Sir John Chilcot is under intense pressure to bring his six-year investigation into the Iraq war to a close after opening up new lines of inquiry which could delay his findings for another year.
David Cameron rebuked the former senior civil servant for the latest delay, warning that he was “fast losing patience”. Conservative MPs saw that as a threat to call time on the process. They called on Sir John to impose a deadline on himself or hand over the final stages of the inquiry to someone else.
The investigation into the 2003 conflict has already cost £10m. Set up in 2009, it completed its hearings in 2011, but has been beset by delays.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Sir John said he could not yet give “a realistic timetable for completion”. He explained that the latest setback was caused by the process under which people set to be criticised by his report are given a chance to respond. “In a number of cases they have opened up new issues or referred to material that was not part of the evidence submitted to the inquiry, which we are considering with care,” he said.
It is understood that about 40 politicians, military figures and civil servants face criticism. Their submissions could mean that more official documents need to be declassified. This could put back publication until May next year.