Iraq war inquiry will be held in private

Findings will be more thorough if proceedings are secret, Miliband says

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, angered critics of the Iraq war yesterday when he indicated that a long-awaited inquiry into the planning and execution of the conflict, promised by the Prime Minister, would be held behind closed doors.

He told MPs that the inquiry would be approved "as soon as practicable" once most British combat troops had returned home at the end of July. He admitted there were "important lessons to be learnt" from how the campaign was planned and carried out. But Mr Miliband also suggested its proceedings should be held in secret, similar to the Franks inquiry into the Falklands War. He said a private inquiry – proposed by the Conservatives – would prevent leaks, preserve the privacy of troops involved and enable those overseeing the investigation to see confidential Cabinet papers.

"It would preserve confidentiality that's very, very important for all of our troops," he said. "The fact that [Franks] was conducted in private meant it had access to all the relevant papers. Franks was not a judicial inquiry so it did not require its witnesses to have lawyers. There were no leaks or interim findings to distract from the final conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry."

The Tory motion stating there was "no reasonable impediment" to announcing a Privy Council inquiry (over a judicial one) was rejected 303 to 265, a Government majority of 38.

Mr Miliband's statement came as relatives of some of those killed in the conflict delivered a letter to Downing Street demanding a full public inquiry. A senior government source said a final decision over the type and scope of the inquiry was yet to be made but secret hearings could make the published findings far more comprehensive.

The Liberal Democrats said parts of the inquiry would have to be heard in camera for national security and privacy reasons but holding all proceedings in private would undermine public confidence in the process.

"The Labour Government and Conservative Party must not be allowed to stitch up the British public with the kind of narrow and secretive inquiry which would suit them both," said Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman. "To be effective, this inquiry cannot sit in private and must be as open and transparent as possible.

"We cannot afford another whitewash like the Hutton report if we are to have any hope of restoring British democracy's reputation at home and across the world."

The Labour backbencher Jeremy Corbyn, who opposed the Iraq invasion, said the case for an inquiry had become "overwhelming" and called for it be "more open" than the one envisaged by the Conservatives.

Mr Miliband promised the inquiry would be "comprehensive" and focus on "both the conduct of the war and the conduct of the peace-building afterwards". But he would not confirm whether it would cover the Government's use of intelligence in the run-up to the war, or whether Tony Blair misled Parliament over the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. The Tories accused Mr Miliband of delaying the inquiry so that its potentially damaging findings would not be published before the next general election. Mr Miliband said it would be approved as soon as possible after 31 July, when British forces in Iraq are reduced to a rump of under 400 personnel. But since MPs head home for the summer recess from 22 July, a formal announcement of the inquiry could not be made before October.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said there was no "reasonable impediment" to beginning the inquiry straight away. He called on Mr Miliband to make an announcement before Parliament breaks up for the summer.

"This should have been done long ago," he said. "It is alarming that by setting a date of 31 July, when Parliament will have adjourned for the summer, the Government are now dragging out at the setting up of an inquiry until the autumn. This is unacceptable."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Purchaser

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: his is a unique opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Summarises financial status by ...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss