As anger mounts at the painfully slow progress made by the independent inquiry into the Iraq War, Prime Minister David Cameron has again demanded its publication. The problem facing those wanting a timely release of the Iraq Inquiry’s findings is that its independence means only Sir John Chilcot can publish it.
The Iraq Inquiry officially began taking evidence in 2009, finishing main evidence in February 2011. It has not sat for over four years, a period of time during which it has still cost the taxpayer £5.5 million. In total to date more than £10 million has been spent on Chilcot’s inquiry yet there is still no date for publication of the report which was initially aimed to be finalised by the end of 2010.
Delay is attributed to the so-called ‘Maxwellisation’ process which requires draft criticisms be put to the people concerned to allow them to comment before publication. 30 former or current ministers, officials and military officers are among those engaged in ‘Maxwellisation’ linked to the investigation into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to send British forces into Iraq in 2003.
The Mail on Sunday reports Sir Richard Ottaway, former Tory chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, responded to the process saying:
“[What Sir John] should be saying to the people going backwards and forwards with comments and counter comments is, ‘Here is the deadline. I’m going to make my decision about what you’re saying by the end of September and I’m going to publish by the end of the year.'”
The Prime Minister has sought to shame Chilcot into publishing the Iraq Inquiry report. He pointed out that it’s not just politicians who want to read his findings, calling on Chilcot to publish before the grieving parents of servicemen killed in the conflict die themselves. He said:
“You meet mothers and fathers of those who died in Iraq who want to know the answers, and want to know before they reach the end of their lives.
“You have had plenty of time now, you have got to get on with it, set a date for publication and let’s put this past us.”
Families of soldiers killed in Iraq this week threatened legal action against Chilcot. They claim he acted unlawfully by refusing to set a deadline for publication.
The Prime Minister has admitted to being frustrated that he cannot order publication, however the parameters of the Iraq Inquiry set in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown ensured its independence. As such Cameron has no power to order Chilcot to do anything before he is ready.
Pressure to publish has not come from Cameron alone. Before the general election in May UKIP launched a campaign – Release The Chilcot Report Now – calling for the report to be released. At the time Nigel Farage said:
“It beggars belief that here we are, four years after the end of the Chilcot Inquiry, still waiting for the report. It smacks of an establishment cover-up, and one which I suggest the British public will see right through.”
There are some observers who now have no interest in the Iraq Inquiry. As Breitbart London reported last week Peter Hitchens used his Mail on Sunday column to make the point. He wrote:
“Let’s forget the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. We all know who’s guilty, and the main actors are finished and disgraced in the public mind.
“Instead, let’s have a new and urgent inquiry (report within a year please) into David Cameron’s equally stupid and irresponsible Libyan war, which is the direct cause of the scenes at Calais and Dover, and may, in the long run, mean the end of European civilisation as we have known it all our lives.”