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Sir John Chilcot sets the context to the Iraq Inquiry's public hearings

Details about the content of the Iraq Inquiry’s public hearings have been set out for the first time today. A statement released by Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot explains the subject areas he and his Inquiry committee colleagues will cover during the initial set of hearings, which are due to last from 24th November until early February 2010.

In the statement, Sir John writes;

“We will use the first five weeks of hearings to help establish a reliable account of the essential features of the UK’s involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009, and how those developed. That will provide the framework on which the Inquiry’s subsequent analysis will build.

“We will start by hearing from senior officials and military officers who had a key role in developing advice for Ministers and/or implementing government policy. We will ask them to explain the main decisions and tasks, and their involvement. That will give us a clear understanding of how policy developed and was implemented, and what consideration was given to alternative approaches.”

Sir John goes on to explain that a list of those witnesses who will be called to give evidence during the first few weeks of the hearings, covering the period up to the invasion of Iraq, will be announced on 16 November. A further list of witnesses, for the hearings running up to Christmas covering the remaining period of the UK’s involvement in Iraq, which ended in July this year, will be announced on 30 November.

Once the hearings start again in January 2010, the Inquiry committee will start questioning senior politicians, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, on their roles and decisions.

Sir John continues his statement by saying;

“We are developing our formal lines of Inquiry. Those will take shape as we gather evidence. We will, however, begin during this first phase of public hearings to take evidence about thematic issues that are emerging as of interest to the Inquiry, including military equipment, military and civilian personnel issues, the key decisions taken and their rationale, the legal basis for military action, the development of government policy and the communication and implementation of those policies.”

This constitutes only the first round of public hearings. The Inquiry intend to hold a further round of public hearings in the middle of 2010.

A full version of Sir John's statement can be found here