MPs to force Chilcot to come clean over Iraq report delays: Parliament set to demand public explanation and could make him set a deadline for publication

  • Former shadow home secretary David Davis said MPs are planning action
  • Says they will demand a public explanation into Iraq Inquiry's delays
  • Parliamentary motion could force inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot to act
  • The hold-up has been blamed on witnesses being informed of likely criticism and being given the chance to comment before it's made public

Parliament will demand a public explanation from Sir John Chilcot (pictured) next month as to why the Iraq inquiry is still being delayed

Parliament will demand a public explanation from Sir John Chilcot (pictured) next month as to why the Iraq inquiry is still being delayed

Parliament will demand a public explanation from Sir John Chilcot next month as to why the Iraq inquiry is still being delayed, a senior Tory warned last night.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis said a cross-party group of MPs would hold discussions next week to draw up a battle plan for forcing the inquiry to set a deadline for publication.

Options include a formal parliamentary motion, where MPs would be asked to vote to compel Sir John to act.

Mr Davis said continuing delays to the six-year inquiry were ‘unjustifiable’, and he suggested the report should be published by October, when MPs are expected to be asked to support government plans to extend bombing raids against the Islamic State terror group into Iraq.

He said precise plans for parliament’s return next month were still being discussed, but added: ‘You can be sure that there will be action. At the very least we will be requiring him to explain why the report hasn’t been published and what the remaining constraints are.

‘But I think there will also be pressure to establish a timetable.’ His intervention came as Tony Blair’s former deputy John Prescott called the continuing delays a ‘disgrace’, and joined calls for parliament to act.

The latest delays have been blamed on the so-called ‘Maxwellisation’ process – a convention in which witnesses to an inquiry are informed of likely criticism in advance and given the chance to comment. The process has been going on for almost a year and there is no end in sight.

More than 150 witnesses are thought to be involved, including public figures like Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell, and senior military officers, spy chiefs and Whitehall mandarins.

Several are said to have engaged lawyers to argue their cases and protect their reputations.

Experts have pointed out that the process is not a legal requirement, and that many other inquiries have set tight deadlines for witnesses to respond.

Sir John Chilcot has attributed the latest delays  on the so-called ‘Maxwellisation’ process – a convention in which witnesses to an inquiry are informed of likely criticism in advance and given the chance to comment

Sir John Chilcot has attributed the latest delays on the so-called ‘Maxwellisation’ process – a convention in which witnesses to an inquiry are informed of likely criticism in advance and given the chance to comment

Former shadow home secretary David Davis said a cross-party group of MPs would hold discussions next week to draw up a battle plan for forcing the inquiry to set a deadline for publication

Former shadow home secretary David Davis said a cross-party group of MPs would hold discussions next week to draw up a battle plan for forcing the inquiry to set a deadline for publication

Mr Davis said: ‘Chilcot’s position is pretty untenable – just saying he will publish it when he is ready is not good enough.

‘He may be independent, but he’s also a public servant who has a duty, firstly to the families of those killed, but also to the public, to set out what happened so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.

‘There is no justification for taking longer than he has already, none at all.’

Mr Davis also hit out at Sir John over claims last week that criticism of the glacial pace of his inquiry stems from an Establishment plot designed to belittle him and his eventual findings.

More than 150 witnesses are thought to be involved in the inquiry, including public figures like Tony Blair (pictured in Iraq in 2006) and Alastair Campbell, and senior military officers, spy chiefs and Whitehall mandarins

More than 150 witnesses are thought to be involved in the inquiry, including public figures like Tony Blair (pictured in Iraq in 2006) and Alastair Campbell, and senior military officers, spy chiefs and Whitehall mandarins

‘That is unmitigated, petulant rubbish,’ the MP said. Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott yesterday became the latest senior figure to urge Sir John to set a deadline for the Maxwellisation process and a timetable for the publication of his report.

Lord Prescott, who was one of the last to give evidence to the inquiry five years ago, said the report should be released ‘even if there are objections from some of the witnesses’.

He added: ‘I have been involved in a number of inquiries where those who gave evidence were given the right of consultation before the publication of the report, which is only fair.

‘But five years and waiting is an unacceptably long period. It’s an insult to the families of men and women who gave their lives for their country.’

Lord Prescott said that if Sir John refuses to set a timetable, parliament should now ‘demand he appear to explain his reasons’.

David Cameron repeated calls for Sir John to publish the report last week, saying the public ‘want this inquiry out, and so do I’.

But government sources last night stressed Mr Cameron was reluctant to be seen to be interfering with the ‘independence’ of the inquiry by forcing a timetable upon it.

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