Prime minister Gordon Brown has been urged by an array of senior political figures to open up a planned Iraq war inquiry to the public and the media.
The influential Commons Public Administration Committee said yesterday that there was a “strong risk” that the inquiry would not be able to establish the truth and hold the government to account for what happened.
The committee said that the hearings, which it is proposed will be held behind closed doors, should be conducted as “openly and publicly” as possible.
“It is the wrong kind of inquiry, decided and announced in the wrong kind of way,” the group of MPs said yesterday.
“We urge the government to reconsider the way in which the Iraq inquiry will be conducted, so that this key opportunity to restore public confidence is not missed.”
Former prime minister Sir John Major accused ministers of putting the government’s political interest ahead of the national interest.
“The government’s decision to hold the inquiry into the Iraq war in private is inexplicable – not least in its own interests,” Major said.
“The arrangements currently proposed run the risk of being viewed sceptically by some, and denounced as a whitewash by others.
“I am astonished the government cannot understand this.”
There will be a Commons vote next week on a Conservative motion calling for the evidence to be heard largely in public and open to the scrutiny of journalists.
Downing Street has already signalled a possible climbdown.
The prime minister’s spokesman said yesterday: “The question of whether some of this might be in public has never been an issue of theology for us.
“I think it will be up to [Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s chairman] to consider how the precise format of the inquiry should be structured to ensure that the objectives are met.”