Blair’s defence sec Geoff Hoon 'was told to burn Iraq memo' as knighthood row continues

5 January 2022, 08:04 | Updated: 5 January 2022, 08:22

Tony Blair is facing pressure after being awarded a knighthood
Tony Blair is facing pressure after being awarded a knighthood. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon has claimed he was ordered to burn a secret memo saying the 2003 invasion of Iraq was illegal.

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Mr Hoon said he was told ‘in no uncertain terms’ that he was to destroy a memo written by attorney general Lord Goldsmith after reading it.

According to the Daily Mail, the memo was locked in a safe instead.

Geoff Hoon has claimed he was told to burn a secret memo saying the Iraq war was illegal
Geoff Hoon has claimed he was told to burn a secret memo saying the Iraq war was illegal. Picture: Alamy

Lord Goldsmith was said to have written the memo in 2003. The allegation of Mr Hoon being told to burn the letter first emerged in 2015 and Sir Tony Blair’s office has described it as nonsense.

But Mr Hoon has recalled his version of events in his recently published memoir, See How They Run.

Read more: Starmer insists Blair 'deserves honour' of knighthood as nearly 700,000 sign petition

Read more: 'He did lots of good things': Maggie Throup backs knighthood for Tony Blair

A campaign to strip Tony Blair of his knighthood, awarded in the New Year Honours list, will be buoyed by the claim.

The number of people to have signed a petition calling for the former Labour prime minister's honour to be removed is now approaching 700,000.

Sir Tony was made him a knight companion of the Order of the Garter, Britain's oldest order of chivalry, in the recent New Year Honours list.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has dismissed criticism of Sir Tony's knighthood, insisting the former prime minister deserves the honour.

Sir Keir insisted the honour is not a "thorny" issue and that Sir Tony had been a "very successful prime minister".

The award could clear the way for Sir Tony's successors in No 10 to be given similar honours, following reports that the delay in granting the accolade was blocking the others.

A Change.Org online petition calling for Sir Tony to be stripped of the honour had been signed by more than 544,000 people by Tuesday morning.

But Sir Keir said yesterday: "I don't think it's thorny at all; I think he deserves the honour. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.

"I understand there are strong views on the Iraq War. There were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country."

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup told LBC yesterday: "I think he did lots of good things. And I think it's only right that we do honour our previous prime ministers. And he was prime minister for such a long time."

In a hint that Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May could be in line for honours, she said: "I think obviously it now opens the doors for others to be recognised in the same way."

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested that all former prime ministers should be offered a knighthood because "it is one of the toughest jobs in the world".