Tony Blair said the Chilcot report showed there were no lies or secret plan to invade Iraq and Parliament was not misled Credit: Stephan Rousseau/PA
- Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter
- Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent
19 July 2016 • 5:16pm
Taxpayers are obliged to pay all Tony Blair’s legal bills over a lawsuit being brought by the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.
The former prime minister is indemnified for all his court costs - including possible multi-million pound damages - over allegations he abused his power as prime minister to take the country to war.
Families of dead soldiers planning to sue Mr Blair have been forced to launch a public appeal to get their legal case off the ground. In less than 24 hours, relatives had raised more than £50,000, enough for lawyers to start work on the case.
Families of some of the 179 British soldiers, sailors and airmen killed in the war have vowed to sue Mr Blair for "every penny" Credit: Joel Goodman/LNP
They said they were ‘sickened to their stomachs’ to discover that while they had to rely on public generosity to bring the action, Mr Blair was indemnified under Cabinet Office rules - meaning the action won’t have to cost him a penny.
Mr Blair faces being sued for misfeasance in public office in the wake of the publication of the Chilcot report, which came as close as it could to suggesting the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was illegal.
The Cabinet Manual, which is the rule book for the operation of Government, states that ministers and former ministers “are indemnified by the Crown for any actions taken against them for things done or decisions made in the course of their ministerial duties”.
It goes on: “The indemnity will cover the cost of defending the proceedings, as well as any costs or damages awarded against the minister.”
Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew Bacon, a major in the Intelligence Corps, was killed in a roadside bomb in 2005, said: “It is sickening he is indemnified. You feel this in the pit of your stomach. We will just have to swallow it - as difficult as it is to swallow.”
Reg Keys, whose son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was one of six Royal Military Police slaughtered by a mob at Majar al-Kabir in 2003, said: “It is very very disappointing if Tony Blair is indemnified against any financial punishment. It is nauseous to think he will have the taxpayer fund him while we are trying to raise funds to sue him.”
The Iraq War Families Campaign Group launched a fund-raising drive on Tuesday in an attempt to “bring to justice to those responsible for the war and the deaths of our loved ones”.
The appeal followed the conclusion of the Chilcot Inquiry, which sharply criticised the decision-making behind the war and said it had been poorly-planned and ended in failure.
About 30 families of dead soldiers are understood to be backing the legal action and will use the funding to pay for a legal team from the law firm McCue & Partners for a “full and forensic” analysis of the 2.6 million-word Chilcot report.
Within a day of launching, the appeal on the CrowdJustice website had reached its target of £50,000.
The lawyers estimated they need £150,000 to get to the point of bringing proceedings against Mr Blair, given the huge costs of launching a complex High Court legal action.
The fund-raising website states: “Those responsible should be held to account. Now it is down to us, the Families, to ensure that justice is done. Not only for the sake of our children, siblings, parents and spouses, whose lives we can never get back, but to deter our state officials from ever again abusing their positions with such tragic and far-reaching consequences.”
The families have resorted to bringing their own case because the International Criminal Court has ruled out bringing proceedings against Mr Blair while the Crown Prosecution Service has twice rejected calls for him to face criminal prosecution in the UK.
The taxpayer has already paid the costs of ex-ministers and officials, thought to include Mr Blair, for legal advice ahead of publication of Chilcot earlier this month. The prospect of Mr Blair’s defence being paid for will appal his detractors.
He is reckoned to have earned tens of millions of pounds since leaving Downing Street in 2007 through a consultancy and investment business often operating in countries where he established contacts as prime minister.
Mr Blair has insisted he acted in good faith based on the intelligence available to him in the run up to the war. He has denied making a huge fortune and insists he is worth no more than £10 million. He said the Chilcot Report showed there was no secret plan to invade Iraq and parliament had not been misled in the run up to the invasion.