The deputy prime minister has said a delay into the publication of the inquiry into why Britain went to war in Iraq could lead the public to think it's being "sexed down".
"If the findings are not published with a sense of immediacy, there is a real danger the public will assume the report is being 'sexed down' by individuals rebutting criticisms put to them by the Inquiry, whether that is the case or not," Nick Clegg wrote in a letter to Sir John Chilcot, who chairs the inquiry into the UK's role in the war on Iraq in 2003.
Clegg noted that when the inquiry was launched in 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown told parliament the report would be published in 2010.
But months after it was announced that the inquiry has now cost in excess of £10 million, The Guardian has reported that the report will not be published until after the election.
Chilcot will exchange a series of letters with the prime minister tomorrow detailing why the inquiry cannot be published before the general election in May.
"The public have waited long enough," Clegg wrote in his letter, noting that "members of the public, soldiers and their families affected by the war are still waiting for closure".
Only weeks earlier, Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary David Davis said it was "totally unacceptable" that the report had not already been published.
"Whatever the hold-ups and political wranglings that are delaying publication, the time has come to publish or be damned," he said. "The suggestion that the report will be delayed until after the election, if it is not ready to be published by the end of February, further damages the inquiry's credibility and undermines the final report."
Clegg's full letter to Chilcot is below:
I read your letter providing an update on progress with the Inquiry you chair into the United Kingdom's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
I was disappointed to read its content, however, and find it extremely frustrating that the findings of this Inquiry will not be made public in days and weeks, but potentially months.
When the independent Inquiry was first set up in 2009, the then Prime Minister Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP stated in the House of Commons that the final report would be published within a year.
However nearly six years on members of the public, soldiers and their families affected by the war are still waiting for closure.
I welcome your efforts to ensure the inquiry has been methodical, rigorous and fair in its approach. I also support your efforts to allow individuals criticised in the report to see the draft criticism and make representations to the Inquiry before publication.
However neither administrative processes nor a constant back and forth between the Inquiry and witnesses criticised should frustrate an independent report so important to the country's future from being published as soon as possible.
The public have waited long enough and will find it incomprehensible that the report is not being published more rapidly than the open ended timetable you have now set out.
We need to see a much clearer and more defined timetable, known publicly, with strict deadlines and a firm date for publication.
If the findings are not published with a sense of immediacy, there is a real danger the public will assume the report is being 'sexed down' by individuals rebutting criticisms put to them by the Inquiry, whether that is the case or not.
The Inquiry into Iraq will both resolve the issues of the past, and set the tone for future British foreign policy. We cannot wait any longer for these lessons to be learned.
Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Siraj Datoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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