"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
The spy chief who helped Tony Blair write the ‘dodgy dossier’ which persuaded MPs to back war in Iraq has taken up a top job with an oil firm in the Middle Eastern country.
Sir John Scarlett, who drew up the document which claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes, has been taken on by Norwegian firm Statoil.
The former MI6 chief will be a strategic adviser at the multinational company, which has won a contract to drill for oil in Iraq.
It will spark allegations that Sir John is profiting from his former position and his role in involving Britain in the disastrous conflict.
The 62-year-old, who retired two years ago, came to public attention in 2003 when he helped draw up the Iraq Dossier, issued to MPs and journalists, which laid out why Saddam was considered such a threat to the West.
But, after the war, it emerged that key parts had been copied, while some were exaggerated.
Sir John was accused of being unduly influenced by Mr Blair’s director of communications Alastair Campbell.
The 45-minute claim came in for particular ridicule after it emerged there were no WMDs in Iraq.
But when it was published a month before the Iraq War, the dossier helped persuade MPs to vote in favour of military intervention.
Labour backbencher Paul Flynn said yesterday: ‘There is a bad smell about this – worse than oil.
‘If senior officials are involved in a particular area during their professional lives, there should be no chance of working in that same area when they retire.
Lucrative: West Qurna oil field in Iraq
‘This would avoid any danger of them being distracted by the prospect of retirement riches.’
Sir John was knighted in 2007, despite the controversy over the dossier. He was director general of the Secret Intelligence Service – known as MI6 – from 2004 to 2009.
During the 2003 Iraq War, he chaired the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee – a job he took on a week before the September 11 attacks.
Sir John gave evidence to the Hutton Inquiry into the death of government scientist David Kelly, and to the Iraq Inquiry into the UK’s role in going to war. Statoil is the world’s 13th largest oil and gas supplier. In December 2009 it was the leading member of a consortium granted exploration rights in the West Qurna oil field, west of Basra.
The field is expected to be one of the most productive in the Middle East, yielding 150,000 barrels a day by 2013. The contract was awarded by the Iraqi government, and the consortium beat off BP. A company spokesman would not say how much Sir John would be paid. ‘He will be on the advisory board to help us understand the geopolitical context in which we operate,’ the spokesman added.
The appointment was approved by the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets jobs taken by ex-ministers and senior officials to ensure there is no conflict of interest.