Transcript of Iraq Inquiry launch news conference on 30th of July 2009

Sir John Chilcot, Chairman, the Iraq Inquiry: Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much for coming. My name is Sir John Chilcot and I’m the chairman of the Iraq Inquiry and beside me, seated, are the other members of the inquiry team: Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Roderic Lyne and Baroness Usha Prashar.
What I would like to do today is explain what we think our task is and how we intend to approach it. Our terms of reference are very broad, but the essential points – as set out by the Prime Minister and endorsed by the House of Commons – are that this is an inquiry by a committee of Privy Councillors. It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath. We will, therefore, be considering the United Kingdom’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish as accurately and reliably as possible what happened, and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Now, those lessons will help to ensure that if we face similar situations in future the Government of the day will be best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner, in the interests of the country.

The inquiry will have access to all the information held by the Government and may ask any British citizen to appear before it. In the Prime Minister’s words – I quote: “No British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the inquiry” – end of quote. So the potential scope of the inquiry is considerable. Many inquiries focus on a specific event, within a relatively limited period, but we have been asked to examine a range of decisions and actions over a period of eight years. There are differing views about what happened during that period and why which we will need to address. We will also, by the way, need to place that whole period of years in a broader historical context.

The committee was asked to start work as soon as possible after the end of July; we’re still in July, but we have actually started work already. We have made our first requests to Government for Government documents and we will have a huge amount of reading and analysis to do over the next few weeks and months to help us to identify the critical issues on which to focus. During this initial phase, the inquiry team will engage specialised experts, advisors, assessors on international law, on military operations and on reconstruction, to help us interpret the evidence. One of our first priorities is to hear from the families of those who died during the conflict and others who were seriously affected, including veterans’ groups. We want to know what they think the inquiry’s priorities should be, and I have already written to many of the families explaining what we are doing. We will be making arrangements to offer meetings, to those who want them, as soon as practicable. We will leave it to them to decide whether these discussions are held in public, or in private, or indeed whether they wish to talk to us at all. We will be sensitive to and respect their wishes.
We come to this task with open minds and a commitment to review the evidence objectively. Each member of the committee is independent and non-partisan. We are determined to be thorough, rigorous, fair and frank, to enable us to form impartial and evidence-based judgements on all aspects of the issues, including the arguments about the legality of the conflict. We will be thorough and rigorous in our analysis of the evidence, taking advice – as I have said – from a range of specialist experts. In order to be fair and to get the most… fair to and to get the most from witnesses, we will adopt an inquisitorial approach to our task, taking evidence direct from witnesses, rather than conducting our business through lawyers. The inquiry is not a court of law and nobody is on trial, but I want to make one thing absolutely clear. This committee will not shy away from making criticisms. If we find that mistakes were made, that there were issues which could have been dealt with better, we will say so frankly.

We are all committed to ensuring that our proceedings are as open as possible because we recognise that is one of the ways in which the public can have confidence in the integrity and independence of the inquiry process. In that spirit, we want to ensure that as many people as possible have access to what is happening in the public hearings – either direct or through the media; that includes the possibility of public hearings being televised and live streaming on the internet. We will need to decide the detailed arrangements nearer the time, but we are committed to openness. We will have a website for the public to access transcripts of hearings and factual and other background material, as well as details on how to contact us if they think they have information relevant to our investigation.

I have already made clear, in my letter to the Prime Minister, that I consider that as much as possible of the inquiry’s hearings should be in public. For the inquiry to succeed in getting to the heart of what happened and what lessons need to be learned for the future, we recognise that some evidence sessions will need to be private. Sometimes that will be consistent with the need to protect national security, sometimes to ensure complete candour and openness from witnesses, but I repeat, the hearings will be held in public whenever possible.

There will be speculation about who we call as witnesses. The people we invite to give evidence will be those we judge, having considered the material before us, are best placed to supply the information we need to conduct our task thoroughly. That will, of course, include the former prime minister and other senior figures involved in decision-taking, but not all of the witnesses will be household names; some may be junior officials, with vital evidence about the way their managers and leaders acted.
We intend to complete our task as quickly as possible, but we are also determined to be thorough. We cannot know, at this stage, how long the inquiry will take, until we have read and analysed the background material and heard evidence. If, as we work through the evidence, we consider that it would be helpful to publish an interim report, we will do so, but it is more likely, given the purpose of our inquiry – identifying lessons for the way Government acts and takes decisions in the future – that our report will be a single one at the end of the committee’s deliberations. The report will be published and then debated in Parliament.

We recognise that our task of identifying lessons for the future is a difficult and important one. It is one which we all take extremely seriously. My promise to you today is that we will approach the task in the thorough, rigorous, fair and frank way I have outlined, with a shared commitment, both to openness and to completing our task, our work, as quickly as the task allows. Thank you.

Rae Stewart, Head of Communications, the Iraq Inquiry: We’ve got some time for questions now. So… I’ll be moderating the questions – ask through me, if you will. And when the microphone gets to you just say who you are, what your organisation is, ask the question, then hand the mike back. Thank you.

Nicholas Witchell, BBC News: Thanks very much. Nicholas Witchell, BBC News. Sir John, notwithstanding what you’ve said about your intention to be independent and non-partisan, the fact of the matter is that for most of your career you’ve been a distinguished Whitehall insider. I wonder what you can say to reassure people that you and your fellow Privy Councillors will be capable of stepping outside the culture of Whitehall and delivering a report that is truly dispassionate, and not one from a Whitehall perspective?

SJC: I think it’s 13 years since I was a civil servant, and a lot has happened since. But the values that the civil service that I worked in for much of a career are still upheld, and they include objectivity, impartiality, serving Governments of whatever complexion, but serving also the truth. I should point out that the members of this committee include eminent historians from quite outside Government, an eminent former diplomat, and Baroness Prashar, who has held various independent positions within the broader public sphere. I don’t think any of us, candidly, are prisoners of what you describe as a Whitehall culture, if by that you mean a culture that is subservient to the Government of the day or takes the truth and impartiality as less than prime standards to be upheld. The proof of this exercise will be in the report itself, and the quality, the independence, the thoroughness, the evidence bases of the judgements and conclusions we reach.

Niall Paterson, Sky News: Thanks. Niall Paterson from Sky News. Sir John, you were involved in Lord Butler’s review. I was wondering how the work that was done there, the work done by Lord Hutton and the two parliamentary investigations, how that might inform what you hope to achieve? And just on a point of procedure: is it the case that the inquiry can compel witnesses to attend? If not, do you feel that might hinder you in any way?

SJC: Thank you. So far as previous inquiries, and there have of course been several – there’s the Butler Committee, of which I was a member, there was Lord Hutton’s report on the death of Dr David Kelly, there was the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report and the Intelligence and Security Committee report – all of those, and the evidence which lay behind them, are available to us. Insofar as there would be fresh evidence bearing on any conclusions they reached, we would want to look at that afresh. But in the main it will be a valuable store of information on which we can draw. You had a second question, a different one, about whether witnesses can be forced to appear. Frankly, I do not expect any witness whom we invite to refuse to appear. It seems to me highly unlikely.

Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English: Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English. Can I ask: do you intend to make any arrangements to travel to Iraq or to take evidence from people in Iraq who may provide vital information for the whole process that is now ongoing?
SJC: I’m clear that a visit to Iraq must be on our agenda, and equally that discussions with Iraqis, whether in Iraq itself or elsewhere in the world, will be an important part of the body of, if not of evidence, then of information that we need to get. I think the short answer to your question is yes.

Bill Neely, ITV News: Bill Neely from ITV News. Lord Guthrie, former chief of the defence staff, has said that it’s important that this inquiry is not a whitewash as so many of these inquiries are. How can you reassure a deeply sceptical public that this inquiry will not be a whitewash?

SJC: The independence of the inquiry can really be judged by the quality of the report and the conclusions we reach about it. The independence of the members of this committee I think can’t reasonably be challenged. None of us is partisan; none of us, as it were, holds the patronage of the Government behind us. What we have to do to secure the confidence that you describe in the independence of our report, that it shan’t be seen as a whitewash, is to do the job as thoroughly, as fairly, as independently as we can. I place particular emphasis on the fact that our report and the judgements we come to are going to be evidence-based, and the evidence will be out there. so that the public and Parliament by the time we come to our report can reach their own judgement on the basis of the evidence that we have seen and analysed about the conclusions we reach on it.

Bénédicte Paviot, France 24: Bénédicte Paviot, France 24. Sir John, you said in your opening remarks that you wouldn’t shy away from making criticisms. Will you clearly identify individual or individuals who are at fault? And secondly: isn’t it rather important that you actually not just publish possibly an interim report but the full report before the British people get a chance to vote for their next government and their next leaders? Because surely this should inform the next government, and the British population has the right to decide if this Government got it wrong.

SJC: Thank you. I did say in my statement, and I meant it, that if we find on going through the evidence that we shall see – and it will be a huge body of written material as well as oral testimony – if we find that people fell short in their duty, made mistakes, acted wrongly, we shall most certainly say so and say so clearly. But that in a sense connects with the second part of your question. To do this work properly and thoroughly, covering an eight-year period, the run-up to the war, the conflict itself, the reconstruction phase of several years, and all that happened during that, cannot possibly be done in a matter of weeks or even a few months. It is quite simply a huge job. If we’re to do it properly, we have to have the time to enable us to do that.

Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian: Two questions please, Sir John. Firstly, on witnesses: you said the former prime minister will give evidence. Will you take evidence as well from the current Prime Minister and from officials in the American administration, because this was of course predominantly an American war? And secondly, on the issue of the election: if you were the BBC you wouldn’t be allowed to sort of hold hearings in the run-up to an election, because they’d be worried about impartiality – are you concerned about holding evidence sessions in the spring of next year in the run-up to an election?

SJC: Thank you. First, on witnesses: I’m not proposing today to offer a list of witnesses. We shall certainly want to see the key decision-makers in the different phases of the Iraq affair. You can work out for yourselves who some of those would be. But apart from the former prime minister, whom it’s obvious that we must see, I don’t want to give a longer list today. As to taking evidence, having discussions with people in overseas governments or just overseas generally, we certainly plan to have discussions on as broad a base as we can, and that must include, clearly, people in the United States as well as elsewhere. Discussions and evidence sessions are not necessarily the same thing, and of course we have no power to compel witnesses here, let alone people in foreign governments. Nonetheless, I accept the thrust behind your question, that the Anglo-American relationship is one of the most central parts of this inquiry, and how that was conducted is something that we need to get a very strong understanding of.

Second, you asked about the constraints on the broadcasters during the run-up to a general election. We’re not so constrained, as you point out. However, I think it’s clear that the evidence that we shall need to be taking over the life of this inquiry won’t fit neatly into a short period, say, in the autumn of this year, or indeed into a period in the early weeks and months of next year. I see this as not an iterative process but rather a cumulative process. As evidence emerges and is analysed, new witnesses or fresh witness sessions with established witnesses may be required right through the life of the inquiry.

Gary Gibbon, Channel 4 News: Thank you very much. Gary Gibbon from Channel 4 News. I take your point that no-one is partisan on the inquiry team. I wonder, though, the extent to which it represents a cross-section of opinion in the country. Did any member of the team oppose the war at its outset?

SJC: I don’t think it’s helpful to go into any private positions that we may have had. Everybody has opinions on major international and national events. But what we do is start out objectively, having, as it were, cleared the slate. Independence, objectivity, reliance on the evidence – that’s what matters for us. I do think that the notion of a representative body, a jury, would be an interesting one, but is not the sort of inquiry that has been formed. What you have got is a set of people, and I speak respectfully of my colleagues, who are well used in their different disciplines and callings to forming judgements about complex, difficult and often contentious matters, and it’s that kind of experience that we as a collective bring to this task.

Lone Theils, Politiken: Hello, Lone Theils, Politiken, Denmark. You spoke before about the international aspect, and there were other countries that went to war with the UK as well in Afghanistan based on information that may be or maybe not have been right. Is that going to be any part of your investigation as well? Are you going to look into the relationship with other nations that went to war with you?

SJC: I’m very conscious of the fact that the Iraq conflict on the side of the West was an alliance, with a number of members, valued members, from different countries. They too will have been seeking to learn lessons, and we shall need to take into account as best we can any conclusions that they find or are in the process of forming. How we will do that it’s too early for me to judge at the moment. But the point you make is a very valid one, and in particular I think countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands as well as the United States and Canada are ones that we shall want to have contact with.

Deborah Haynes, The Times: Deborah Haynes from the Times. Could you tell us when are you first… when are you expecting to call your first witnesses and hear evidence from them, and will that be in public? And secondly, are you able to give a rough estimate of when this inquiry is going to conclude?

SJC: I think that’s a set of good questions. First of all, when the evidence sections will begin. I think the best I can do is to say is that given the immense and voluminous amount of written material that’s already beginning to be compiled, I can’t see us taking written testimony before the late autumn. As to when it will finish, as I said in answer to an earlier question, that could go on as long as the inquiry takes. Will the first sessions be in public? I think inevitably that we shall want to start with public sessions, though I think it’s also true that as the analysis of the evidence develops, so the, as it were, salience of the witnesses is liable to increase. In other words, we shall probably take more evidence from lesser-known figures early in order to arrive at the absolutely essential questions with the key decision-takers further on in the process.

You asked too, I think, when you’ve… it was possible to say we might reach conclusions. I don’t want to set deadlines, and I can’t, indeed, at this stage. I think it’s clear already to all of us that a period of as little as a year is not going to be enough. So I think late in 2010 is probably the earliest possibility, but I don’t at all rule out the possibility we may have to go beyond that. What I am, however, determined to avoid is a long drawn-out inquiry. There have been inquiries which have taken very long periods of time; they are being held on a quite different basis than ours. Ours has been set up in a way that I frankly welcome by taking evidence direct from witnesses, dealing with it ourselves, rather than engaging in tortuous and, dare I say, legalistic proceedings. That should enable us to work quicker. So I hope we can get through in, if not a year, a year and a half, maybe a bit more.

Kim Sengupta, The Independent: Kim Sengupta from the Independent. Sir John, you say that you expect all these witnesses asked to attend and give evidence will give evidence, but you have no power of subpoena, as far as we know. Is that something you considered at all – having the power of subpoena, asking for the power of subpoena? The second point is I’m assuming that the evidence will not be required to… sorry, the witnesses will not be required to give evidence under oath. And we have had people like General Sir Mike Jackson and General Tim Cross saying they would prefer to give evidence under oath; they would prefer people like Tony Blair to give evidence under oath. And I’m just wondering whether, you know, you considered that factor at all. And very lastly, I know you don’t want to give a list of witnesses, but can you perhaps tell us the parameters of the witness list, if you like, you know, the kind of people you will be asking for and will be excluding?

SJC: Thank you. Well, first on the matter of a power of subpoena. I simply don’t expect… nobody that I’ve talked to who takes – and I’ve consulted greatly with senior politicians in the last few weeks – expects there to be any refusal by someone who had a key role. It simply is not going to happen. So I don’t believe myself that it would have been a useful exercise to see if, for example, a one-clause bill could be rushed through Parliament. What I was, though, very determined on, and I’m glad that the Government and indeed Parliament itself has endorsed the approach, that we should be not be constituted as a judicial inquiry. The nature of the subject matter, the nature of the decisions we’re examining, don’t lend themselves to an adversarial inquiry or to the kind of rules of evidence excluding this, including that, and to the kind of indirect representation of witnesses that is involved in such an inquiry. This one enables us to do it directly, and I think that’s a great virtue.

Now you raised the question of the oath. There simply isn’t, in a non-statutory inquiry, the legal basis for administering an oath and importing the law of perjury to someone who is suspected of breaching the terms of it. What I have done, and by agreement, and none of the senior politicians I have consulted have opposed this, is that we should require every witness who is invited to appear to give testimony to give an undertaking that what they say to us in evidence will be truthful, fair and accurate. And they’ll be given the opportunity after a session to see a transcript and vet it to make sure that what they said was truthful, fair and accurate. Now it’s reasonable, I think, given the thrust of your question, to add one thing to that. If someone were foolish or wicked enough to tell an untruth, a serious untruth, in front of an inquiry like this and then get found out, their reputation would be destroyed utterly and forever. It won’t happen.

Gordon Corera, Newsnight: Gordon Corera from BBC Newsnight. You said you want to call the prime minister as a witness… the former prime minister, Tony Blair, as a witness. Do you expect to him to give all of his evidence in public? Would he be able to opt not to? Who gets to decide that, and would you be disappointed if some of it wasn’t public?

SJC: The decision about public and private evidence is essentially for the inquiry itself. We will determine in what format a session, testimony, should take place. Now it’s perfectly proper and open for a witness to say: “Look, there are things that I need to tell you, the inquiry, that if disclosed publically would represent a genuine risk to national security in some respect.” In that case we have to decide whether or not we are willing to hear that evidence in private. Having heard it, and if we reached a different view on whether national security was put at risk by some or any of it being kept private, it would then be open to us to recall the witness for a public session and put the same questions. And if that were to happen, that’s what we would do. I don’t actually expect things to turn out that way, but that’s how it could work.

Torcuil Crichton, The Herald: Torcuil Crichton, The Herald. Can you tell us who your specialist advisors are, particularly your military advisors, and will they be helping you in the examination of witnesses?

SJC: First, I’m not going to announce today who they are because not all the names have been settled, and I want to make an announcement when we’ve got the full range of them. Will they be involved in questioning witnesses? The answer to that is no. That responsibility lies with the five members of this committee. We shall be asking the questions and no-one else. We shan’t, for example, be represented by a lawyer in our administering questions. We will do it ourselves, talking directly to witnesses whom we want to directly back to us.

Joe Murphy, Evening Standard: Joe Murphy at the Evening Standard. Sir John, after the Butler Inquiry, in which you served, Tony Blair told the Commons that the question of good faith could be parked; it was over. Is that the position of this inquiry: that you start off saying that that has been parked, or will you be looking afresh at such questions as was the invasion taken in good faith compared with what was said to the public?

SJC: I said in my statement that among many things the legality of the law would be one of the issues we shall need to examine. In other words, we start, not with a blank sheet because history has happened and many of the facts are out, but the judgements about the facts, and many of the facts that have yet to emerge, those are for us to do from scratch.

Kirsty Walker, Daily Mail: Kirsty Walker, Daily Mail. Just one quick question. Where do you envisage the hearings taking place in?

SJC: Where?

KW: Where, yeah.

SJC: Yeah. Somewhere in central London; we haven’t determined a venue yet. It will depend, I think, on a number of competing considerations. One of them is that there should be sufficient space, both for some members of the public as well as the media to be accommodated in a satisfactory way. Now the extent to which we can reach agreements and come to arrangements about, for example, live internet streaming and television will decide how much accommodation is going to be required.

Carole Walker, BBC: Thank you. Carole Walker from the BBC. You talk about the documents that you hope to look at. Will you be asking for Cabinet minutes from the key meetings in the run-up to the war? Will you be publishing them, as happened during the Butler Inquiry? And, if I could, one more question: did Gordon Brown consult you before he told the Commons that he thought the inquiry should be in private?

SJC: Two things, then. Cabinet minutes: absolutely clear that the run of Cabinet minutes and discussions is central to some parts of this inquiry. And clearly we will, as indeed Lord Butler did with his inquiry, we will publish – I won’t say absolutely everything, because I think the mountain of paper would… or indeed the size of the databank would be beyond reason. So we’ve got to make some reasonable selection. But the selection we make has to be based on what’s most relevant, not, as it were, what’s most sensitive or embarrassing or whatever it is. You had another question, I’m sorry.

CW: About whether Gordon Brown consulted you before he talked about the…

SJC: Yeah, it’s a fair question. If the Government and the main opposition party had wanted, and it had been much discussed in general language in the months before, a pure Franks-type inquiry, and then they had approached me and said: “Would you do it on the same basis that Oliver Franks did back in ’82,” would I have said yes? Well, maybe I would. But I am quite committed myself to the view that became apparent ever since the Prime Minister first made his announcement that for this inquiry to carry confidence and for this inquiry to do the job it needs to do, it has to have the maximum degree of openness consistent with the task, and that’s been my position since, and it remains that. I don’t think that, much as I revere Oliver Franks – and I worked with him as an assessor on an inquiry he did many years ago on a different subject – I don’t think he himself, if he were sitting here today, would think that a purely behind-the-scenes, backstairs inquiry would work. We here sit committed to openness, and that’s how we’re going to conduct it.

Jason Beattie, Daily Mirror: Jason Beattie from the Daily Mirror. Sir John, we’ve talked a lot about compulsion of witnesses. Are you satisfied you have the powers you need to demand any document you wish to see from whatever source?

SJC: Yes, I’m entirely satisfied. So far as these are Government documents of course, the Prime Minister has given that instruction that everything we need and seek will be given to us, no matter what. I suppose for completeness, could there be private documentation held, I don’t know where, in private companies’ archives, we can’t compel the production of that. But again, if something is known to exist and to be crucially relevant to the main issues that this inquiry has to address, I think it’s highly unlikely that it would be withheld. I can give an example of that, I think, in a quite different field where I’m just finishing some work; that’s to say intercept as evidence, where dealing with private companies and the information that they hold is perfectly possible, provided you can give sufficient assurances about confidentiality, commercial confidence and the rest. I suspect that’s a red herring, because the key documents for this inquiry are going to be Government documents.

Phil Black, CNN: Phil Black from CNN. Speaking to the families of those who’ve died in Iraq, they make it very clear that what they are perhaps looking for most from this inquiry is accountability, holding the key decision-makers of the day accountable. Do you see that as your job here in this?

SJC: I see it as absolutely central to this inquiry that we establish as accurate and reliable an account of events – what decisions were taken, by whom, why, on what basis – as we possibly can. That is then to be delivered to Government for Parliament itself to debate. Now it seems to me that the chain of accountability runs through that and ultimately comes to rest in the democratically elected legislature, drawing on the work that we will have been doing over the next year or so.

Eduardo Suarez, El Mundo: Hello, Eduardo Suarez from El Mundo. Do you rule out calling prime ministers from other countries involved in the war, like the Spanish prime minister at the time, Aznar? Thank you.

SJC: Thank you. I don’t rule out discussions with key international figures or figures from other countries, insofar as they are willing to have discussions with us and that we consider them relevant. It wouldn’t be a matter of taking witness testimony; that would not be proper or possible. But I have no doubt, and again I am following the experience of the Butler Committee, where we talked to very senior figures in the US administration, for example, as well as in Germany and in France and elsewhere, and I would expect the same pattern to happen with this inquiry.

Alex Barker, Financial Times: Alex Barker from the FT. On access to documents, you say you’d be able to look at any Government documents. Does that include US documents that would be in the UK archives or any information that was shared?

SJC: Yes, it does. Any papers that are in the possession of the British Government are open to us to inspect and look at. The treatment of them, of course, is a different question. This is not a matter so much of copyright as of international relations. You can, if you like, say that national security includes guarding very sensitive information supplied by other governments to us on a condition of confidentiality. But access is guaranteed. If we’ve got it, we can see it.

Rosa Prince, The Telegraph: Rosa Prince from the Telegraph. Given your commitment to openness, can you explain the section of your statement where you suggest that people might ask that they would be able to give evidence in private because they could be more candid? I think the public would understand national security, but not candour, as a reason.

SJC: Well, again, I can draw on a real life experience from the Butler Inquiry on the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, where we had a number of people – and I won’t name them or even describe them in detail – who, partly because of some work I’d done in that broad sphere in a different capacity, were willing to come and talk on a condition of anonymity and confidentiality. They couldn’t be required to attend because what they had to say was a matter of opinion; it wasn’t decisive, they weren’t, as it were, decision-takers. But what they had to say, in two cases at least, turned out to be extremely relevant and interesting. And I can quite see that there could be categories of people who wanted to talk to us in the same way in this inquiry. And I wouldn’t want, by reason of insisting too hardly on an absolute condition of giving evidence by name in public, to exclude the possibility of getting that kind of information. I don’t think there is simply evidence on the one hand and not evidence on the other. I think there’s a range of categories of material. The formal giving of open, oral witness testimony is crucial for the key actors and decision-takers, but there’s a wide range of people with useful opinions, background knowledge, we shall want to talk to on different terms.

Paul Adams, BBC: Paul Adams from the BBC. Two questions, if I may, and forgive me, I missed a little bit in the middle, so correct me if you’ve covered this already. You give equal weight in your opening remarks to the various aspects of this inquiry, but obviously certain aspects have been very extensively and very publicly trawled over, notably the intelligence side of things, and you were obviously involved in that yourself. Are there certain areas, particularly, say, the political decision-making, which you think remain to have light shed on them where other areas perhaps are already pretty well-known, and will you be concentrating on those areas? And the second question: I wonder if any of your distinguished fellow panellists would like to describe what they bring to the inquiry?

SJC: Thank you. As to the first: we are to some degree going to have to select areas for focused attention, because we’ve got eight years of contemporary history to look at. On the other hand, until we start to look at the evidence and analyse it, I don’t think it’s going to be possible to lay down a sort of shortlist of particular topics or particular areas for scrutiny. On the other hand, and this was said in these proceedings, I think, where there has been high quality investigation already conducted and has been shown to stand up, and the evidence behind it hasn’t been challenged, then I think we can take that as part of the acquis for this inquiry. I do think – again, I hope this came out of the statement – the political decision-taking by and within Government during the preparation, during the conflict and during the reconstruction phase is clearly absolutely central to what this inquiry has to establish. I don’t know whether any of my colleagues particularly wish to add anything. I don’t think they do.

Adrian Croft, Reuters: Adrian Croft with Reuters. You said you’d be able to look at US documents that were in British archives. But it is unlikely, isn’t it, that the US government would agree to send other documents that you request. Have there been any kind of feelers put out to the US government about to what extent they’re prepared to co-operate with this inquiry?

JC: Well, we haven’t even begun work yet, so it’s too early to say. Judging from the Butler precedent, I mean, there is so much openness in the US system and willingness to share information, I’d be quite surprised actually if there wasn’t a high degree of readiness to co-operate with us and to allow people to talk to us.

Kimiko Aoki, NHK Japan Broadcasting: Kimiko Aoki from NHK Japan Broadcasting. I would like to ask, given the magnitude of what the Iraqi war brought about and the legality being questioned, not just in this country but around the world, do you think all countries that took part in the Iraq war should conduct such an inquiry? And also whether an inquiry in to the Iraq war would be complete without the United States conducting such an exercise?

JC: It’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure I can give you a thoughtful answer. Any country which was engaged in the Iraq conflict will have had, through its political system, questions asked about legality, propriety, wisdom of their engagement, I guess. For my part, for this inquiry, if there are firm conclusions which have emerged in any of the relevant countries, I’d like to know what they are. But I wouldn’t myself want to be seen to advise other countries how to conduct their business of government. I think that’s the best I can do. Thank you all very much indeed for coming this morning.

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Well Balanced Blog

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