Last year the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee held an investigation on lessons learned from the Chilcot Inquiry. Following an evaluation of the evidence the Committee published recommendations for Government.
Government responded to the advice this week, extracts from the paper are below.
Parliament should in future have a full debate and vote on an amendable motion, setting out the precise terms of reference, an estimated timeframe and a proposed budget for the Inquiry.
Government does not accept this recommendation.
Public inquiries take many forms…will often need to be established quickly to respond to issues of urgent public concern. Government believes that the current approach to establishing inquiries provides the appropriate balance of responsiveness and flexibility.
It is no longer acceptable that the present arrangements should continue without stronger means to prevent key ministers, or even the whole Cabinet from being sidelined. Beyond making representations to Ministers and to the PM, the Cabinet Secretary does not have any formal recourse to object to a PM.
The Government does not agree with the Committee’s finding that there is an absence of safeguards on decision-making within Government.
When decisions on military intervention have been taken, the NSC and its sub-committees and officials groups have prepared decisions fully and there has been a full discussion of the issue in Cabinet before decisions were taken.
We agree with the Iraq Inquiry that the Intelligence and Security Committee should play a key role in strengthening the checks and assessments on intelligence information when it is used to make the case for Government policies.
The Intelligence and Security Committee already has substantial powers to access and scrutinise sensitive information.
We acknowledge the seriousness of Dr Rangwala’s conclusions (that Blair deliberately misled the House) and recognise that his report supports the view held by many members of the House. We note Chilcot believes there was no decision by the then Prime Minister to deceive.
This Committee is not in a position to take up and investigate further Dr Rangwala’s conclusions. Should further evidence come to light the House may wish to refer this matter to the Privileges Committee.
The Government notes the Committee’s conclusion.
Government and Parliament should take the necessary steps to ensure that future Inquiries do not experience such unacceptable delays.
It will be rare that an Inquiry will have the scope and scale of the Iraq Inquiry. The time it took to report was in large part due to the complexity and scope of the issues it was examining.
We reiterate the recommendations of PASC, across its three reports on strategic thinking in government, that the NSC requires far greater capability in strategic thinking and analysis and would greatly benefit from having its own capacity to synthesise assessment and analysis.
The Government does not accept the Committee’s finding.