We were wrong to try to hold inquiry in secret, Miliband says

Foreign Secretary apologetic after series of U-turns on Iraq

David Miliband admitted yesterday that the Government had been wrong to attempt to hold the inquiry into the Iraq war in secret.

The Foreign Secretary also acknowledged that ministers had been forced to drastically change their position by the force of public opinion.

Mr Miliband, the first minister to make the controversial announcement that evidence would heard behind closed doors and then initially left to weather the storm of protest which followed said: "The unanimity of view that actually we need public sessions for this inquiry is something that the Government has listened to."

Asked if Gordon Brown had "got it wrong" when he insisted last week that the inquiry would be behind closed doors, Mr Miliband said: "We obviously did. There is no question about that. No one is arguing that we changed our position."

The Independent revealed that senior military officers such as General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the Army at the time of the Iraq invasion and Lord Butler and Lord Hutton, who had headed previous inquiries related to the war, wanted the hearings to be in the public. Former prime minister, Sir John Major, was among those who also opposed a secret hearing.

Mr Brown was forced to let Sir John Chilcot decide on the terms of the inquiry and Sir John stated that in his view it was "essential" that as much of the evidence should be heard in public as possible.

A humiliating Commons defeat for the Government on the issue was averted on Wednesday when Mr Miliband withdrew another of the initial Downing Street plans for the inquiry – that it would not apportion blame – and agreed that the final report could "praise or blame whoever it likes".

The retreat helped the Government see off a backbench revolt over the inquiry arrangements, although its majority was still slashed to 39.

A Tory motion demanding a re-think and a Commons vote on the inquiry's terms of reference was backed by 19 Labour MPs.

Earlier, Downing Street denied that Mr Brown had struck a deal with Lord Mandelson to spare Tony Blair from having to give evidence to the inquiry in public as the price of saving his premiership.

There had been claims that Lord Mandelson had won an "explicit" assurance from Mr Brown that the inquiry would be fully private and that it would be "manageable".

However, both Lord Mandelson and Mr Brown were said to have been taken by surprise by the strength of the opposition from senior military and Whitehall figures to a closed inquiry.

The Prime Minister's spokesman dismissed the report as "flawed", insisting that Mr Brown had not entered into any deals. We would certainly deny the suggestion that the Prime Minister has done any sort of deal," the spokesman said. We are not having the inquiry in secret so the whole premise of the article does seem to fall down on that basic point."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone