Iraq Inquiry: Peers worried over 'considerable delay' to report's release

Sir John Chilcot The inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, has been running for nearly three years

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Peers have expressed concerns about the length of time being taken by the Iraq Inquiry to publish its conclusions.

The Chilcot committee is not expected to hand its final report to the prime minister until the end of 2013, more than a decade after the 2003 conflict.

Lib Dem peer Lord Dykes said there had been a "considerable delay" and the sooner it was published the better.

For the government, Lord Strathclyde said the inquiry was independent and was determined to be thorough and fair.

The inquiry has been looking into the reasons why the UK joined the US and other nations in going to war against Saddam Hussein, as well as the UK's role in post-war Iraq since 2009 - the year British troops left the country.

The last public hearing took place in February 2011, since when the five-strong committee has been drawing together the huge amount of evidence received and seeking the release of further classified documents from the government for inclusion in the report.

'Long process'

In his latest update in July, Sir John Chilcot announced a further delay to the publication of the report - which was initially hoped would be finalised during 2012 but whose timetable has steadily slipped.

He said anyone whose conduct was criticised in the report must be allowed to make representations in response and that this process - known as "Maxwellisation" - was likely to begin in the middle of 2013.

Start Quote

The inquiry is taking an enormous amount of evidence”

End Quote Lord Strathclyde Leader of House of Lords

In the Lords, peers expressed frustration the procedure, expected to take several months, could further prolong the report's release.

"If the report has been finalised, why is it going to take from now until the middle of next year for these consultations with those who are being criticised to take place?" former Labour attorney general Lord Morris said.

Lord Dykes said it was "a very long process and the sooner (it was published) the better, but there is still a considerable delay".

Conservative peer Lord Cormack said he shared the other peers' concerns and he sought assurances that the Lords would be given the opportunity to debate the inquiry's findings at the earliest possible stage.

'Enormous evidence'

Lord Strathclyde suggested peers were "jumping the gun", pointing out that Sir John Chilcot had already made it clear that the report was unlikely to be handed over to the prime minister until the end of 2013.

He said the government had not made any representations to the inquiry about the length of time it was taking or over any possible delays connected with the Maxwellisation process.

"The drafting of the inquiry's report and the contents are entirely a matter for the inquiry which is independent of government."

He added: "The inquiry is taking an enormous amount of evidence. When it is published... at that stage we will be able to take a far better and more rigorous view as to exactly what happened."

And he said he "could not imagine the circumstances where we would not wish to give it a very full debate".

Committee chairman Sir John Chilcot has said he is determined the inquiry's report would be "balanced, fair and accurate" but has warned the evidence - both oral and written - received by the inquiry was "not wholly consistent".

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