YESTERDAY'S news that the Chilcot report on the Iraq War will not be published before the end of this year, as most recently promised, and that the summer of next year is now the earliest expectation, was not altogether surprising but is disappointing nonetheless. Sir John Chilcot opened the inquiry in July 2009 and closed it earlier this year after taking evidence for a second time from Tony Blair among others. Perhaps the promise of the completion of the report by this December was over-ambitious but the vagueness and qualification of the forecast of delivery next summer suggests that the problem of including classified documents in the report has not yet been resolved.
Indeed, yesterday's announcement referred to the Inquiry's dependence on co-operation from the government in a satisfactory and timely manner if its members are to do justice to the complex issues on which they are sitting in judgement. The problem has apparently arisen because the government provided certain classified documentation to the members of the Inquiry but has refused to agree that it can be published in the report.
Those conducting the Inquiry may therefore be put in the unsatisfactory position of reaching conclusions and making recommendations based on information in their possession but not available to readers of the report. Such an outcome would risk invalidating the report's findings in the public's view.