Outrage as delays mean no Iraq answers until after the election

Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry Sir John Chilcot.

Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry Sir John Chilcot.

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SIR JOHN Chilcot is to be hauled before MPs as the Prime Minister insists the delayed Iraq inquiry report is not down to ministers dodging blame.

David Cameron yesterday said there was “no mystery” behind the confirmation by Iraq Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot that his panel’s findings would not be revealed before May’s general election.

Sir John Chilcot told the PM in a letter that “very substantial progress” had been made towards completing his six-year probe and agreement reached on what details from notes and conversations between former PM Tony Blair and US president George Bush will be published.

But he conceded that there was “no realistic prospect” of this being done before the May 7 poll “whilst being fair to all those involved”.

The hold-up provoked widespread condemnation, with the chair of the Commons foreign affairs select committee saying there could be “no justification whatsoever” and revealing Sir John had been summoned to explain the delays in public.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the hold-up “incomprehensible”, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “increasingly unacceptable” and Ukip leader Nigel Farage said it “smacks of an establishment cover-up, and one which I suggest the British public will see right through”.

Mr Cameron, who had previously expressed his own frustration at the slow progress, said he accepted Sir John’s decisions but wanted to see the report published as quickly as possible after May.

But the Prime Minister played down speculation that the process was being deliberately hampered by senior figures who could face criticism over their roles - something repeatedly denied by Mr Blair.

Mr Cameron told MPs: “My understanding is that there is no mystery in why this is taking so long,” Mr Cameron said.

“It is a very thorough report and you have to give the people who are criticised in a report the opportunity to respond to all those criticisms.

“That is what is happening at the moment. I don’t believe, from what I understand, that anyone is trying to dodge this report or put off this report.

“We all want to see it but you do have to go through the proper processes.”

The inquiry was set up by then prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and took public evidence from its last witness in 2011, but publication has been held up by wrangling over the release of the confidential messages and the so-called “Maxwellisation” process by which people who are criticised in the report are given the chance to respond.

Ed Miliband said he too hoped it would be published “as soon as possible” but the Labour leader was accused by the PM of contributing to the delays by voting against Tory attempts to have an inquiry set up before 2009 during an exchange in Parliament.

In a letter to Sir John, Mr Clegg warned that if the report is not published swiftly, the public might assume that it is being “sexed down” by key individuals expected to face criticism.

“Neither administrative processes nor a constant back and forth between the inquiry and witnesses criticised should frustrate an independent report so important to the country’s future from being published as soon as possible,” he said.

Both the Liberal Democrats and Ukip have urged voters to sign a petition urging publication before the election.

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