TOP Tory David Davis says the credibility of the longstanding Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq will be damaged unless the final report is published prior to the general election.
The one-time Shadow Home Secretary is one of several MPs, including Leeds MP Fabian Hamilton, who intend to force a Parliamentary vote after it emerged that publication of Sir John Chilcot’s findings into the then premier Tony Blair, and his government, is likely to be delayed until after polling day.
Mr Davis, the Haltemprice and Howden MP, says both the Tories and Labour voted in favour of invading Iraq, and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, 12 years ago and that voters in the upcoming election “should be able to ask all the parties how they would act” if a similar foreign policy crisis arose in the near future.
It has been widely reported that the delay to the £10m inquiry, which was set up by Gordon Brown in 2009, is to enable individuals, like Mr Blair and Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, to respond to criticisms made of their decision-making.
However Mr Davis was dismissive of this. Writing in The Sunday Times, he said: “After five years there has been ample time and there is no good reason to delay the report any further. The perception of politicians and elites colluding to hide the truth from the public is damaging to all parties at a time when politicians are already held in poor regard.
“It is not just the families of those lost in the military conflict that deserve to have their questions answered...the whole country can move on and purge the spectre of Iraq only through knowing what happened in its entirety. Truth and reconciliation first require the truth.”
Mr Davis said his “greatest concern” was that the report was being delayed in order to mask “any embarrassing revelations about our relationship with the United States”. Saying the “time has come to be publish or be damned”, he added: “Were this to be true, it would make the inquiry an essentially pointless exercise.”
His intervention comes days after Lord Hurd of Westwell, a Foreign Secretary in the Thatcher and Major governments, condemned the delays. He told the House of Lords: “This has dragged on beyond the questions of mere negligence and forgivable delay; it is becoming a scandal. This is not a matter of trivial importance; it is something to which a large number of people in this country look anxiously for the truth.”
However the Government’s position was defended by Lib Dem minister William Wallace who confirmed that publication will be delayed until after polling day on May 7 “if the report is not available for publication by the end of February”.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire said David Cameron cannot intervene until he receives the final copy of the Chilcot findings. “We all regret the delay, but I wish to stress that this is not unusual for inquiries of this sort,” he said.
“This inquiry has been looking at nine years of British policy and operations within Iraq. It is not entirely unexpected, therefore, that it has turned out to take a long time.
“In retrospect, it might have been a good thing to have recruited a larger staff at the beginning of the inquiry, because the sheer volume of the documentation...was much greater than had originally been anticipated. It is, however, an independent inquiry. The Government will receive the report. The one decision that the Government will then take is when it will be published. It is up to the chairman of an independent inquiry to decide when and how it completes its report.”