Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd has accused the Chilcot Inquiry of not being independent due to a "serious conflict of interest". He made the allegation as he led a debate in the House of Commons.
The Chilcot Inquiry is investigating the run-up to the UK’s war with Iraq.
Llwyd focused on the role of Margaret Aldred, Secretary to the Chilcot Inquiry and currently on secondment from the Cabinet Office.
In a previous capacity, Aldred chaired meetings of the Iraq senior officials group which coordinated policy on Iraq for four and a half years – part of the period the Inquiry is looking at. This formed part of her work as Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat.
After discovering details about Aldred’s previous work, Plaid Cymru allege that her continued involvement would completely undermine the outcome of the investigations because of her role in Iraq policy development.
“How did someone with such a clear conflict of interest get appointed to this role and what impact is it having?” asked Llwyd, “If Mrs Aldred wasn’t the Secretary of the inquiry, would she be called as a witness before the inquiry? Undoubtedly the answer is yes – just as her predecessor was called as a witness.”
Plaid urged the Cabinet Office to answer “very serious questions”. They asked, for example, what would happen if the inquiry wanted to criticise Aldred’s previous work. They also want to know if Aldred will be writing the inquiry’s final report.
Llwyd said, “Aldred was personally involved in the Iraq build-up". She "knew of the awful rendition policy and dealt with key issues that have already been discussed at the inquiry”.
He insisted that it would be “naïve in the extreme” to suggest that that the “professionalism of senior civil servants” would be enough to avoid conflicts of interest.
Llwyd argued that transparency had been “completely absent” from the Chilcot Inquiry “from the beginning”.
“One obvious conclusion that can be drawn is that Mrs Aldred is managing this inquiry in such a way as to protect and preserve Cabinet Office interests,” said Llwyd.
He added, “The inquiry is not independent – it is the Cabinet Office investigating itself”.