David Davis demands answers on Sir Jeremy Heywood’s role in delaying Chilcot Report


As reported in the Daily Mail:
Heywood is Accused of Defying Vow to Release All Documents

The role played by the country’s top civil servant in delaying the Iraq Inquiry was in the spotlight last night.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, who was responsible for negotiating which documents the panel can publish, will be grilled next week by a Commons committee.

Sir John Chilcot complained his inquiry was being stalled because the cabinet secretary was seeking to block the release of correspondence between Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and George W Bush.

Sir John had requested the declassification of 130 records of conversations, around 30 notes and papers from 200 Cabinet-level discussions.

An agreement was finally struck last year but some of the content of the communications will be edited out when the report is published.

Critics question whether Sir Jeremy was the right arbiter since he was principal private secretary to Mr Blair in Downing Street from 1999 to 2003, at the time when decisions to go to war were taken.

Lord Owen, a Labour former foreign secretary, said: When the inquiry was set up, the then prime minister made it quite clear that all British documents should be available.

It’s not in my view the job of the cabinet secretary to defy the decision of the prime minister who set it up. I have never known a cabinet secretary to have such a veto.

We have in the past had cabinet secretaries who have not had anywhere near as much political engagement as Jeremy Heywood has had.

It seems to me that the cabinet secretary hasn’t had that independence of mind that is necessary. I can only say I am worried about it.’

Sir Jeremy’s pivotal role was underlined in a letter from Sir John to David Cameron yesterday explaining the reasons for the further delay. I am pleased to record that since I last wrote the inquiry has reached agreement with Sir Jeremy on the publication of 29 of Mr Blair’s notes to President Bush, subject to a very small number of essential redactions, alongside the inquiry’s final report. Agreement has also been reached on the detail of what material the inquiry will publish in relation to records of conversations between Mr Blair and President Bush, consistent with the principles agreed last year.’

In the Hutton Inquiry, which was held into the death of David Kelly, it emerged that in a breach of Whitehall procedures, Sir Jeremy had not had minutes taken of four meetings involving ministers and senior officials that had taken place in the 48 hours before the weapons expert’s name was released.

Nicknamed Sir Cover-up for preventing the inquiry from seeing the Blair-Bush material, Sir Jeremy’s influence is such that Mr Cameron is said to have once joked: Remind me, Jeremy, do you work for me or do I work for you?’

Former Tory frontbencher David Davis said: The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say the inquiry should be impartial. We have to ask why it has taken so long, and particularly know more about the role of Sir Jeremy Heywood in the delays.

He was the principal private secretary of Tony Blair in the run-up to and through the start of the Iraq War.

Sir Jeremy was right in the middle of all these decisions. He should be summoned by Parliament to explain what his role was.’

Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the public administration committee, said he expected Sir Jeremy would be asked about the delays to the Chilcot report when he appears before MPs next week.

We have him coming in front of us and I have no doubt we will ask him one or two questions about it,’ said the Tory MP.

He is the conduit between the Government and the inquiry and has brokered the agreement about how the sensitive intelligence and US/UK correspondence would be dealt with.

However, he’s not accountable for the conduct of the inquiry itself any more than the Prime Minister. That’s down to Chilcot himself. If Chilcot had felt there was any agenda in dealing with Jeremy Heywood, then he would have absolutely hit the roof.’

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: The inquiry and Government agreed in the inquiry’s documents protocol that the cabinet secretary should be the final arbiter of declassification – that remains unchanged and has the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s full support.

At the outset the Government assured the inquiry of its full cooperation and it continues to do so.’