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Iraq Inquiry chief turned down offers of help, says head of Civil Service

Published 21/07/2015

Sir John Chilcot told the Prime Minister last month that he could not say when the Iraq Inquiry will report
Sir John Chilcot told the Prime Minister last month that he could not say when the Iraq Inquiry will report

The Iraq Inquiry's chairman has repeatedly refused offers of assistance to help speed up the completion of his long-awaited report, the head of the Civil Service has claimed.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said there was nothing he could do to accelerate the process, insisting that he had offered the inquiry and its chairman Sir John Chilcot extra resources but was told "they don't need them".

An Iraq Inquiry spokeswoman said Sir John and Sir Jeremy had "agreed some steps that can be taken" to assist its work.

Sir John told the Prime Minister last month that he still could not say when the inquiry would report, prompting David Cameron to say he was "fast losing patience" over the lack of progress.

Sir Jeremy said he did not think anybody was deliberately trying to slow down the inquiry, but added that it should "get its head down and complete its work".

The inquiry into the Iraq War started in July 2009 but the final report has been held up for the process of Maxwellisation, where draft criticisms are put to individuals and they are given the chance to respond.

Appearing before MPs, Sir Jeremy said: "I'm not washing my hands of it. It is an independent inquiry, the timetable is not in my hands.

"I have repeatedly offered to Sir John extra resources on behalf of the Prime Minister, extra legal resources and so on.

"At the Prime Minister's request I saw him again recently, we had a private meeting at which I repeated that request, obviously.

"I just know that John Chilcot w ill complete this report as soon as he possibly can. He is as aware as everybody else is about the importance of getting this done and quickly."

He added: "We have repeatedly offered the inquiry further resources, they say they don't need them, they are doing it as fast as they can."

Under questioning from Labour MP Paul Flynn at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, Sir Jeremy said: "Everybody shares your frustration, from the Prime Minister downwards - including Sir John Chilcot - about how long this has taken."

He insisted: "I don't think anybody is deliberately trying to slow down the inquiry," but added there would be a "long, hard look" once it had completed its work to find out why it took so long.

"But not in a way that interrupts the last phase of the inquiry, the inquiry needs to just get its head down and complete its work," he said.

A spokeswoman for the inquiry said: " 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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