'Release dossier', ministry told

Chris Ames explains the significance of the decision to force the Foreign Office to release the secr

The Information Tribunal has today ordered the Foreign Office to release the secret draft of the Iraq WMD dossier written by former top spin doctor.

The move casts doubt over the government’s claim that the document played no part in the production of the dossier.

However, the Tribunal has allowed a handwritten note to be redacted which the Foreign Office claimed would be damaging to international relations.

The FCO has said that it is studying the Tribunal decision and declined to name the authors of the handwritten comments.

The secret draft was written by John Williams, the FCO’s then director of communications, on 7 and 8 September 2002, just days after Tony Blair announced that the government would publish a dossier of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with his weapons of mass destruction.

It preceded what the government would later claim to be the first draft, written by Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett on 10 September.

I first noticed references to the Williams draft during the Hutton Inquiry, although Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former director of communications, denied outright that there was such a document.

In February 2005, I asked the FCO for a copy under the newly implemented Freedom of Information Act. When then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw vetoed my request, I complained to the Information Commissioner, who found in my favour last May. But the FCO then appealed to the Tribunal, which published its ruling this morning.

The tribunal’s decision is sceptical of the government’s claim that Williams produced his version outside the main process of drafting the dossier. It states that “information has been placed before us, which was not before Lord Hutton, which may lead to questions as to whether the Williams draft in fact played a greater part in influencing the drafting of the Dossier than has previously been supposed.”

The tribunal is also very critical of inconsistencies in the government’s evidence and repeatedly observes that the main Foreign Office witness, Stephen Pattison, its Director, International Security, “was not involved at the time and volunteered no information about the source of his information”. It stated that “it is a matter of concern that the information given to the Information Commissioner on the very nature of the information in dispute was apparently different to the evidence given to us.”

These comments relate directly to the role of the Williams draft in the production of the dossier. The FCO had told the Commissioner that Scarlett commissioned Williams to write the draft but subsequently changed its story.

The tribunal refers to Pattison’s “assertion” that the draft was “not used in the dossier drafting process.” It commented that he was “apparently unable to identify any source for the assertion quoted above among either those who were so involved or from any contemporaneous document.” It also cited evidence suggesting “that the Williams draft in fact played a more significant role in the process” than the government has admitted. This includes the covering note that Scarlett sent Campbell describing his own first draft: “This has been significantly recast, with considerable help from John Williams and others in the Foreign Office.”

The tribunal also reveals that the draft was “annotated in two different persons’ handwriting, suggesting that at least one person other than the author had reviewed and commented on it despite Mr Pattison’s statement that it was put aside the moment it was first presented.” Again here, the tribunal can be seen to be skeptical of the government’s claim that Williams’ work was not taken forward.

However, the tribunal has ordered that one of the handwritten notes should be redacted from the draft when it is published. It is clear that the Foreign Office has claimed that disclosure of this comment would be damaging to international relations, a claim that it did not make at the time of its initial refusal. The decision notice states that this issue is covered in a confidential annexe.

On the content of the draft itself, the Tribunal reveals that some intelligence-related sections of the published dossier bear a resemblance to parts of the Williams draft, although this does not “lead on easily to the conclusion that one had been based on the other”. The dossier was finally published on 24 September 2002, two weeks after Scarlett’s “first draft”, and was central to the case it made to Parliament for war in Iraq.

Responding to the Information Tribunal decision, Conservative MP John Baron said: "This decision lifts the lid on government efforts to cover-up the role played by spin doctors in producing the Iraq Dossier.

"I am now pressing the Foreign Secretary immediately to make public the Williams draft, so that we can assess for ourselves the significance of this document in the run up to war – a war which we should never had been party to.

"The Tribunal agrees that the Williams draft could have played a greater part in influencing the drafting of the dossier than the Government has so far admitted - even to the Hutton Inquiry. The Government cannot hide this document any longer."

Biteback and James Wharton
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“It was the most traumatic chapter of my life”: ex-soldier James Wharton on his chemsex addiction

One of the British Army’s first openly gay soldiers reveals how he became trapped in a weekend world of drug and sex parties.

“Five days disappeared.” James Wharton, a 30-year-old former soldier, recalls returning to his flat in south London at 11pm on a Sunday night in early March. He hadn’t eaten or slept since Wednesday. In the five intervening days, he had visited numerous different apartments, checked in and out of a hotel room, partied with dozens of people, had sex, and smoked crystal meth “religiously”.

One man he met during this five-day blur had been doing the same for double the time. “He won’t have been exaggerating,” Wharton tells me now. “He looked like he’d been up for ten days.”

On Monday, Wharton went straight to his GP. He had suffered a “massive relapse” while recovering from his addiction to chemsex: group sex parties enhanced by drugs.

“Crystal meth lets you really dig in, to use an Army term”

I meet Wharton on a very different Monday morning six months after that lost long weekend. Sipping a flat white in a sleek café workspace in Holborn, he’s a stroll away from his office in the city, where he works as a PR. He left the Army in 2013 after ten years, having left school and home at 16.


Wharton left school at 16 to join the Army. Photo: Biteback

With his stubble, white t-shirt and tortoise shell glasses, he now looks like any other young media professional. But he’s surfacing from two years in the chemsex world, where he disappeared to every weekend – sometimes for 72 hours straight.

Back then, this time on a Monday would have been “like a double-decker bus smashing through” his life – and that’s if he made it into work at all. Sometimes he’d still be partying into the early hours of a Tuesday morning. The drugs allow your body to go without sleep. “Crystal meth lets you really dig in, to use an Army expression,” Wharton says, wryly.


Wharton now works as a PR in London. Photo: James Wharton

Mainly experienced by gay and bisexual men, chemsex commonly involves snorting the stimulant mephodrone, taking “shots” (the euphoric drug GBL mixed with a soft drink), and smoking the amphetamine crystal meth.

These drugs make you “HnH” (high and horny) – a shorthand on dating apps that facilitate the scene. Ironically, they also inhibit erections, so Viagra is added to the mix. No one, sighs Wharton, orgasms. He describes it as a soulless and mechanical process. “Can you imagine having sex with somebody and then catching them texting at the same time?”

“This is the real consequence of Section 28”

Approximately 3,000 men who go to Soho’s 56 Dean Street sexual health clinic each month are using “chems”, though it’s hard to quantify how many people regularly have chemsex in the UK. Chemsex environments can be fun and controlled; they can also be unsafe and highly addictive.

Participants congregate in each other’s flats, chat, chill out, have sex and top up their drugs. GBL can only be taken in tiny doses without being fatal, so revellers set timers on their phones to space out the shots.

GBL is known as “the date rape drug”; it looks like water, and a small amount can wipe your memory. Like some of his peers, Wharton was raped while passed out from the drug. He had been asleep for six or so hours, and woke up to someone having sex with him. “That was the worst point, without a doubt – rock bottom,” he tells me. “[But] it didn’t stop me from returning to those activities again.”

There is a chemsex-related death every 12 days in London from usually accidental GBL overdoses; a problem that Wharton compares to the AIDS epidemic in a book he’s written about his experiences, Something for the Weekend.


Wharton has written a book about his experiences. Photo: Biteback

Wharton’s first encounter with the drug, at a gathering he was taken to by a date a couple of years ago, had him hooked.

“I loved it and I wanted more immediately,” he recalls. From then on, he would take it every weekend, and found doctors, teachers, lawyers, parliamentary researchers, journalists and city workers all doing the same thing. He describes regular participants as the “London gay elite”.

“Chemsex was the most traumatic chapter of my life” 

Topics of conversation “bounce from things like Lady Gaga’s current single to Donald Trump”, Wharton boggles. “You’d see people talking about the general election, to why is Britney Spears the worst diva of them all?”

Eventually, he found himself addicted to the whole chemsex culture. “It’s not one single person, it’s not one single drug, it’s just all of it,” he says.



Wharton was in the Household Cavalry alongside Prince Harry. Photos: Biteback and James Wharton

Wharton feels the stigma attached to chemsex is stopping people practising it safely, or being able to stop. He’s found a support network through gay community-led advice services, drop-ins and workshops. Not everyone has that access, or feels confident coming forward.

“This is the real consequence of Section 28,” says Wharton, who left school in 2003, the year this legislation against “promoting” homosexuality was repealed. “Who teaches gay men how to have sex? Because the birds and the bees chat your mum gives you is wholly irrelevant.”


Wharton was the first openly gay soldier to appear in the military in-house magazine. Photo courtesy of Biteback

Wharton only learned that condoms are needed in gay sex when he first went to a gay bar at 18. He was brought up in Wrexham, north Wales, by working-class parents, and described himself as a “somewhat geeky gay” prior to his chemsex days.

After four years together, he and his long-term partner had a civil partnership in 2010; they lived in a little cottage in Windsor with two dogs. Their break-up in 2014 launched him into London life as a single man.

As an openly gay soldier, Wharton was also an Army poster boy; he appeared in his uniform on the cover of gay magazine Attitude. He served in the Household Cavalry with Prince Harry, who once defended him from homophobic abuse, and spent seven months in Iraq.


In 2012, Wharton appeared with his then civil partner in Attitude magazine. Photo courtesy of Biteback

A large Union Jack shield tattoo covering his left bicep pokes out from his t-shirt – a physical reminder of his time at war on his now much leaner frame. He had it done the day he returned from Iraq.

Yet even including war, Wharton calls chemsex “the most traumatic chapter” of his life. “Iraq was absolutely Ronseal, it did exactly what it said on the tin,” he says. “It was going to be a bit shit, and then I was coming home. But with chemsex, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

“When I did my divorce, I had support around me. When I did the Army, I had a lot of support. Chemsex was like a million miles an hour for 47 hours, then on the 48th hour it was me on my own, in the back of an Uber, thinking where did it all go wrong? And that’s traumatic.”

Something for the Weekend: Life in the Chemsex Underworld by James Wharton is published by Biteback.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.