Page last updated at 23:23 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Iraq inquiry set up 'after July'

David Miliband confirms in the Commons that an inquiry will be held

Ministers have said they will hold an inquiry into the Iraq war as "soon as practically possible" after the bulk of UK troops leave in July.

The government has previously said it would only be prepared to contemplate an inquiry once the involvement of UK troops in combat operations ends.

UK troop numbers will be reduced from 4,100 to 400 by the end of July.

The Conservatives say there is no "reasonable impediment" to an immediate inquiry into the war and its aftermath.

Foreign secretary David Miliband said ministers were committed to holding a "comprehensive" inquiry, on the conduct of the war and its aftermath, but would not say when.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague told MPs it was a "grievous error" the process had not already started.

The Lib Dems said the inquiry must be in public and its terms be wide-ranging to ensure it was not a "whitewash".

And the families of military personnel killed in Iraq have handed a letter into Downing Street calling for a full public inquiry.

Reg Keys, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2003, said he was "encouraged" that an inquiry would take place and by suggestions it would be far-reaching.

'Inconceivable'

Opposition parties and some Labour MPs have repeatedly called for an investigation into Iraq along the lines of the Franks inquiry conducted in the aftermath of the Falklands War.

With the bulk of UK troops set to leave within months and the security and political situation in Iraq "substantially improved", Mr Hague said it was "inconceivable" that an inquiry could not happen.

We will learn the necessary lessons and what went wrong in the functioning of government itself
William Hague
Shadow foreign secretary

The inquiry must look into how ministers "discharged their responsibilities" in the run-up to the war, Mr Hague said,

Other areas he said must be examined included the use of intelligence, how the UK dealt with the US and other allies and why planning for post-war Iraq was so inadequate.

Mr Hague said opposition to an inquiry within the government had "evaporated" and many Labour MPs backed a move.

Conservative pledge

He urged Mr Miliband to announce the inquiry before MPs break up for their summer recess on 21 July and to set out its terms to Parliament in person.

MP Clare Short, who resigned from the cabinet shortly after the war started, said she believed David Miliband wanted the inquiry to focus on the aftermath of the invasion.

"I think he had to say we'll have an inquiry because Gordon Brown had promised it.

Reaction to the inquiry announcement from parents of soldiers killed in the war

"If you look carefully at [Mr Miliband's] words, he's leaning to the conduct of the war [and] the decisions on de-Baathification."

Mr Miliband said the UK's "sole focus" was on ensuring a "smooth and effective conclusion" to the UK's combat operation in Iraq.

"The time to focus on an official inquiry is when the troops come home to safety, not when they are exposed to dangers in Iraq," he told MPs.

He said lessons could be learned from an inquiry particularly with regard to post-conflict reconstruction and governance.

'Political decisions'

Sir Jeremy Greenstock - Britain's ambassador to the UN at the time of the invasion - said the inquiry was an opportunity to learn lessons for the future.

"I think it's very important that the inquiry should look to the future, it's very easy for it to lapse into a blame game, and there will have to be some of that, I suppose, but there are important lessons to learn in the future."

The Lib Dems said it would fight to ensure that the inquiry was not "narrow and secretive".

"It must focus primarily on the political decisions - and failures - that led to this catastrophic war, rather than military ones," said its foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey.

Plaid Cymru said the inquiry should have been held "years ago".

British soldiers in Iraq
British soldiers have been in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003

MP Adam Price said Labour planned to start the inquiry in the autumn "when everyone will be looking at the pre-Budget report and release it quietly in the Spring, buried under the general election".

SNP MP Angus MacNeil said: "It was the first time that the UK went to war on dodgy, unsound intelligence and I hope it is the last," said MP Angus MacNeil.

"The claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could reach us in 45 minutes was a big, whopping factual lie."

The war was the result of an "odd, sycophantic desire to appease the discredited former US President George Bush by Tony Blair", he said.

A Conservative motion saying there was "no reasonable impediment" to announcing an inquiry now was rejected by 303 votes to 265, although 13 Labour MPs backed it.

A Labour amendment saying an inquiry should happen when appropriate but not while "important operations" were still under way was carried by 301 to 255.

Two inquiries - the Hutton and Butler inquiries - have already been held into aspects of the Iraq war.

The Butler inquiry looked at intelligence failures before the war while the Hutton inquiry examined the circumstances leading to the death of former government adviser David Kelly.


Your comments

No more inquiries. There have been too many already. Another would simply open the way to further scapegoating of those who took honest decisions upon the basis of the information then available. It would do nothing to assuage the ire of those bereaved by the war.
Paul Enever, Norwich, Norfolk

I will predict now, that any inquiry will be not be held in public, as the ministers who sent us to war and are still in power have to much to lose. This will be a cover up to protect their own skins.

Any inquiry should be full and completely open.
John, Leasingham, Lincs

What's needed is not just a government inquiry but a criminal trial. Let the judicial system take its proper place!
Conal Tuohy, Melbourne, Australia

British forces are doing a great job in Iraq but they should not be there in the first place. If Saddam had weapons of mass destruction he would have used them long before Bush and Blair decided to invade. Both these men should be at the Hague on war crimes. We had no right to invade as Saddam was threatening nobody
Kenneth Keane, Apremont Vendee, France

In my point of view there is no need for inquiry, what happened in Iraq was really an old ambition of US of having Iraq's oil fields under their control, and Ba'ath regime were no longer useful to Western countries including US and Great Britain. UK simply followed US without simple objection!
Kamal, Doncaster, England

I agree that an inquiry should be held as soon as poss. It will be interesting to see what the terms of reference are and who will be appointed chairman. I always have the word "whitewash" in my mind when it comes to the findings of government enquiries.
Mike Skidmore, Pontefract, England



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