Ed Balls welcomes open Iraq enquiry

Education Secretary Ed Balls today said it would be a "good thing" to hold some of the Iraq War inquiry in public as Gordon Brown faced fury from Labour backbenchers over his initial decision to hold the hearings in private.

Mr Balls, a close ally of Mr Brown, said the inquiry, under chairman Sir John Chilcot, was independent and politicians could not dictate whether hearings were in public.



"He (Gordon Brown) said last week that he is talking to Mr Chilcot who is going to do the inquiry. They will decide how they do this," he told GMTV.



"I think that they will be really keen to make sure that members of the public can put their views and former service people as well.



"And if they decide to do some hearings in public then that will be a good thing but that is really a matter for them."



He added: "I think the important thing is that it is an independent inquiry so the guy in charge of the inquiry should decide rather than politicians saying 'you have got to do it this way, or that way'."



His remarks were made after Transport Minister Sadiq Khan yesterday acknowledged the controversy over the inquiry "looked awful" but was partly due to a lack of understanding about the power and autonomy that would be given to Sir John.



It was reported yesterday that former prime minister Tony Blair urged Mr Brown to hold the inquiry in secret.



Mr Brown has faced severe criticism for announcing on Monday the inquiry would be held behind closed doors and was forced into a partial climbdown days later.



After an array of senior figures denounced the decision to hold hearings in private, Downing Street said on Thursday Sir John would have some discretion in how he conducted proceedings.



Mr Khan, Britain's most senior Muslim politician, told BBC1's Politics Show: "I suspect there will be many, many parts of the inquiry held in public."



Asked to admit the situation "did not look good", Mr Khan conceded: "It looked awful. One of the reasons was a lack of understanding of what chairs of inquiries do."



He added: "The terms of reference were set out, from 2001 to 2009, Sir John will decide how his inquiry is held."



Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said he would have no objection to giving most of his evidence in public.



He said the indications from Sir John were that it would be "mixed".



The Prime Minister had taken the Franks Inquiry into the Falklands War, which was held in private, as a model, he said.



"That was what the Conservatives had been calling for time after time after time, and they dismissed other inquiries that had been held," he told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1.



"Now Franks was held in private exclusively. It was for that reason, no other, that Gordon Brown decided to do that."



Mr Straw added: "As foreign secretary at the time I have no problem with giving most of the evidence I have got to give in public."



Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said a public inquiry could take years to complete.



He told Sky News's Sunday Live the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday had taken nine years to investigate the events of one afternoon and had cost hundreds of millions of pounds.



"What the public need, and certainly what the MoD needs, is to learn the lessons and learn them fast," he said.



The Observer reported yesterday that Mr Blair pressed the Prime Minister to hold an inquiry behind closed doors because he feared he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were open to the public.



He is said to have communicated his view to his successor, Mr Brown, via the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell. He feared a direct conversation would be leaked, The Observer claimed.



A spokesman for Mr Blair said: "This is a decision for the current Prime Minister, not the former one."



Mr Woodward confirmed Mr Blair had held talks with Sir Gus about giving evidence to the inquiry.



He said: "Of course the Cabinet Secretary discussed this with the former prime minister because he obviously will be one of the major witnesses who will be giving evidence to Sir John Chilcot's inquiry."



Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May seized upon the comments made by Mr Khan.



She told the Politics Show: "This is amazing. If it's a Government u-turn and the inquiry is now going to be held in public then I welcome that."



Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Mr Blair should give evidence to the inquiry in public and under oath.



He said he would be meeting Sir John this week to tell him the only way for the inquiry to have legitimacy is for it to be as public as possible.



Mr Clegg told the Andrew Marr Show: "If the inquiry is to have any legitimacy the prime architect of the decision to go to war in Iraq, alongside George Bush, should give his evidence in public under oath."











PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform