The long-delayed publication of the Chilcot Report, the findings of the official inquiry into the Iraq War, has prompted new anger over the fees paid to Sir John Chilcot and his fellow committee members. As demands for immediate publication mount there are now calls for the Government to stop paying the Iraq inquiry committee members whose last public evidence session was in February 2011.
The Independent reports that analysis it has conducted of all accounts released by the inquiry reveal that Sir John, his fellow committee members and their advisers have shared more than £1.5 million in fees since the inquiry began in 2009, averaging out at £231,308 each. The analysis found that last year alone £892,400 was spent on the 11 civil servants and three support staff comprising the inquiry’s secretariat.
The Iraq inquiry has not sat for four years – the last evidence session was in February 2011– during which time it has cost the taxpayer £5.5 million. Despite more than £10 million being spent to date there is still no date for publication of the report which Sir John initially aimed to complete by the end of 2010. Indeed, last month RT and others reported it is “unlikely to be published for another year at least.”
Prior to this year’s general election, Nigel Farage launched a UKIP campaign to force publication of the report. At the time he 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.”
The Independent reports the figures released by the Iraq inquiry do not detail individual pay, but the newspaper understands that Sir John is paid 40 per cent more than the three other members of his committee, with a daily rate of almost £790 compared to the £565 a day paid to Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Roderic Lyne, and Baroness Usha Prashar. In the past year £119,300 has been paid to the four person committee and two advisers – General Sir Roger Wheeler and Dame Rosalyn Higgins – which provides a combined day rate for the six of them of £3,615.
Questioning the work rate, conduct and sense of urgency of the inquiry Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen, said.
“We should have a fundamental review of the cost of this inquiry. No further payments whatsoever should be made until the report has been published.”
Major delays are said to be caused by the so-called ‘Maxwellisation’ process. This long-established process requires that draft criticisms be put to the people concerned to allow them to comment. It is understood that 30 former or current ministers, officials and military officers are among those engaged in ‘Maxwellisation’.
Sir John says this has “opened up new issues or referred to material that was not part of the evidence submitted to the inquiry, which we are considering with care”. He went on to say there is no “realistic timetable for completion”.
Others have alleged that it is a deliberate delaying tactic. Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green, said: “It’s outrageous the way the public purse has been paying out a vast sum of money for this inquiry…there are some people whose names will appear in that report, who it is in their interest to keep the thing running as long as possible so that the public memory becomes more and more distant.”
In defence of Tony Blair a spokesman for the former Prime Minister said: “It’s completely wrong to say that [he] is the reason for the delay. He has as much reason as anyone for wanting the report published, not least because it gives him a chance to defend himself.”
Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Sir John last month telling him: “[those who lost loved ones], and I, had hoped for publication of your report by now and we are fast losing patience.”
Cameron informed Sir John he had instructed Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to meet with him to discuss how the civil service could help speed up publication of the report through the supply of extra resources. The meeting took place earlier this month but on Friday The Mirror reported Sir John snubbed the offer of help saying it was not needed.
The Guardian reported earlier this week that Lord Morris of Aberavon, a former Labour attorney general, called on the Prime Minister to consider sacking Chilcot, asking Cameron to consider “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.”