The delay in the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War has made people believe Tony Blair could face war crimes charges, ministers have been warned.
Former Tory defence minister Lord Dykes said on Tuesday it was a "disgrace" that the public had not been able to read the conclusions of the investigation into how Britain was led to war in 2003 by Blair. The delay was also described as a "scandal" by a former foreign secretary.
The Chilcot Inquiry was set up in 2009 by Gordon Brown in an attempt to draw a line under the controversial conflict. But five years on, its publication date is still unclear. It will contain over a million words and include details of over 200 cabinet meetings.
Dykes, who now sits in the Lords as a Lib Dem, served as Conservative MP for Harrow East from 1970 until 1997. He told Cabinet Office minister Lord Wallace of Saltaire of the delay: "Is my noble friend aware that more and more people think it is some kind of attempt to prolong the agony of Mr Blair facing possible war crimes charges?"
Wallace said it was up to the inquiry when it decided to complete its work, not the government.
He told peers that unless the report was ready by the end of February it would be delayed further until after the election. There is a concern that report, which is not expected to be kind to Blair, would become deeply politicised should it be released in the midst of the general election campaign.
"It would be inappropriate for it to be published if it is submitted within the next few weeks after the end of February until after the election because part of the previous government's commitment was there would be time allowed for substantial consultation and debate of this enormous report when it is published," Wallace said.
"This inquiry has been looking at nine years of British policy and operations within Iraq, it has not entirely unexpected that it has turned out to take a long time."
Former Tory foreign secretary Lord Hurd also warned ministers: "This has dragged on beyond the questions of mere negligence and forgivable delay, it is becoming a scandal. This is not something which is of trivial importance, it is something which a large number of people in this country look anxiously for truth."
Lord Dykes' decision to raise the prospect of war crimes charges was dismissed a "conspiracy theory" by one Labour peer.