Tuesday, 18 August 2009



"Our terms of reference are very broad, but the essential points, as set out by the Prime Minister and agreed by the House of Commons, are that this is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors. It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath. We will therefore be considering the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country."

Sir John Chilcot
The Iraq Inquiry
30th July 2009

Why is there going to be an Inquiry?
As the Prime Minister explained to the House of Commons on 15 June 2009, the purpose of the Inquiry is to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict.

What is its remit/terms of reference?
The Inquiry has been asked to consider the period from summer 2001, before military operations began in March 2003, and the UK’s subsequent involvement in Iraq up to the end of July 2009. The Prime Minister told the House of Commons: “the Iraq Inquiry will look at the run-up to the conflict, the conflict itself and the reconstruction.” The objective is to learn the lessons from the events surrounding the conflict.

Who are the members of the Inquiry Committee?
Sir John Chilcot (Chairman), Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Roderic Lyne, and Baroness Usha Prashar.

Who picked the members?
The Prime Minister appointed the members of the Committee. Opposition parties were consulted.

Why don’t you have politicians on the Inquiry team?
The Committee’s membership is a matter for the Government. Sir John has, however, discussed his approach to the Inquiry with the Government, leaders of Opposition parties, Chairmen of relevant House of Commons Committees and other interested Parliamentarians. The Committee will continue to discuss the Inquiry with politicians as the Inquiry progresses.

What experts does the Inquiry have to assist it, and what experience do they have?
The Committee intends to take advice from specialist advisers with expertise in international law, military operations and post-conflict reconstruction.

Will the Inquiry say whether anybody involved in the Iraq conflict should face criminal charges?
Will it be able to apportion blame?
The Inquiry is not a court of law. The members of the Committee are not judges, and nobody is on trial. But if the Committee find that mistakes were made, that there were issues which could have been dealt with better, it will say so.

What difference will the Inquiry make?
The Inquiry will provide a reliable account of events that will help identify lessons to guide future foreign policy decision-making and decisions regarding conflict and post-conflict situations.

Why is the Inquiry being held now?
Governments decide the timings of inquiries. The Government had repeatedly said that an Inquiry should be held once combat troops had left Iraq so as not to undermine their role there. Combat troops have now withdrawn and the Government has judged this is now the right time to begin an Inquiry.

When will the Inquiry start taking evidence?
Evidence from witnesses will begin being heard in autumn 2009. Before then the Committee will be examining an extensive amount of Government papers and other written material.

Will records of proceedings be available on the Inquiry website?
The Inquiry team intends to make records of the public evidence sessions available on the website.

Will all the documentary evidence be published on the website?
The Committee intends to publish the key evidence with its report at the end of the Inquiry. It may also publish material on the website as the Inquiry progresses where this will help increase public understanding of its ongoing work.

Can members of the public and media attend hearings?
Yes, there will be seats both for the media and the public for the public evidence sessions.

What are the rules surrounding public attendance?
Members of the public will be asked to follow certain standards of behaviour, similar to those in a courtroom, although this is not a judicial inquiry. A leaflet will be given to anyone entering the hearing centre outlining these standards.

What facilities will be available for the media?
The Inquiry team will provide details in due course. Hearings will not begin until later this year.

Will the Inquiry proceedings be televised?
The Committee wants to ensure that as many people as possible have access to what is happening in the public hearings, either direct or through the media. That includes the possibility of public hearings being televised and live streaming on the internet.

When and how will the report be published?
The Committee members intend to complete their task as quickly as possible but cannot know how long the Inquiry will take until they have read the background material and heard the evidence. The Prime Minister in his statement of 15 June said that he wanted the Committee to publish its report as fully as possible, disclosing all but the most sensitive information essential to our national security. It will be published as a Parliamentary paper and debated in both Houses of Parliament.

Will it be available on the internet?

Will all the written and oral evidence be published in the report?
It is the Committee’s intention to publish all the relevant evidence except where national security considerations prevent that.

Will there be an interim report?
If, as the Committee work through the evidence, it considers that it would be helpful to publish an interim report, it will do so. But it is more likely, given the purpose of the Inquiry – identifying lessons for the way government acts and takes decisions in the future - that its report will be a single one at the end of the Committee’s deliberations.

Will the Committee finish before the next General Election, June at the latest? (Very latest possible date, June 2010)
No. The amount of evidence to be examined and analysed means that to ensure the Inquiry is comprehensive and rigorous it will not be possible to finish before June 2010.

Have any witnesses been granted anonymity for this Inquiry?
So far, no-one has been identified as a witness. There may be a small number of people whom the Inquiry decides it would be inappropriate to identify.

How much of the evidence will be given in private?
Sir John Chilcot has made clear his desire for as much as possible of the proceedings to be held in public, consistent with the need to protect national security and ensure that the terms of reference are fulfilled to the fullest extent.

How will the Inquiry decide whether evidence should be given in private?
The Committee’s guiding principle is to establish a reliable account of what happened. The treatment of witnesses will be determined, on a case by case basis, by its best judgement on how to do that.

Whom will the Inquiry call to give evidence?
The people the Committee invites to give evidence will be those it judges, having considered the material before it, are best placed to supply the information it needs to conduct its task thoroughly. As the Inquiry progresses it will become clear to whom it needs to speak.

Will names of witnesses be provided in advance?
The Inquiry will publish on its website a timetable for forthcoming public hearing sessions.

How is the Government cooperating with the Inquiry?
As the Prime Minister told the House, the Inquiry can ask for any document and no UK witness will be beyond the scope of the Inquiry. The Government has assured the Inquiry of the full cooperation of the relevant Departments.

Will the Inquiry look into issues that are being considered by other proceedings outside this Inquiry?
There may be issues that are subject to other ongoing proceedings – for example, legal proceedings or police investigations - on which it would not be appropriate for this Inquiry to comment. We will decide this on a case-by-case basis, and subject to legal advice.

Does the inquiry have a Freedom of Information policy?
The Inquiry, itself, is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, so the Act does not apply. However, in addition to its hearings being open to the public and the media wherever possible, the Inquiry's website will contain transcripts of public hearings and other key information relating to the work of the Inquiry.

How much will the Inquiry cost/how much is the budget?
The Government has assured the Committee that it will have the resources it needs to do its job properly. At the same time, it is determined to ensure that it runs the Inquiry efficiently and does not waste public money.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Sunday 2 August - Commentary

The inquiry is some way off, but the commentators are filling up the column inches. Here's the pick of the day:

Mail on Sunday: reckons the Iraq inquiry will look again at the death of Dr David Kelly. I hope otherwise - the death of Dr Kelly is a matter for a proper inquest, including the unanswered questions in the wake of Hutton.

The Sunday Telegraph: Matthew d'Ancona reckons Blair will slither away unscathed based on his Hutton performance. I hope otherwise - most commentators would probably agree that Blair's evidence was not tested and that Hutton steered clear of many of the matters that Chilcott should be considering. There's more evidence out there now than then, and Blair no longer poses the awkward constitutional position of being prime minister, as he did at the time of Hutton.

Plenty of commentary and the inquiry hasn't even started properly! Long may it continue....