09/09/2015 07:29 BST | Updated 09/09/2015 09:59 BST

Sir John Chilcot Reveals All Those Criticised In Iraq Inquiry Report Have Finally Responded; Key Hurdle Crossed But Process Not Complete

David Cheskin/PA Wire
File photo dated 21/10/09 of Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry Sir John Chilcot. The long-awaited report of the Chilcot inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq war will not be published until after the general election in May because of continuing delays in the process.

The long-delayed official report into Britain's role in the Iraq War took a big step forward today after Sir John Chilcot revealed he had finally received the last responses from those criticised in it.

In a new letter published on its website, the Iraq Inquiry chairman said that a key part of the so-called 'Maxwellisation' process - which allows those criticised by an official inquiry to be given a chance to respond to it - had been completed.

But Sir John also warned that the responses were so 'substantial' that they would need detailed study and he could not yet give a timetable for when his verdict would be delivered.

It's 12 years since the Iraq War, six years since the Iraq Inquiry was first set up and four years since it completed its hearings, but the Chilcot report is still not ready.

The Inquiry, which has cost £10m to date, has been bogged down by delays including rows over whether memos between Blair and George Bush could be published.

David Cameron said this summer that he and the families of those killed in Iraq were 'fast losing patience' at its failure to publish its findings.

Writing to Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Crispin Blunt, Sir John pointed out that he had promised in August to update MPs on the latest progress.

“In my statement I said that the Inquiry expected to receive the last Maxwell response shortly. I am pleased to confirm that it has now done so," Sir John said.

Blame could extend beyond ex-PM Tony Blair

But he also warned that the responses from those criticised - including not just Tony Blair but also believed to be some senior military and Whitehall figures - were so 'substantial' that he could not yet put a timeline on the delivery of his final report.

“There is, inevitably, further work for my colleagues and I to do to evaluate those submissions, which are detailed and substantial, in order to establish with confidence the time needed to complete the Inquiry’s remaining work.

"As soon as I am able to I shall write to the Prime Minister with a timetable for publication of the Inquiry’s report."

Downing Street today pointed out that Mr Cameron's view 'has not changed' about the need to end the delays, but suggested that the 'Maxwellisation' process has not ended with the submission of the responses.

"If the process of Maxwellisation is completed, then Sir John Chilcot has undertaken to give the Prime Minister a timetable," the PM's official spokeswoman said.

Figures in the military have been furious that they may be scapegoated for failures and some of the strategic decisions that they believe were ultimately signed off by politicians.

Sir John said last month that he shared the 'anguish' felt by the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq over the delays, but insisted the inquiry remained 'in control of its deadlines'.

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