ABOUT a month ago in this space I said I hoped Gordon Brown would take advantage of the 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war to announce an early comprehensive inquiry into the war's origins, conduct and aftermath.

Yesterday, with just two days to go before the anniversary, he said there should be such an inquiry but not until stability had been achieved in Iraq and Britain's military role had ended. Those qualifications are disappointing and I am glad that the Conservatives intend to question the delay in the House of Commons next Tuesday. Stability in Iraq could take years to achieve and no date has been set for Britain's final withdrawal. There is a real danger that memories will fade, e-mails and documents disappear, and witnesses die unless a start is made soon. Many analyses of the events surrounding the Iraq War are appearing in the UK media this week (see today's Looking Around in this newspaper) and much new material is emerging, none of it making Tony Blair's and George Bush's rash actions look any better. There is absolutely no reason why the terms of reference of the inquiry and its membership should not be announced soon and a secretariat established to begin the necessary research and assembly of documents etc. If hearings have to wait, so be it, but Mr. Brown should set a date now for a start so that impetus is not lost.