Monday, June 22, 2009

A Public Inquiry?

Iraq inquiry now likely to be public

Published 22 June 2009

Brown set to abandon plans for secret inquiry following opposition criticism.

Gordon Brown is set to abandon plans to hold the forthcoming Iraq inquiry in secret after widespread criticism over his decision.

The government is likely to support the section of a Conservative motion arguing that the inquiry “should be wherever possible held in public”.

A series of ministers yesterday indicated that they believed large parts of the inquiry could be held in public.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said: “As Foreign Secretary at the time I have no problem with giving most of the evidence I have got to give in public.”

He said that Brown's decision to launch a private inquiry was largely based on the 1982 Franks Inquiry into the Falklands war, which was held behind closed doors.

“That was what they had been calling for time after time after time, and they dismissed other inquiries that had been held,” he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

“Now, Franks was held in private exclusively. It was for that reason, no other, that Gordon Brown decided to do that.”

There are also concerns that witnesses will be less candid if the inquiry is open to the public. But Sadiq Khan, the transport minister, said: “I suspect there will be many, many parts of the inquiry held in public.”

It was reported yesterday that Brown's decision to hold a private inquiry was influenced by Tony Blair. The Observer reported that the former Prime Minister lobbied against a public inquiry because he feared he would be subjected to a “show trial”.

But a spokesman for Blair said: “This is a decision for the current Prime Minister, not the former one.”

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, is said to have communicated Blair's anxieties to Brown. Yesterday the Northern Ireland Secretary, Shaun Woodward, confirmed that Blair had discussed the inquiry with O'Donnell.

“Of course the cabinet secretary discussed this with the former prime minister because he obviously will be one of the major witnesses who will be giving evidence to Sir John Chilcot's inquiry,” he said.

The inquiry will be chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a former senior civil servant in Northern Ireland, and will also include Sir Martin Gilbert, a major military historian; Sir Roderick Lyne, the former British ambassador to Moscow; Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King's College London and the crossbench peer Baroness Usha Prashar. It is unlikely to report before the next general election.


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