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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory