Charles meddles while Chelsea burns?… and Lord Goldsmith’s letter writing skills.

The Times had an interesting story over the weekend:

Prince Charles named in £81m Chelsea Barracks court battle

The Candy brothers, property developers for the super-rich, want to call the Prince of Wales as a witness in an £81m case in which they are suing the Qatari royal family over the collapse of their plans to build Britain’s most expensive residential block.

Nick and Christian Candy claim it was Charles’s outburst against the venture to Qatar’s rulers that wrecked their scheme for London’s Chelsea Barracks.

The plan to build the most expensive apartments in London where, The Times reports, a one bedroom flat would sell for £20 million has been thwarted, the Candy brothers allege, by Prince Charles having a cup of tea with his mates in the Qatar Royal family. The Times notes… “The brothers’ lawyers will want to ask the prince what was said during an afternoon tea with the ruler of Qatar when he visited Britain to open a gas terminal in May.”

Prince Charles, noted for his enthusiasm for building in the style of times past, has previous.  He objected to an extension to the National Gallery in London describing Lord Rogers’ work as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’. If Prince Charles is summoned, the Candys would have the right to cross-examine him.  The Times notes: “He would be the first royal to appear as a witness in court since the future Edward VII gave evidence in a gambling case in 1890. In 2002 the Princess Royal, Charles’s sister, appeared in court to be fined £500 by magistrates after one of her dogs attacked two children.”

The Iraq Inquiry has, thus far, proved fascinating and the cause of considerable embarrassment, it is believed, to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Independent has a wonderful story under the headline…


Iraq: The war was illegal

The Independent reports:

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war will consider a letter from Lord Goldsmith, then Mr Blair’s top law officer, advising him that deposing Saddam would be in breach of international law, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

But Mr Blair refused to accept Lord Goldsmith’s advice and instead issued instructions for his long-term friend to be “gagged” and barred from cabinet meetings, the newspaper claimed. Lord Goldsmith apparently lost three stone, and complained he was “more or less pinned to the wall” in a No 10 showdown with two of Mr Blair’s most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan. Mr Blair also allegedly failed to inform the Cabinet of the warning, fearing an “anti-war revolt”.

The description of Lord Goldsmith being ‘more or less pinned to the wall by Lord Falconer and others is surreal but Goldsmith did appear to go through some fairly extensive letter writing at the time by all accounts.

Interestingly, the BBC had a report just over a year ago…

Legal advice given to Tony Blair by the attorney general prior to the Iraq war was fundamentally “flawed,” a former law lord has claimed.

Lord Bingham said Lord Goldsmith had given Mr Blair “no hard evidence” that Iraq had defied UN resolutions “in a manner justifying resort to force”.

Therefore, the action by the UK and US was “a serious violation of international law,” Lord Bingham added.

The Independent has a list of quotes which may trouble Blair who is believed to be concerned that his reputation is being ‘shredded’. I am rather more concerned for those whose lives have been shredded by the death, military and civilian on both sides of loved ones caused by and during this war.

Critical evidence from key figures to Chilcot inquiry

Sir Peter Ricketts “We quite clearly distanced ourselves from talk of regime change… that was not something we thought there would be any legal base for.”

Sir William Patey “We were aware of those drumbeats from Washington [about regime change]. Our policy was to stay away from that end of the spectrum.”

Sir Michael Wood “[Establishing no-fly zones over Iraq] was very controversial … The US government was very careful to avoid taking any real position on the law.”

Sir William Ehrman “We did, on 10 March, get a report that chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and Saddam hadn’t yet ordered their assembly.”

Sir Christopher Meyer “Suddenly, because of the unforgiving nature of the military timetable, we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun.”

Sir Jeremy Greenstock “I regarded our participation in the military action against Iraq in March 2003 as legal, but of questionable legitimacy.”

7 thoughts on “Charles meddles while Chelsea burns?… and Lord Goldsmith’s letter writing skills.

  1. Let’s not get carried away.

    According to some media reports, this letter is now in the hands of the inquiry. Of course, we have not seen it and it is doubtful whether we ever will. (Don’t hold your breath).

    Reports that Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan allegedly pressured Lord Goldsmith have been denied and remain unproved.

    An allegation that Goldsmith was “frozen out” of Cabinet meetings has also been made. It ought to be quite easy to ascertain whether he attended meetings and, if so, which meetings. Of course, there might be numerous possible reasons for non-attendance!

    It is interesting to note that allegations that the Attorney-General cannot be truly independent of the executive have been repeatedly made and the present government has come down in favour of hardly reforming the role at all. Baroness Scotland in particular is known to have fought hard to retain the status quo.

    If (a) the letter definitely advised that war would be illegal and (b) Goldsmith was pressured and (c) Goldsmith changed his advice as a result of that pressure and (d) Goldsmith was frozen out of Cabinet then the office of Attorney-General would have to be reformed. It seems unlikely to me that all of (a)-(d) will be proved at this inquiry.

    It is interesting to see all these soundbites from various players at the time. The fact is that they all stayed in their highly paid jobs. Only Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned her post. Most of these figures are now retired and they might just be trying to make themselves look as favourable to posterity as possible.

  2. Sir Jeremy Greenstock “I regarded our participation in the military action against Iraq in March 2003 as legal, but of questionable legitimacy.”

    Is it me or is there something deeply impenetrable about this remark?

  3. WR – Deeply impenetrable…and in the finest traditions of Sir Humphrey Appleby

    Obietr – Indeed. Blair et al appear to be being accused of everything at the moment… will we ever get anywhere near the truth on this?

    I notice that Gordon Brown, clunking and thundering his way through his Afghanistan announcement this afternoon, hammered home the point that there are 43 nations involved all acting within the sanction of a watertight UN resolution.

  4. I note that Sir John Chilcot said today (30th Nov) that the inquiry would be looking at the legality in the New Year. Personally, I would doubt their credentials to do that but we have said this before. So, let’s enjoy Christmas and New Year before we see how they get on with that one.

    It is true that there are a lot of nations involved with Afghanistan but of course the the US and UK are among the main providers of Armed Forces. It is also true that there are UN SC Resolutions – the latest is 1890 (2009) which extends the “International Security Assistance Force” until 13th October 2010. At least 4 other SC Resolutions are also relevant to Afghanistan. The Assistance Force has an interesting website:

    The problem with most of these diplomatic “Sir Humphrey” types is that they talk in a “code” where ordinary words no longer have ordinary meanings. Note how they are all “Sir This” and “Sir That.” Diplomacy must be one of the few professions where gongs go automatically with certain ranks. Now that’s another reform some of us would like to see. For all the so-called diplomacy, the weapons inspectors were not allowed to complete their work and the drums started rolling after 9/11 because somebody somewhere had to pay and the Bush dynasty had “unfinished business” with Saddam.

  5. Pingback: Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: 30 November 09 « Charon QC

  6. Obiter… Oh yes.. Agree… much to come yet… and Blair et al are not stupid… by any means. Quite the contrary.

    I am still surprised, as others have observed even more forcefully, that there are no lawyers on the panel. But there we are…

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