UK Politics

Iraq Inquiry report security checks 'to take two weeks'

Sir John Chilcot Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir John Chilcot's report was started in 2009

Security checks on the Iraq War inquiry will take two weeks to complete - but publication is not expected until June or July, a minister says.

John Penrose said the report's author, Sir John Chilcot, would understand the frustration at how long it was taking.

Conservative MP David Davis said the delay could cost lives as subsequent deployment decisions are taken without the lessons learned from Iraq.

Sir John set himself a deadline of next week to finish writing the report.

The inquiry, which is considering how UK forces came to participate in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its aftermath, began in 2009 under former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In October Sir John said the text of the report would be finished on 18 April, at which point national security checking could begin, with a view to publishing in June or July 2016.

Mr Penrose, a minister in the Cabinet Office, told MPs the government was expecting to receive the report next week but that the publication timetable would be controlled by Sir John.

'Same mistakes'

"The government's contribution, which is the national security checking, will be done in two weeks or less, and we will deliver on our pledge," he said.

Mr Penrose said Sir John would "understand the thirst to see the results of his work" and would have "listened to the tone and tenor of this debate".

He also said there was nothing in the rules governing the EU referendum that would mean the report could not be published until after the 23 June poll.

Mr Davis and other MPs called for publication in the first week of May.

The former shadow home secretary said: "The longer we leave it the less useful these lessons will be and the more likely it is that we will make the same mistakes.

'Some time'

"A decision such as those that were made in Libya, Syria and Iraq are made without the knowledge or facts, mistakes are made, and sometimes people die as a result.

"It's not hyperbole to say delay to the Iraq Inquiry could cost lives because bad decisions could be made - I would go further, I'd say it probably did cost lives because bad decisions were made."

Downing Street said the prime minister wanted the report to be published "as soon as possible".

Mr Cameron's spokeswoman said once it was completed the process of national security checking could begin, then it needed to be proofread - "so that may take some time".

In his October letter to the prime minister, Sir John said security checking was "normal and necessary" with inquiries handling large amounts of sensitive material.

"I consider that once national security checking has been completed it should be possible to agree a date for publication in June or July 2016," he added.

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