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Frequently asked questions: the 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 this 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.

Why would someone need to 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 including 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.

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 has not previously been referred to the investigating authorities, it would be obliged to refer that evidence to the appropriate investigating authority.

Were witnesses able to consult with a lawyer?

 All of 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.

Is all the documentary evidence published on the website?

The process for declassifying government documents is set out in the Documents and Other Written and Electronic Information.

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.

Further material, comprising documents which the Inquiry considered sufficiently significant to request their declassification in full, was published on the Inquiry's website alongside its Report. That material includes 30 Notes written by Mr Blair to President Bush and five complete extracts from the minutes of Cabinet.

In addition, the Inquiry has made reference to a total of around 7,000 documents in its Report.

Does the Inquiry have a Freedom of Information policy?

The Inquiry, itself, is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, so the Act does not apply. However, in addition to hearings having been open to the public and the media wherever possible, the Inquiry's website contains transcripts of public hearings and other key information relating to the work of the Inquiry.