Tony Blair was charged with deliberately misleading the public over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction yesterday as two former cabinet ministers revealed that MI6 believed Saddam Hussein's arsenal posed no immediate threat.
In an extraordinary public hearing at Westminster, Clare Short and Robin Cook told MPs that intelligence chiefs had concluded that the risk of Saddam using chemical or biological weapons was not high.
Ms Short, the former secretary of state for international development, said Mr Blair was guilty of "honourable deception" and claimed he used "a series of half-truths, exaggerations, reassurances that were not the case to get us into conflict by the spring.
"I believe that the Prime Minister must have concluded that it was honourable and desirable to back the US in going for military action in Iraq and therefore it was honourable for him to persuade us through various ruses and ways to get us there - so for him I think it was an honourable deception," said Ms Short.
Mr Cook, the former foreign secretary, accused ministers of "not presenting the whole picture" and presenting selective evidence to back the case for war.