Publish ‘Iraq war’ report before election, MPs demand

John Chilcot, the Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, outlines the terms of reference for the inquiry and explains the panel's approach to its work during a news conference in London, on July 30, 2009. (AFP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A cross-party group of MPs are pushing for the long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war to be published before May’s UK general election.

The MPs, including former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, former Conservative frontbencher David Davis, Lib Dem former Home Office Minister Norman Baker and Scottish and Welsh nationalists, said they were concerned the report would not be published before the election.

Some claim that the publication is being withheld on purpose to delay it until after the election, fearing its revelations may influence the result.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, was set up in 2009. The last witness was questioned in 2011, but since there have been lengthy debates as to what material should be publicly released and which documents should be withheld from the public domain.

The MPs will ask the Backbench Business Committee on Tuesday to schedule a debate regarding the release – to push for a mid-February publication. Chilcot will be questioned to explain the delay.

READ MORE:Cameron has final word on release date of Iraq war report – Downing Street

With regard to this, last June, Chilcot gave the green light for the “gist” of talks between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George W. Bush to be made public.

PM David Cameron said in May 2014 he hoped the inquiry would publish its findings by Christmas. However, he seemed to backtrack last month, saying: “I’m not in control of when this report is published. It is an independent report; it is very important that these sort of reports are not controlled or timed by the government.”

The report is expected to include severe criticism of the UK government’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Last week, Cabinet Office minister Lord Wallace of Saltaire said there was a chance that Cameron will choose not to introduce the report into parliament once Chilcot has submitted it to him.

READ MORE:‘Scathing’: Clamor grows for Iraq war inquiry redactions from senior Whitehall figures

He told the House of Lords: “The government has committed that, if this is not available for publication by the end of February, it will be held back until after the election.”

Welsh Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said: “It is imperative that those who took the decision [to invade Iraq] are properly held to account. It’s now over five years since the start of the inquiry and the public is no closer to obtaining vital information about the decision to go to war.”

He added that the Chilcot report has to date cost more than £9 million and that it should be published without delay.

“Before members of parliament are selected for another term, it is imperative the voters know exactly what has been done in their names.”