Thursday, June 18, 2009

PASC - The Iraq Inquiry

The Public Administation Select Committee have published their report into the formulation of the Iraq inquiry following their seminar held on 11 June :

Conclusions and recommendations:

1. While we welcome the Government’s announcement that an inquiry into Iraq will be held, that it will have a broad scope, and that it will aim to learn lessons from the decision to go to war, the conflict and its aftermath, there is a strong risk that the inquiry as currently constituted will not be able to pursue what should be its fundamental purpose: to identify the truth and ensure that the executive can be held properly accountable for its decisions and conduct in relation to Iraq. This fundamental purpose should be encapsulated within the inquiry’s formal terms of reference. (Paragraph 6)

2. We recommend that consideration be given to splitting the inquiry into two stages: the first stage to concentrate on the British decision to go to war; and the second stage to consider the broader lessons from the conflict and its aftermath. (Paragraph 7)

3. The need for effective accountability and public confidence demands that the inquiry be conducted as openly and publicly as possible. We recommend that the Government reconsiders its decision to conduct the Iraq inquiry in private. There needs instead to be a presumption in favour of the inquiry proceeding in an open and public manner. There should be only very limited exceptions to this general rule, which would be best decided by the members of the inquiry itself, not by the Government. (Paragraph 16)

4. In setting up the Iraq inquiry, the Government has—in our view wrongly—adopted the top-down process that we warned against. One way of putting this right, at least in part, would be to give Parliament a formal role in establishing the inquiry. (Paragraph 18)

5. It is not too late now for the Government to allow, at minimum, a debate and free vote in the House of Commons on its proposal for an inquiry. It is wrong in principle that the executive alone should determine the terms of this inquiry, when the conduct of the executive is a central part of what the inquiry will have to consider. (Paragraph 18)

6. Given the nature of the inquiry and the scope of the issues it is considering, we believe that the Iraq inquiry would benefit from the inclusion of members with political experience as a minority of its membership. (Paragraph 20)

7. The Iraq inquiry is a unique opportunity to explore issues about which there has been significant public disquiet for some time. Only if the inquiry is conducted in a manner which is legitimate and credible—and is seen to be so—will the public be assured that it is not a whitewash. We welcome the fact that there is to be an inquiry. But it is the wrong kind of inquiry, decided and announced in the wrong kind of way. We urge the Government to reconsider the way in which the Iraq inquiry will be conducted, so that this key opportunity to restore public confidence is not missed. (Paragraph 21)

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