Skip to main content

UK delay on Iraq inquiry will cause more foreign policy blunders, says MP

Senior Conservative says Chilcot inquiry, commissioned six years ago, must be released as soon as possible to prevent 'irrecoverable harm'
David Davis said it was not 'hyperbole' to say delays had led to more lives lost

British MPs have pressed the government to release the much-delayed inquiry into the British decision to go to war in Iraq, with senior Conservative MP David Davis saying any further delays would harm Britain's ability to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

In a Commons backbench debate on Thursday, Davis said years of delays to the publication of the Chilcot report had already led to "irrecoverable harm" to Britain and British policy, adding it must be published as soon as possible to avoid future foreign policy blunders.

The Chilcot inquiry was commissioned more than six years ago to investigate Britain's role in the Iraq war. It has been delayed several times as officials wrangle over its final content due to national security concerns, but is due to be handed over to the government on Monday. 

The British prime minister, David Cameron, said in October that he predicted it would take two weeks to gain final security clearance from government officials once received. 

Davis said on Thursday there been three major foreign policy decisions made since this report was commissioned: Libya, Syria and again Iraq.

"The longer we leave it the less useful these lessons [in Chilcot] will be and the more likely it is that we will make the same mistakes," he said.

"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."

"It has now been over six and a half years since the inquiry was launched... five years since evidence was heard, and over a year since this house [last] called for the government to publish this report.

"This house calls on the government to conclude the national security checking as soon as possible after April 18 and no later than two weeks."

He pointed to the Scott inquiry into the Iraqi super-gun scandal, which ran the "whole gamut" of security checks, but was published on time.

"In contrast, Chilcot is tied up in protocols," he said.

Davis also called for full disclosure in the published report. 

"We know there have been long negotiations over the disclosures, most notably correspondence between Tony Blair and George W Bush."

He said there was "no point whatsoever" in the inquiry if it could not publish material on the decision to go to war. "That is the point," he said.

And Davis said that reports Chilcot would be delayed again to beyond the date of the June referendum on EU membership were unacceptable.

"The prime minister stated in October he expected security checks to take two weeks. I cannot believe that the clearance will take any longer than this given that every single piece of this report has already been negotiated with Whitehall.

"Given the prime minister is exasperated, the report should be published in the first week of May."

The prime minister's official spokeswoman told a media briefing on Thursday: "The PM's view is that he wants to see this report published as soon as possible. The timing is in the hands of Sir John Chilcot."

"We will be getting on with the national security checking that is a standard part of this kind of report as soon as possible," she added.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.