The long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war should be published by the end of the year, David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister admitted yesterday it was “frustrating” that publication had been delayed and said the public “want to see the answers of the inquiry”. But he added he expected the report would be finalised long before the next election.
“My understanding is that they will be able to publish before the end of the year and I very much hope they can deliver on that timetable,” he said. “The public wants to see the answers of the inquiry and I think we shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.”
Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry completed public hearings in 2011, but its report is understood to have been held back by negotiations over the publication of private communications between Tony Blair, prime minister at the time of the 2003 conflict, and then-US president George Bush.
The Cabinet Office has privately said it wants to release as much of the correspondence as possible – but it is fearful it could set a precedent for future requests for confidential Government correspondence.
The House of Commons Public Administration Committee described the delay as “very serious” and its chairman, Bernard Jenkin, has written to the Cabinet Office demanding an explanation for the hold-up. The report could prove difficult for Labour in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
Mr Jenkin made clear that he is ready to summon ministers, and Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, for questioning by his committee on the reason why the report has not yet been published. In an interview for BBC2’s Daily Politics, Mr Jenkin said: “It’s very serious that this report is now at least four years overdue, so we’ve written to the minister to ask for an explanation as to why these delays have occurred, what is holding up the publication of the report and how these issues are going to be resolved. We may well call for the minister, or indeed the Cabinet Secretary, to come and give us evidence to explain how they are going to sort this out.”
Following the completion of his inquiry, Sir John began a process known as “Maxwellisation” under which individuals facing criticism may respond before publication.
Radio 4’s Today programme reported that the Cabinet Office said the process would be concluded as quickly as possible.