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Chilcot report could be published post-election

Chilcot report could be published post-election

Categories: Latest News

Friday January 09 2015

The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail all cover Mondays’ discussion in the House of Lords over the delayed publication of the Chilcot Inquiry report with Lord Dykes asking whether the Government had plans to issue the report before ‘purdah’ sets in ahead of the next general election.

Lord Dykes asked the Government if it intends “to suggest that the report of the Chilcot inquiry is published before the start of the pre-election purdah?”

The election ‘purdah’, also known as the pre-election period, encompasses the time from when an election is announced until after it is held. During this period, it is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long-term character. The period of purdah will begin on 30 March and last until polling day on 7 May.

In relation to the Chilcot inquiry, if the report fails to be published ahead of 30 March, it would effectively need to be deferred until after the general election.

Lord Dykes had initially raised the question on the proposed date for the report’s publication in April 2013. At the time, the inquiry was beginning the process of Maxwellisation, where those criticised in the report are given the opportunity to respond to criticisms regarding their conduct.

Lord Dykes asserted that the incessant delay to the publication of the report was “an utter and total disgrace” arguing that the delay was being regarded as a ruse to prolong the agony of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, facing possible war crime charges.

Adding to the debate, Lord Hurd, a former foreign secretary, insisted that the delay to the report had gone “beyond questions of mere negligence and forgiveable delay” saying that “it is becoming a scandal”. Hurd further observed that the inquiry is “something of which a large number of people in this country look anxiously for truth.” Concerns over the delay have been repeatedly raised including by Deputy PM Nick Clegg on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war.

Defending the delays experienced in the publication of the report, Lord Wallace clarified that only Sir John Chilcot can decide when to submit the inquiry report. Wallace further made comparisons with the timescale on completing the inquiry with other inquiries in recent years including the al-Sweady inquiry, which took five years to report on two battles in one afternoon, and the Baha Mousa inquiry, into the death of an Iraqi civilian in UK custody, which took three years. Wallace said that it was “not entirely unexpected that the Chilcot inquiry has taken awhile to investigate into nine years of British policy and operations in Iraq.

However, in light of the US Senate’s intelligence committee report into the CIA’s use of torture techniques, it has become increasingly poignant for the Chilcot inquiry report to be expedited in order to determine any involvement of UK authorities in torture or rendition.

Of the report itself, Wallace confirmed that “When the report comes out, it will contain more than 1 million words and will publish substantial documentation from more than 200 Cabinet meetings. That is all agreed and under way.”

He further noted that the pre-election purdah does not begin until late March and iterated the government’s commitment to hold back the publication until after the election if the report is not submitted for publication by the end of February. During Prime Minister’s Questions, MP Elfyn Llwyd questioned the notion of publishing the report before the end of February when it was completely possible to publish the report during March, given the purdah period commences on 30 March. Speculation that the report will be published after the general election in May first arose in April last year.


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