Will Iraq War report EVER be published? Row erupts as Chilcot Inquiry is delayed for another year
- £10million, six-year inquiry will not be published for ‘at least another year’
- Calls for an urgent statement in Parliament on Sir John Chilcot’s work
- David Cameron urged to consider pulling the plug on the entire process
The Chilcot Report into the Iraq War will not be published for at least another year, it emerged today sparking a fresh row about whether it will ever be finished.
Ministers today faced calls for an urgent statement to Parliament on the future of the inquiry, as some urged David Cameron to pull the plug.
By the end of this year the inquiry will have lasted for longer than British combat troops were fighting in Iraq.
The inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot has already lasted six years and cost £10million, and is now set to be delayed for another year
The inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot has already lasted six years and cost £10million.
But a source close to the inquiry told the Independent on Sunday it is ‘unlikely to be published for another year at least’.
In January, Sir John wrote to Mr Cameron insisting ‘very substantial progress’ had been made in completing his report but admitting that it will not be possible to publish his report ahead of the general election in May.
Now it could be at least another 12 months before it is made public – if ever. Ex-Labour Attorney General Lord Morris is pressing the Prime Minister to assess ‘the case for discharging the Chairman and members of the Chilcot inquiry, and inviting the Cabinet Secretary to set out a mechanism for an interim report to be produced on the basis of the evidence gathered’.
Tony Blair – who is set to be criticised in the report – has repeatedly denied being responsible for the delays
The suggestion of a fresh delay to its publication today provoked a furious reaction from SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson.
He said: ‘We must have a parliamentary statement on the status of the Chilcot inquiry in light of these troubling reports.
‘For the Chilcot report to be subject to yet more delays is completely unacceptable, and will be greeted with dismay by the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were affected by the Iraq war.
‘This inquiry needs to be published in full – and as a matter of urgency. Abandoning it as suggested by Lord Morris would be wholly unacceptable.
‘The Iraq war was a foreign policy disaster whose ramifications are still being felt today. Answers are long overdue, and the continued delays to the publication of this report are a democratic outrage.’
Sir John was asked to investigate the Iraq war by Gordon Brown in 2009 and last took evidence from a witness almost three years ago.
Responses and objections from the many parties expected to be criticised, who have been sent draft conclusions, are the main reason for the delay, sources say.
Tony Blair – who is set to be criticised in the rpoert – has repeatedly denied being responsible for the delays.
He said in January: ”Just to state absolutely and emphatically, this is not to do with me, or as far as I’m aware any other witness.’
Commons Leader Chris Grayling last week made clear the growing impatience in government at the delays.
He told MPs: ‘All of us in government would dearly like to see the Chilcot report published, but as it is an independent report it is out of our hands.
‘It is in the interests of the country to get the report published, to see the full the details of what it says, to learn any lessons and to ensure that mistakes are not made in future.’
BLAIR OR CHILCOT HIMSELF? WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE FIVE-YEAR DELAY?
The former Prime Minister is expected to be rebuked for his role taking the UK to war in 2003 and therefore has a legal right to reply to any criticisms in the report.
Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat president, has claimed ‘well-known names’ involved in the inquiry were seeking to ‘water down’ the strength of criticism against them in the report.
But Mr Blair has repeatedly rejected any suggestion he is behind the delay, saying last year: ‘I have got as much interest as anyone in seeing the inquiry publish its findings and then being able to go out and frankly restate my case and defend my position.’
Mr Blair was also accused of holding up the report by not allowing correspondence with George Bush to be published – but, again, has repeatedly denied this was the case.
Sir John Chilcot
The Inquiry chair is facing increasing criticism for his own responsibility for the delay.
He has missed every deadline which he had set – and senior figures have privately said this has nothing to do with the witnesses
Those criticised in the report only received the draft inquiry conclusions about them just before Christmas – leaving them almost no time to respond before the May election.
It also understood that the report is incredibly long – running to a million pages – and criticises many more people than just Tony Blair, increasing the amount of time it takes to respond.
Sir Jeremy Heywood
The Cabinet Secretary – Britain’s most senior civil servant – was allegedly behind moves to block the publication of personal correspondence between the former US president George Bush and Mr Blair in the run-up to the war.
There are concerns in Government that the move would represent an unprecedented breach of confidence with Britain’s closest ally.
Only in June last year Chilcot announced he was satisfied that the ‘gist’ of talks between Blair and Bush could be made public, removing a big obstacle to publication of his report.
David Cameron said the report should have been published years ago – and pointed out that Labour had voted against a proposal to set up an inquiry in 2006.
The Chilcot enquiry was only finally set up by Gordon Brown in 2009.
MI6 is expected to be heavily criticised in the report over its mistaken intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
It is expected to put up a fierce defence of its role – and will be concerned that its sources are not blown.
CAREER DIPLOMAT WHO KEEPS DELAYING IRAQ WAR REPORT
Sir John Chilcot, the former Whitehall mandarin charged with heading the Iraq investigation, sat on the ‘whitewash’ Butler Inquiry into the use of intelligence in the run-up to the conflict.
Sir John was one of the leading members of the inquiry which exonerated the Blair government for ‘sexing up’ the case for war.
His appointment by Gordon Brown raised fears in Westminster of the latest in a long line of establishment cover-ups – following Butler and the Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly.
A career diplomat, Sir John, is an intelligence expert who was principal private secretary to William Whitelaw during his time as Tory Home Secretary and also spent seven years as top civil servant in the Northern Ireland office.
At the time of his appointment, one colleague described him as ‘the best Home Office type of mandarin, really quite outstanding of his generation, an immensely subtle mind’.
Sir John headed the Government’s seven-month inquiry into intercept evidence, which led to Gordon Brown accepting the principle of its use as evidence in court trials.
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