by RAY FLEMING
GORDON Brown's announcement of a full-scale inquiry into the origins and conduct of Britain's involvement in the Iraq war and its aftermath was certain to be criticised regardless of the substance of his proposal. There are too many scores to be settled for any political consensus to be reached on how the inquiry should be conducted. Even so, the time span he has proposed -- from the summer of 2001 to this year's British withdrawal could not have been longer and he has insisted that the inquiry will have unquestioned access to any document it wants to read and to any person it wants to interview. In previous comments on this subject I have said that the inquiry should be open, not closed. The prime minister has decided otherwise, mainly on the grounds of national security. But there is another consideration about open inquiries which cannot be ignored -- if evidence is to be in public those giving it will often seek the protection of legal representation, thus slowing down the process considerably. The Bloody Sunday inquiry is in its tenth year with no end in sight. The truths and lessons of the Iraq war need to be analysed and understood as quickly as possible so that they can be applied should a similar situation arise in the near future. But suggestions that Mr Brown's estimate of a year for the inquiry to do its work is deliberately designed to go beyond the next election are wide of the mark.

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