Brown called before Iraq inquiry – but after the election

David Miliband and Douglas Alexander will also testify to Chilcot

Gordon Brown and two senior members of the Cabinet have been spared from giving key evidence to the Iraq inquiry until after next year’s general election amid accusations that ministers were being given special treatment.

The reprieve will allow Mr Brown, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander to avoid the embarrassment of giving evidence before the general election. Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry team claimed that the decision had been made as it wanted to remain “firmly outside party politics”.

However, Jack Straw, who was the Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion and remains in the Cabinet, will be questioned before the election. Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, Alastair Campbell, his former spokesman, and Jonathan Powell, Mr’s Blair’s former chief of staff, will also give evidence before the start of any election campaign.

The inquiry team has already been honing in on Mr Brown’s pivotal role in funding the reconstruction of Iraq after the March 2003 invasion. The Treasury’s failure to provide the necessary resources has been raised by several military and Whitehall figures during the inquiry’s first round of public hearings. Lieutenant General Sir Freddie Viggers, Britain’s senior military representative in Iraq in 2003, said that “amateurs” in charge of the reconstruction effort led to “people getting killed as a result”. The decision to postpone his appearance until after the election means that the public may have to wait until as late as June to see the Prime Minister quizzed on the subject.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, told the Independent last night that the public should be allowed to hear from those who were involved in the decision to go to war in Iraq before they cast their vote. “It seems a remarkable coincidence that all the ministers whose evidence will be so crucial to the conclusions of this inquiry will not be required to speak until after the election,” he said. “Voters have a right to know what made these ministers agree to such a catastrophic foreign policy decision before they decide whether to trust them with another term in Government.

“Gordon Brown was happy to sign the cheques for the war, it’s a pity he’s not so happy to explain his reasons for doing so.”

The Tories accused the inquiry team of giving into pressure from the Government not to politicise the proceedings, adding that Mr Brown had been trying to delay its final report. “Everyone will want to know whether this decision of the inquiry was influenced by ministers in any way,” said William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary. “The public will rightly ask why it is that numerous officials have given evidence to the inquiry about their role in carrying out the Government's policy on Iraq, but not a single minister has had to face questioning.

“Now we have the added effect of ministers not having to give evidence at all before the election. Gordon Brown’s efforts to delay the inquiry have been the very opposite of open and accountable government.”

Sir John Chilcot’s five-strong inquiry committee has already been criticised for its establishment links, which has led to suspicions that is has given the Government an easy ride so far. A spokeswoman for the Chilcot inquiry said that there had been no contact with No.10 over when Mr Brown would give evidence. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that he had “always been clear that he and ministers would cooperate fully with it”. He added that it was for the inquiry to decide who would give evidence and when they would give it.

The next round of public hearings, to take place in January and February, will see a string of big names appear before the inquiry. The committee had already confirmed that Tony Blair would be on the list, finally unveiled yesterday. Two of his closest advisers, who were involved in the drafting of the September 2002 dossier outlining the Government’s case for invading Iraq, have also been called.

Both Mr Campbell and Mr Powell are expected to be questioned about their influence over the dossier, which claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within 45 minutes. It has already emerged that Mr Campbell suggested 11 alterations to a draft of the dossier, overseen by intelligence chief, John Scarlett. In a private email, Mr Powell also asked Mr Campbell about the headlines they hoped to produce with the final dossier.

The inquiry will also hear from Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a senior lawyer within the Foreign Office, who resigned her post after concluding that the invasion was illegal without further clearance from the United Nations. Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general who is understood to have had doubts over the legality of the 2003 invasion, will also give evidence.

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam