‘Laughing stock of the world’: MPs debate Iraq Inquiry delay

Reuters / Atef Hassan
Ministers debated why the official Iraq war inquiry is so severely delayed on Thursday. Head of the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, says his final report will not be published until after May’s general election.

The Commons debate is the first in which MPs specifically discussed the delay. Ministers have voiced their frustration over the repeated deferral of the publication date.

The Chilcot Inquiry, which began in 2009, examines the UK’s involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

During the debate, Welsh MP Elfyn Llwyd warned that delays to the inquiry could turn Westminster into “the laughing stock of the world.”

“It's an insult to Parliament but more important it's a gross offence to those people who've lost loved ones out in Iraq and to the people of Iraq itself,” said Llwyd.

“Democracy, I think, demands that something is done urgently otherwise this parliament will be the laughing stock of the world.”

David Davis MP warned: “When decisions such as those that were made in Libya, Syria and Iraq are made without knowledge of all the facts, mistakes are made and sometimes people die as a result. So it is not hyperbole to say that the delay to the Iraq inquiry could cost lives because bad decisions could be made.”

Davis said no one knows why the publication has been delayed to such an extent, as very little information about it is in the public domain.

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

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw, who held office between 2001 and 2006, said no decision he has made as a minister was more serious than to support military action against the Saddam Hussein regime and to actively advocate that course.

“There was never the remotest suggestion from anyone, nor anticipation, that this report would not be out well before the 2015 general election,” he added.

Chilcot will give evidence at the Foreign Affairs Committee on February 4 to explain the final report’s delay and why it won’t be published before the general election.

He has said there is “no realistic prospect” of the report being released before the general election on May 7.

On Tuesday, Chilcot said “We are conscious of our responsibility – to the public and to all those whose lives have been deeply affected by the events we are examining – to discharge our duty thoroughly, impartially and fairly.”

In a statement, the inquiry said “It had worked in strict confidence in the course of drafting its report.” It also reiterated its position “that it would not give a running commentary on its work.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he was frustrated by the delay, but said the inquiry was independent of government and that he should not interfere.

READ MORE:Publish ‘Iraq war’ report before election, MPs demand

In May 2014, Cameron said he hoped the inquiry would publish its findings by Christmas last year. 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 [sic] of reports are not controlled or timed by the government.”

The UK's top civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, has urged MPs not to push for a subpoena of the report or the publications of some of its findings before May 7.

Sir Jeremy however said all correspondence between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex-US President George W. Bush requested by the inquiry would be published.