delay that is so frustrating us all. The first involves the declassification of documents that would not normally see the light of day for many a long year but which are, understandably, deemed to be important to the inquiry. In particular, discussions over correspondence between Tony Blair and US President George Bush seem to have taken up an inordinate amount of time. However, I note with some pleasure that Sir John Chilcot, in his most recent letter to the Prime Minister, indicated that agreement had now been reached on those matters.

The second process, which the First Minister referred to, has become known as Maxwellisation. That process gives any individual whose involvement has been criticised or questioned in a draft report sight of that draft and a right to respond before publication. I fully understand that that process has not been responsible for most of the delay, although the process is on-going, and I am clear that the published report could be challenged by anyone who had not been afforded that right. That might be highly unsatisfactory—indeed, it is—to those of us who are impatient for publication, but it is part of the due process that has to be undertaken, and it cannot and should not be controlled or timed by any Government.

We cannot escape the fact that the report could have been published some considerable time ago. As the Prime Minister pointed out yesterday in the House of Commons, he first voted for an inquiry in 2006, but that was rejected by the then Labour Government. Labour MPs voted against it in 2006, 2007 and 2008.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Alex Fergusson

Nor do I, but I do not think that it helps Allan Douglas’s family, or anybody else who has been involved in the process, to publish the report before the due processes have been fully completed and while it can be challenged. That does nobody any favours.

As I was saying, Labour MPs voted against an inquiry in 2006, 2007 and 2008, which delayed the process for at least three years. Labour members voted against the inquiry and against it being held in public. As David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary, was big enough to admit in an interview in 2009, Labour got it wrong.

My final point, which addresses the intervention by Kevin Stewart, is that the inquiry is independent. Like it or not, it is not for the Scottish Government, or the UK Government, to try somehow to strong-arm the publication date of an independent inquiry’s report. If that were to happen, the value of the inquiry being independent would be hugely diminished, and I believe that a dangerous precedent would be set for future so-called independent inquiries.

In his letter to the Prime Minister of 20 January, Sir John makes it clear that there is “no realistic prospect” of delivering his report before the general election in May. I do not particularly like that, but I have to accept it if I want the inquiry and its report to be truly independent, which I do. I find the Government motion somewhat confusing, in that it calls first for publication of the report before the general election and concludes by asking that the report be published “as soon as possible”.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Alex Fergusson

Not for one minute have I suggested that this is not about people, and I reject the inference. People will be best served by a proper inquiry that has undertaken all the due processes that give it total legitimacy, and that is what we need. That the report will be published as soon as possible is what Sir John has said will happen, and that is what we in the Conservatives will support.

In a reply to a written parliamentary question from Rhoda Grant on 25 November last year about the delay in publication of the report of the Scottish public inquiry into hepatitis C/HIV, Maureen Watt, as the newly appointed minister, said:

“As the member will be aware, the Penrose Inquiry is independent of Scottish Ministers and it is for the Chairman, Lord Penrose, to decide on the progress and timetabling of the Inquiry.”—[Written Answers, 3 December 2014; S4W-23426.]

If that is good enough for inquiries that the Scottish Government instituted, surely it is the right process for Chilcot.

In all honesty, I do not really understand why the Government has chosen to debate the matter at all, other than for narrow political reasons. However, as the amendment in my name reflects, the independence of the process has to take precedence over any other factor. That is why we cannot support the Government’s motion at decision time.

I move amendment S4M-12182.1, to leave out from “calls” to end and insert:

“accepts that the timing of the release of the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq is entirely for the inquiry itself to decide; expresses its disappointment that the inquiry has now stated that its findings will not be published before the 2015 general election, and, despite Sir John Chilcot’s statement confirming this, calls on him to publish the inquiry’s findings as soon as possible.”

14:18  

Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Alex Fergusson

Will the member give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Alex Fergusson

Will Mary Fee give way on that point?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Alex Fergusson

Does the cabinet secretary, who is a reasonable person, accept that there is a need for total integrity behind the report when it is published and that the people about whom he is talking would be better served by such integrity, just as the victims of hepatitis C will require total integrity? That can be achieved only if the due processes are seen to have been carried out and the inquiry does not have a false publication date placed on it by politicians.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

The nitrate vulnerable zones were introduced in 2002 and I notice that, once we approve the statutory instrument, the total area that is currently covered by NVZs will decrease by 24 per cent. I remember a heated debate at our predecessor committee in 2002, in which I argued that the zones as proposed were far too big. I want to put on record how delighted I am that, some 12 years later, somebody agrees with me.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Alex Fergusson

I am the MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries. I declare a slight interest, in that I chaired a review of the voluntary code of practice last year, which reported in October.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Alex Fergusson

I can save you a little time, convener, because we have moved on from what I was going to ask about.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Alex Fergusson

The NFUS included in its written submission a floor price for milk. It suggested that the Scottish Government and the UK Government should make representations in Europe for an increase in the intervention price for milk, which is currently very low—it is something like 12p a litre. Will you explain, in one short sentence, what practical difference increasing it to 17p a litre—or 14p, 15p or whatever—would make to the current situation?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
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YesDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Alex Fergusson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12182.1: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 28/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11093: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10562.1: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 09/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09617: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09572: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 01/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09425: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 20/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08943: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08857.1: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 28/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08278: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 12/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07892.2: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Alex Fergusson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03851: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03752: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03669: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 05/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03485: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 13/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03416: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 18/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03369: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03322: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03261: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 14/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03197: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 30/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-20685: Alex Fergusson, Galloway and West Dumfries, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 08/04/2014 Show Full Question >>

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