By Rosa Prince, The Telegraph
Lord Wilson of Dinton and Lord Turnbull both rejected the former prime minister's claim that cabinet ministers "knew the score" and had been aware that he had agreed to invade Iraq soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Appearing before the Iraq Inquiry, the two men painted a picture of the "sofa government" in operation under New Labour, and told of their futile attempts to persuade Mr Blair to resume the "classical" structures of cabinet committees.
In some of most damning evidence heard by the inquiry to date, the respected former mandarins rejected claims made by Mr Blair to the committee last week in which he insisted that cabinet ministers were kept informed of the progress to war.
Lord Turnbull said that the cabinet was not asked for their approval until the eve of the invasion in March 2003, by which time they were "imprisoned" and had little choice but to consent – or bring the prime minister down.
His predecessor, Lord Wilson, who retired in September 2002, disclosed that at no point during his time as the country's top civil service was the cabinet aware that a decision had been taken to invade Iraq.
Their evidence contradicts that of Mr Blair who claimed last Friday that he first discussed the likelihood of toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with United States President George W Bush in November 2001, and that the prospect of war was well known from that point.
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