Committee members of the grossly delayed Iraq War inquiry have been issued with a stern smackdown by a high-ranking peer and judge, who claimed she was none too impressed with the lateness of such a highly-anticipated report.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, who set up and chaired the 1987 Cleveland inquiry into child sex abuse in three north-eastern England villages, told Lord Chilcot's investigation team that she "failed" to understand why it was taking them so long to publish their findings.
The report into Britain's 2003 intervention in Iraq was originally delayed because of a three-year dispute between inquiry Chair Sir John Chilcot and successive cabinet secretaries over which minutes of conversations between then Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex-US President George W Bush could be published.
Its publication date was put back even further after Chilcot insisted those criticised in its findings would need a chance to respond - the ensuing process having cost taxpayers more than £10 million to date.
But in a letter to The Times, life peer and first female lord justice of appeal Butler-Sloss bemoaned that she too had conducted far-reaching inquiries, but had been dealt with them far more efficiently.
"When I chaired the Cleveland child abuse inquiry in 1987, my report was critical of a number of witnesses," she wrote in the paper on Tuesday.
"I sent each a copy of the relevant chapter and asked for comments. I also gave a deadline within which the replies were to be returned to me.
She continued: "I completed my report on more than 120 children removed from their homes on unsatisfactory medical evidence of serious sexual abuse within 11 months of starting hearing evidence.
"I assume the evidence in the Chilcot inquiry is enormous and the task of writing the report a daunting one, but I fail to understand why the passages critical of witnesses could not be sent to them with a deadline for the replied if that is, indeed, the main reason for what appears to be an inordinate delay in completing the report."
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