Chilcot report WILL be published after the election
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday January 21 2015
The Guardian and Independent front pages today cover the announcement that the report of the Chilcot Inquiry, into Britain’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003, will not be published until after the general election. Also covered in The Daily Telegraph, The Sun (£), Daily Mirror and the Financial Times (£).
The papers today report that Sir John Chilcot, chair of the inquiry, has confirmed that the report will indeed be delayed until after the election. In a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, placed on the inquiry website, Sir John wrote:
“Until we have received and evaluated responses from all those who have been given the opportunity to respond, I cannot give an accurate estimate for how long it will then take to complete our work, but it is clear that will take some further months. I therefore see no realistic prospect of delivering our report to you before the General Election in May 2015.”
The Maxwellisation process, which entails allowing those who are to be criticised in the report advance notice of this in order to prepare a response has long been suspected to be behind current delays. The inquiry ceased taking evidence in 2011 and 2014 disclosed that delays were attributable to the non-disclosure of sensitive material to the inquiry. Following a compromise reached with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Heywood, the inquiry proceeded on the basis of quoting the “gist” of the non-disclosed material.
The Guardian notes that the report was purportedly among matters discussed by the Prime Minister with the US President last week during his official visit. According to The Guardian, “It is understood the publication date of the inquiry was discussed by the UK and American delegations when Cameron met Barack Obama at the White House last week. But the threat of a Commons vote will have added urgency to the issue.”
The Sunday Telegraph last week reported on the motion proposed by a group of MPs, including the Rt. Hon. David Davis and Dominic Grieve and Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker to the Backbench Committee to table a debate on the delayed report with a call for it to be “published in a matter of weeks”. The backbench MPs were to push for a debate and a vote in the Commons on 29January to expedite publication and ensure its contents were made public before the general election.
The motion was proposed on the back of a Lords debate on the question of whether the ‘purdah’ period would further delay the publication of the report as we approach the general election.
The Guardian also notes that Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP, has written to Sir John Chilcot stressing the impact on public confidence in political authority and the inquiry if the report is subjected to any further delays. Clegg wrote on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in 2013 that the lessons of the Iraq war had to be learnt and the inquiry report was a fundamental means to that end. He also stated last year, in response to initial suggestions that the report would not meet a 2014 publication deadline, that its publication be expedited.
In response to the latest news, Clegg in a letter to the Inquiry wrote:
“The public have waited long enough and will find it incomprehensible that the report is not being published more rapidly than the open-ended timetable you have now set out.
“We need to see a much clearer and more defined timetable, known publicly, with strict deadlines and a firm date for publication.
“If the findings are not published with a sense of immediacy, there is a real danger the public will assume the report is being ‘sexed down’ by individuals rebutting criticisms put to them by the inquiry, whether that is the case or not.”
The Liberal Democrats’ frustration is understandable given that it is the one party to really gain from prompt publication. The party did not support military intervention in Iraq. And though the Labour Party was likely to feel the greater pressure from former PM Tony Blair’s decision to commit UK troops in the US-led invasion, his decision received considerable support from then leader of the opposition and David Cameron’s predecessor, Sir Michael Howard.
The only ones to lose out from the post-election publication of the report will be voters who will not now be given the opportunity to respond via the ballot box for a catastrophic decision.