UK Politics

Chilcot Iraq Inquiry: MPs to debate report delays

Tony Blair with President George W. Bush in 2003
Image caption The "gist" of conversations between George Bush and Tony Blair will be published

A cross-party group of MPs has secured a Commons debate in which they will push for publication of the long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war.

The MPs, including former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve, are concerned the report will not be published before May's election.

The debate, which has been granted by the Backbench Business Committee, will take place on 29 January.

The inquiry by Sir John Chilcot was set up under the last government in 2009.

It took evidence from its last witness in 2011, but there have been prolonged discussions about which documents would be allowed into the public domain.

In June last year, Sir John announced he was satisfied that the "gist" of talks between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush could be made public, removing a major obstacle to publication of his report.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir John Chilcot's inquiry was set up in 2009

He then intended to write to those who were to be criticised to give them an opportunity to respond before publication.

The MPs, who also include former Conservative frontbencher David Davis, Lib Dem former Home Office Minister Norman Baker, Labour backbenchers, Scottish and Welsh nationalists and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, said they feared this process was being abused by people wanting to delay the report until after the general election.

Mr Blair has previously said he wanted the Chilcot report to be published as soon as possible and that he "resented" claims he was to blame for its slow progress.

The MPs, who formally asked the Backbench Business Committee to provide time for a debate, hope the move will allow them to press for publication by the middle of February - and they will call on Sir John to explain the reasons for any delays.

Government ministers have conceded that if the final report is not completed by the end of February, it would be wrong to release it in the heat of a closely-fought election campaign.

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