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Inquiry offers Prime Minister opportunity to appear before Election

The Iraq Inquiry committee has offered Prime Minister Gordon Brown and two Cabinet ministers the chance to give evidence to the Inquiry before the election. In a letter sent to Mr Brown last night (21 January 2010), Iraq Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander should all be offered the opportunity to appear at the Inquiry before the General Election if they wished.

The committee previously decided not to call ministers before the election if they were still in roles which the Inquiry wished to question them about. This was to ensure that Inquiry was kept out of party politics.

However, following a letter from the Prime Minister on January 19th, the Committee discussed the issue again and concluded that it was only fair that Mr Brown, Mr Miliband and Mr Alexander be given the option of appearing before the election.

At the start of today's hearing, Iraq Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot made the following statement;

"The Iraq Inquiry that sits before you is an independent committee, dedicated to establishing a account of the UK's involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009 and learning lessons for governments facing similar circumstances in the future. From the outset we have made it clear that we wish to stay outside party politics. Ours is a serious task and we wish to collect our evidence in a way in which our witnesses will be open about what happened and give their evidence fully without the hearings being used as a platform for political advantage by any party. It was for this reason that my colleagues and I made a decision announced before Christmas, that we would not call ministers currently serving in posts relevant to Iraq until after the election.

"The Prime Minister wrote to me earlier this week to say that he was prepared to give evidence whenever we saw fit. In my reply to the Prime Minister yesterday evening, I said that, as a matter of fairness, the committee concluded we should offer the Prime Minister, if he wished to take it up, the opportunity for him, for David Miliband, Foreign Secretary, and Douglas Alexander, International Development Secretary, to attend hearings before the general election.

"The Prime Minister replied to me this morning to say that he will be happy to agree dates from a range we have proposed over the next two months and this correspondence is now being published on our website."