8 Dec 2010

Blair recalled to Chilcot inquiry for further questioning

Former prime minister Tony Blair has been recalled to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war for further questioning, the inquiry team announced today in a statement.

Tony Blair, former prime minister, will answer further questions about Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war at a public session early next year, the inquiry team said in a statement.

The inquiry will hold a further round of public hearings in the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster, central London, between January 18 and February 4.

Ex-foreign secretary Jack Straw will also appear as a witness again and former attorney general Lord Goldsmith has been asked to provide further written evidence.

Admiral Lord Boyce, chief of the defence staff from 2001 to 2003, and Lord Turnbull, cabinet secretary from 2002 to 2005, are also being recalled.

New witnesses called

During these sessions the inquiry will hear oral evidence for the first time from current Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell and Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, chief of the air staff from 2006 to 2009.

Other first time witnesses include: Sir Stephen Wall, Mr Blair’s adviser on European issues from 2000 to 2004; Lord Wilson of Dinton, cabinet secretary from 1998 to 2002; and John Buck, Foreign Office Iraq director from 2003 to 2004.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said: “As we draft our report, it is clear that there are some areas where we need further detail.

“We will, therefore, be seeking further evidence on those matters. I am committed to taking the majority of this evidence in public.

“In some cases, we will be writing to witnesses or government departments asking them to provide a written statement of events, responding to specific questions set out by the committee. In other cases, we will be taking oral evidence.”

Mr Blair made an appearance before the committee on January 29 2010 where he said he was “sorry” that the war had been divisive.

But he mounted a vigorous defence of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, insisting he had no regrets over removing Saddam Hussein and would do the same again, when he gave testimony to the inquiry.

No regrets

But anti-war campaigners and families of British troops who died in the conflict condemned his appearance, saying he evaded the panel’s questions and refused to admit he made mistakes.

Asked whether he had any regrets at the end of six hours of evidence, Mr Blair said: “Responsibility but not a regret for removing Saddam Hussein.”

This provoked an angry response from the audience in the inquiry chamber, with one person shouting out: “What, no regrets? Come on.”

As the former prime minister left, another audience member heckled “You are a liar”, and another added “And a murderer”.