About the Iraq Inquiry: questions and answers

Membership, scope and expertise

  1. What are the Inquiry's remit/terms of reference?
  2. Who are the members of the Inquiry Committee?
  3. Who picked the members?
  4. What are Committee members paid?
  5. What experts does the Inquiry have to assist it, and what experience do they have?
  6. How qualified are the Committee members to ask searching questions in a forum such as the hearings?
  7. Who staffs the Iraq Inquiry Secretariat?
  8. Does the Inquiry have enough staff?
  9. Who is the Iraq Inquiry Secretary?
  10. Was the Chairman of the Inquiry aware of Ms Aldred's previous involvement in Iraq issues before he agreed her appointment?
  11. How is her previous involvement in Iraq issues being handled?
  12. Who decided when to have the Inquiry?
  13. Is the Inquiry looking into issues that are being considered by other inquiries or legal proceedings?
  14. How is the Government co-operating with the Inquiry?
  15. Has Sir John met Sir Jeremy Heywood in accordance with the Prime Minister's letter of 17 June 2015?

Hearings, witnesses and evidence

  1. When did the Inquiry start taking evidence?
  2. Are records of proceedings available on the Inquiry website?
  3. Will all the documentary evidence be published on the website?
  4. Who was responsible for drafting and agreeing the Iraq Inquiry information sharing protocol?
  5. Will all submissions be published on the website?
  6. Were the Inquiry proceedings televised?
  7. How did the Inquiry decide who to call to give evidence?
  8. Why did some people give evidence in private?
  9. Did you tell witnesses the line of questioning they would face?
  10. What legal protection do witnesses have to speak freely?
  11. Were witnesses able to consult a lawyer?
  12. What will the Inquiry do if it receives evidence or information about criminal offences?
  13. How can I submit information to the Inquiry?
  14. Can I make a Freedom of Information request to the Inquiry?
  15. Will the Inquiry publish Cabinet minutes and records of communications between Mr Blair and President Bush?
  16. When will the Inquiry's report be published?
  17. What is influencing the timetable?

Outcome

  1. Will the Inquiry say whether anybody involved in the Iraq conflict should face criminal charges? Will it be able to apportion blame?
  2. What difference will the Inquiry make?
  3. Will you notify witnesses/individuals before you mention or criticise them in the report?
  4. How will the report be published?
  5. How much will the Inquiry cost/how much is the budget?
  6. Won't your report be irrelevant if it is published more than 10 years after the invasion?



Membership, scope and expertise

What are the Inquiry's remit/terms of reference?

As Sir John Chilcot said at the launch of the Inquiry on 30 July 2009, the purpose of the Inquiry is to examine 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 lessons that can be learned. The Inquiry is considering the period from 2001 up to the end of July 2009.

Who are the members of the Inquiry Committee?

Sir John Chilcot (Chairman), Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Roderic Lyne, and Baroness Usha Prashar.

Sir Martin Gilbert worked on the Inquiry from its outset until he was taken seriously ill in April 2012. He died in February 2015.

Sir John paid a public tribute to his contribution:

“Martin was an extraordinarily eminent historian and I and my colleagues, like so many others, benefited very much from the wisdom and insights that he was able to offer us from his long and distinguished career. He was also a kind and generous colleague, and it was a privilege to have known and worked with him.”

Who picked the members?

The former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, appointed the members of the Committee. Opposition parties were consulted.

What are Committee members paid?

Members of the Iraq Inquiry Committee are paid at the following rates: Chairman - £790 per day; Committee members - £565 per day. These rates have not changed since the beginning of the Inquiry.

What experts does the Inquiry have to assist it, and what experience do they have?

The Iraq Inquiry Committee appointed two advisers to help it conduct its work. General Sir Roger Wheeler, a former Chief of the General Staff, assists the committee on military matters, and Dame Rosalyn Higgins QC, the former President of the International Court of Justice, advises on international law.

How qualified are the Committee members to ask searching questions in a forum such as the hearings?

All Committee members are Privy Councillors with long and distinguished careers, whether as historians, senior officials or as the Chairman of a number of highly respected boards and commissions. They are highly experienced at asking questions to uncover and establish the truth. They drew on this experience in their approach to the hearings and the Inquiry more generally.

Who staffs the Iraq Inquiry Secretariat?

The Secretariat supports the Inquiry Committee Chairman and the other members of the Inquiry in carrying out their tasks. That includes a wide range of duties (from logistical arrangements to requesting papers and statements and preparing papers for the Committee's consideration) agreed by the Committee.

There are currently 11 staff employed in the Iraq Inquiry Secretariat seconded from the following Government Departments: Home Office, two; Cabinet Office, four; Ministry of Defence, one; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, one; Serious Fraud Office, one; Department for International Development, one; Ministry of Justice: one. In addition to the 11 staff listed above, there are currently three support staff engaged from outside Government.

Does the Inquiry have enough staff?

On 4 February 2015, Sir John told the Foreign Affairs Committee:

“I don’t believe that the staffing levels are a factor. We have in the past asked for more resources when we have needed them, and we probably will have to in the closing stages, as we go through the final process of production, etc. If we need that, we will ask for it—and we will get it.”

Who is the Iraq Inquiry Secretary?

The Cabinet Secretary nominated Margaret Aldred as the Secretary in June 2009. She is on secondment to the Inquiry from the Cabinet Office.

Was the Chairman of the Inquiry aware of Ms Aldred's previous involvement in Iraq issues before he agreed her appointment?

The Cabinet Secretary decided to nominate the Secretary to the Iraq Inquiry and agreed the appointment with the Chairman of the Inquiry.

Both the Cabinet Secretary and the Chairman of the Inquiry agreed that the Secretary to the Inquiry should be a senior individual in the civil service ideally with previous involvement in Iraq issues.

The Chairman of the Inquiry was aware of the candidate's role in the Foreign and Defence Policy (formerly the Defence and Overseas Policy) Secretariat in the Cabinet Office from November 2004, when he agreed the appointment. Given the professional standards of the senior civil service, he saw no potential conflict of interest with her appointment as Secretary to the Inquiry that would, in his view, affect the independence of the Inquiry.

Sir John told the Foreign Affairs Committee that “she is a highly professional and longstanding civil servant who acts under the general civil service code and indeed its set of values, which are those of impartiality.”

How is her previous involvement in Iraq issues being handled?

The Inquiry has papers from the Cabinet Office covering the whole period of its Terms of Reference. This includes papers produced by the Foreign and Defence Policy (formerly Overseas and Defence) Secretariat where Ms Aldred worked. The Committee and members of the Secretariat have full access to these papers.

Who decided when to have the Inquiry?

Governments decide the timings of inquiries. The previous government had repeatedly said that an Inquiry should be held once combat troops had left Iraq so as not to undermine their role there. Combat troops withdrew in July 2009 and the then government judged it was the right time to begin an Inquiry.

Sir John and his colleagues were not consulted on the Inquiry’s terms of reference before their appointment.

Is the Inquiry looking into issues that are being considered by other Inquiries or legal proceedings?

There may be issues that potentially fall within the Iraq Inquiry’s terms of reference which are also relevant to other inquiries, or subject to litigation or other form of investigation. Where this arises, the Inquiry will consider how best to proceed, following legal advice as appropriate and discussion with others.

How is the Government co-operating with the Inquiry?

As the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, told the House of Commons, “No British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the Inquiry.” The Government assured the Inquiry of the full co-operation of the relevant Departments.

Sir John confirmed in February 2015 that Mr Brown’s commitment had been honoured.

Has Sir John met Sir Jeremy Heywood in accordance with the Prime Minister's letter of 17 June 2015?

Yes, they met in early July. Sir John and Sir Jeremy discussed the additional assistance the Inquiry will wish to call upon in its closing stages and agreed some steps that can be taken now to assist the Inquiry in its work.

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Hearings, witnesses and evidence

When did the Inquiry start taking evidence?

The first public hearing was held on Tuesday 24 November 2009. The last public hearing was held on Wednesday 2 February 2011. A timetable of all the public hearings is available on the website. The hearings did not run continuously during this period.

Are records of proceedings available on the Inquiry website?

Videos and written transcripts are available on the website.

Will all the documentary evidence be published on the website?

The Inquiry published some material on its website when it was holding hearings to help increase public understanding of its work. Some questions for witnesses related directly to those documents.

Where the government agrees declassification, the Committee intends to publish the remainder of the supporting evidence either in or alongside its final report at the end of the Inquiry.

The Inquiry Committee considers that it would be unhelpful to make further documents available, without context, before its report is published.

The process for declassifying government documents is set out in the protocol between the Iraq Inquiry and Her Majesty's Government [link to gov.uk website opens in new window].

Who was responsible for drafting and agreeing the Iraq Inquiry information sharing protocol?

The protocol was discussed between the relevant Government departments, the Intelligence agencies and members of the Secretariat before it was approved by Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues. It was then signed by the Cabinet Office and the Inquiry Secretary.

Will all submissions be published on the website?

The Inquiry is analysing the vast amount of evidence and information it has received in order to meet its objective of providing a reliable account and identifying any lessons learned. The Inquiry has received hundreds of submissions and other correspondence from a wide variety of people on the whole range of issues that fall within the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference.

The Inquiry will publish that which it believes is relevant to enhance public understanding of its proceedings and to illuminate its conclusions but it is conscious that this needs to be done in a way that ensures that the Inquiry is able to meet its objective of providing a reliable account in which all contributions it has received are considered and addressed in the round.

The opinions of the international lawyers are one aspect of that process, those submissions which address the issues set out in the invitation will be published within the context of the Inquiry’s report.

Were the Inquiry proceedings televised?

The Committee wanted to ensure that as many people as possible had access to what happened in the public hearings, either directly or through the media. That included the public hearings being televised and streamed on the internet. It was up to TV companies to decide what they broadcast from the hearings. Details of the witnesses called can be found here.

How did the Inquiry decide who to call to give evidence?

Having considered the issues and material which it had requested or was drawn to its attention, the Committee invited those it judged were best placed to supply the evidence it needed to conduct its task thoroughly. The witnesses who were called to public or private hearings are listed on the Inquiry's website with the exception of a small number of those at private hearings who are identified by ciphers.

Why did some people give evidence in private?

The Protocols set out that the Inquiry would hear all evidence in public unless the Committee judged it should be heard in private. The factors the Committee took into account in considering whether evidence should be given in private included whether the evidence they would give would, if revealed in public, damage national security or other vital national interests. The Committee also considered the official role of the witness, including their seniority, and any other genuine reasons such as health or security that would make it difficult for them to appear or to be entirely frank in public.

Did you tell witnesses the line of questioning they would face?

In order for the evidence sessions to be as effective as possible, and in order to ensure fairness to the witnesses, the Inquiry provided guidance on the matters that the Inquiry wished to cover in the hearing, and any documents the Inquiry wished to refer to. The witnesses were not told of the precise lines of questioning they would face.

What legal protection did witnesses have to speak freely?

The hearings were not covered by Parliamentary or other privilege. The Committee expected all witnesses to provide truthful, fair and accurate evidence. The Inquiry welcomes the fact that the Government and Services have extended an immunity from disciplinary action to serving officials and military personnel who give evidence or otherwise assist the Inquiry, as this helped reassure witnesses that they could provide frank and honest evidence.

If a witness had felt unable to answer questions due to a genuine fear of self-incrimination of a criminal offence, it would have been open to the Inquiry Committee to consider whether, in order to secure the greatest possible openness and co-operation, it would be appropriate to seek an undertaking from the Law Officers that evidence provided to the Inquiry would not be used in criminal proceedings against them, in accordance with the usual practice in inquiries.

Were witnesses able to consult a lawyer?

All the witnesses were offered legal assistance in preparing for the hearings and were entitled to have a legal representative present to advise them during the hearing. However, the legal representative was not permitted to ask questions or make representations during the hearing.

What will the Inquiry do if it receives evidence or information about criminal offences?

If the Inquiry receives credible evidence that criminal offences have been committed that have not previously been referred to the investigating authorities, it would be obliged to refer that evidence to the appropriate investigating authority.

How can I submit information to the Inquiry?

The time allotted for submission of information to the Inquiry has now passed.

Can I make a Freedom of Information request to the Inquiry?

The Inquiry itself is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, so its terms do not apply. However, in addition to its hearings being open to the public and the media wherever possible, the Inquiry's website will contain transcripts of public hearings and other key information relating to the work of the Inquiry.

Will the Inquiry publish Cabinet minutes and records of communications between Mr Blair and President Bush?

In his letter of 20 January 2015 to the Prime Minister, Sir John Chilcot confirmed that it has been agreed that the Inquiry will publish 29 Notes from Mr Blair to President Bush, subject to a very small number of essential redactions, alongside its final report.  Agreement has also been reached on what material the Inquiry will publish in relation to records of conversations between Mr Blair and President Bush.

Sir John previously confirmed in his letter of 28 May 2014 to Sir Jeremy Heywood that agreement had been reached on what the Inquiry will publish in relation to more than 200 Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings. 

When will the Inquiry's report be published?

Individuals are currently being given the opportunity to respond to provisional criticism of them in the Inquiry's draft report. A large proportion of the expected responses have been received, but the remaining responses are needed to complete the process.

In his letter to the Prime Minister of on 15 June, Sir John wrote "Only when all responses are in our possession and have been evaluated will I be able to write to you with a realistic timetable for completion."

What is influencing the timetable?

In his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir John set out three key factors:

The first is that the issues arising from the decision to participate in the invasion of a sovereign nation are of the gravest kind.

The second is that the scope of this inquiry is unprecedented.

The third factor is that many of those decisions and the actions that have flowed from them are interlinked by a web of advice, discussion and debate. That creates a real challenge for this inquiry because of its scale.

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Outcome

Will the Inquiry say whether anybody involved in the Iraq conflict should face criminal charges? Will it be able to apportion blame?

The Inquiry is not a court of law. The members of the Committee are not judges, and nobody is on trial. But if the Committee finds that mistakes were made, that there were issues which could have been dealt with better, it will say so.

What difference will the Inquiry make?

The Inquiry will provide a reliable account of events that will help identify lessons to guide future foreign policy decision-making and decisions regarding conflict and post-conflict situations.

Will you notify witnesses/individuals before you mention or criticise them in the report?

Yes.  The Inquiry committed to doing so in paragraph 30 of the Protocol for witnesses giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry.

The process, which is often referred to as Maxwellisation, is outlined in Sir John's letter of 15 July 2013 to the Prime Minister.  Maxwellisation is a confidential process.

Sir John confirmed on 15 June that a large proportion of the expected responses had been received. 

How will the report be published?

The report will be submitted to the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity.  The Inquiry understands that it will then be published in Parliament.

The report will be published as (1) a printed document, (2) a printed summary and (3) online as PDF files.

How much will the Inquiry cost/how much is the budget?

The Government has assured the Committee that it will have the resources it needs to do its job properly. At the same time, the Committee is determined to ensure that it runs the Inquiry efficiently and does not waste public money. The Iraq Inquiry has published the final expenditure for the financial years 2009/10, 2010/112011/12, 2012/132013/14 and 2014/15. The total expenditure since 2009 is £10,375,000.

In line with the Government's requirement that public bodies publish details of transactions over £25,000, those for the Iraq Inquiry can be found here.

Won't your report be irrelevant if it is published more than 10 years after the invasion?

The Inquiry's report will address a number of issues of enduring importance in a wide range of areas.  It will also establish a thorough, balanced and reliable account of the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath.

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