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19-01-2010

Ballot drawn for seats at Tony Blair hearing

A ballot to allocate seats in the hearing room for Tony Blair's appearance at the Iraq Inquiry on January 29th took place on Monday 18 January. 
 
All the people who were successful in the ballot will be notified in the next few days.
 
3041 valid entries were entered into the public ballot. A separate ballot for family members who lost loved-ones in Iraq attracted 28 entries. Each bereaved families could apply for two tickets with 52 seats ultimately being requested.  The ballot resulted in 22 of the 28 bereaved families having access to the hearing room on the day.
 
There are sixty seats in the hearing room, with two thirds allocated to the public for the Tony Blair hearing and the other third reserved for family members. Mr Blair's evidence is being split into morning and afternoon sessions, and separate draws were carried out for each session. Over the course of the day the two sessions will provide eighty places in the hearing room for members of the public and forty seats for families, with a changeover taking place during the lunch break.

The six families who applied but were not successful in getting a place in the hearing room are guaranteed a seat in a private viewing room at the Inquiry venue if they wish.

There is also an additional viewing facility for the public, with 700 seats in a large auditorium in the QEII conference centre in central London where the Inquiry is being held. The places for this were also drawn in the ballot. Access to this facility will also be split into morning and afternoon sessions, so up to 1400 people will be able to gain entry to it. That means that in total almost half of the people who entered the ballot will be able to come to the Inquiry venue on the day Mr Blair gives evidence to the Inquiry, whether to be in the hearing room itself, in the private family room or in the large public viewing facility.

Commenting on the ballot, Inquiry Chairman Sir John Chilcot said;

"The level of public interest in this session was one of the main reasons the Inquiry opted for a ballot. The number of applications we received has confirmed our view that the best way to fairly apportion the seats in the hearing room was through a ballot."

The ballot was overseen by Karamjit Singh CBE, who is currently the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman and a member of the Electoral Commission. Mr Singh was asked to provide independent oversight of the ballot and confirm that it was conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Mr Singh has signed an undertaking to this effect which will be placed on the Inquiry's website.

Only those named individuals with tickets will be able to gain entry to the QEII conference centre on the day of the hearing. Anyone who was unsuccessful in the ballot will be able to watch the proceedings on the internet via the Inquiry's website. It is also likely that the main UK broadcasters will show extended coverage of the Tony Blair hearing on their news channels.