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Woodward pushes for delay in Saville report

Shaun Woodward last night indicated he would ask for the Saville report to be delayed to prevent it languishing in a warehouse when the General Election is called.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said he had warned the judge that the impending national vote would mean the Bloody Sunday inquiry findings, which now stretch to a staggering 5,000 pages, would have to be put into storage once Parliament is dissolved.

That could lead to leaks of its findings before the families and soldiers had even been informed, he warned.

Mr Woodward will today meet with the families to update them on progress, or lack of it, on the publications of the findings of the inquiry, which has cost almost £200m and taken more than a decade.

Mr Woodward, who was appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Parliament, said the delays were unacceptable and revealed the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell had been drawn into the long-running series of letter exchanges with Lord Saville.

He told MPs that they had informed the judge they would need 14 days to carry out legal and security assessments on the report and warned that, on his current schedule, it could take it in to the period after the election had been called.

“I’m concerned about the security of the report once it has been delivered. Were it to be the case that it is delivered and there isn’t a Parliament to publish it to the report then it sits in electronic and physical form in a warehouse for what might be weeks.

“I’m the last person who would wish to write to Lord Saville to ask for a delay. It is important for the families and the soldiers to actually consider that if Lord Saville is unable to confirm his timings, the one thing I am very concerned about is that a report is de livered that cannot be then published to Parliament and which in turn runs a very real security risk.”

The report, said to stand at six feet tall, has to be delivered to Parliament and arrangements are being made for both the families and the soldiers for the date of publication.

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