The Inquiry into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 will cost the taxpayer £10mn, peers have been informed. Ongoing since 2009, the Chilcot Inquiry has already cost £9mn and has faced mounting criticism for its late publication.
In response to questions in the House of Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire compared the figure to the £100mn spend on the 1998 Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday shootings in Northern Ireland.
Lord Saltaire, however, further said it would be“inappropriate” to publish the report in the run up to the May 2015 general election. If the Inquiry fails to publish by February, in keeping with the pre-poll deadline, publication will be postponed yet again.
There has been mounting pressure from peers and MPs in recent months calling on the government to release the completion date of the Inquiry, amidst fears that it will not be ready for publication until after the general election.
In May, Bernard Jenkins MP said the delayed publication of the Inquiry was “very serious” and that the release was “at least” four years late.
Sir John Chilcot, leader of the five-member Inquiry panel, has always declined to confirm when the report would be released.
The apparent delay in proceedings was due to fraught negotiations over how much highly sensitive and classified information from 2003 could be included or referred to within the document.
The Inquiry was also undergoing a review of which “gists and quotes of communications” between George W. Bush and Tony Blair it could contain.
In September, the UK’s most senior civil servant told MPs the report would be “more transparent” than was expected. Sir Jeremy Heywood, who has full control over what information can be publicly released, said the report would include sensitive material, not normally disclosed “in a million years.”
Former Foreign Secretary William Hague has also publicly called for the Inquiry to be released. In October Hague told the Commons he hoped it would be released “in the not too distant future.”
The Inquiry is in its final stages, during which those criticized in the report are given the opportunity to defend themselves.