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MPs, Generals and Victims' Families Condemn Sir John Chilcot's 6-year Failure to Publish Findings into Iraq War

By Ian Drury and Tom Kelly

Daily Mail – 14 August 2015

Sir John Chilcot was last night accused of lacking a conscience as the clamour for him to publish his long-overdue report into the Iraq War intensified.

Julian Lewis, Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, stepped into the row by saying Sir John had failed to give ‘straight answers’ about the reasons for the delays. He added that 'anyone with a conscience' would have ensured the report was published quickly for the sake of bereaved relatives.

That sentiment was echoed by John Miller, whose 21-year-old son Simon was killed near Basra in 2003. He said:

'What kind of conscience does Chilcot have if he is allowing this to go on endlessly?'

Next week the inquiry will have lasted even longer than the six years and 69 days British troops fought in Iraq. Families of those killed in the conflict, top brass and politicians last night warned that a convention giving those facing criticism a chance to rebut findings – a process known as Maxwellisation – was being abused. They said it was being manipulated by leading figures who were 'desperately trying to save their reputation' at the expense of relatives trying to find out why Tony Blair sent their sons and daughters to fight.

Yesterday the Mail revealed that 29 families had launched an unprecedented legal battle to force Sir John to deliver his report on the controversial 2003 war – which cost 179 British lives – by the end of the year. They have given him a two-week ultimatum to set a date for releasing the report or they will fight him in the courts. They believe his decision not to set a timetable for publication is unlawful because inquiries should be concluded in a 'reasonable timeframe'. So far, the inquiry has already taken a ‘morally reprehensible’ six years and cost the taxpayer more than £10million.

Sir John, a 76-year-old retired civil servant, was yesterday faced mounting anger for allowing the inquiry, which has cost £10million, to drag on. Mr Lewis said:

'It is a mystery [to] everyone from the Prime Minister downwards why this inquiry is taking so long to report. Getting to the bottom of the circumstances under which the conflict came to take place gives the families some basis for saying this terrible chapter in their lives has been closed. That should be a major factor for anyone with a conscience to make sure it is published quickly.'

… If Sir John refuses to set a date for publication, the families will apply for a judicial review on the grounds that the inquiry has breached its own protocols by allowing the Maxwellisation process to run on. If successful, the families’ campaign could lead to the exposure of highly sensitive paperwork that Whitehall mandarins refused to hand to the Iraq Inquiry. It could also lead to judges ordering Sir John to set a timetable for disclosing the report.

Gordon Brown announced the inquiry in June 2009. Sir John and his committee had to study more than 150,000 documents – many of them top secret – and took oral testimony from more than 150 witnesses, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. He initially intended to publish in late-2011. David Cameron earlier this month told Sir John to name the date when he will deliver his report. Last night an inquiry spokesman said Sir John would not comment on the process of allowing those facing criticism to offer rebuttals, saying it was 'confidential'. Asked about criticism from the families, the spokesman said Sir John had ‘no comment’.