AFTER seven years of deliberation, the evidence of 150 witnesses, the analysis of 150,000 government documents and the cost of £10 million to the taxpayer, the long-awaited report into the Iraq inquiry, which runs to 2.6 million words, will be published on Wednesday July 6.
For the loved ones of the 179 military personnel who lost their lives in the conflict, publication will end years of frustration; last summer they threatened legal action over the persistent delays.
Rose Gentle from Glasgow, whose Royal Highland Fusilier son Gordon, 19, was killed in a bomb attack in Basra in 2004, said she was happy the date had now been announced.
"We are glad we have finally got the date. We just hope that everything we want to be in it is actually in it," she said.
David Cameron, who stressed that he shared the nation’s exasperation at the delay in making the report public, said finally having a publication date was "good news". It was verified in a letter to him by Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman.
But Angus Brendan MacNeil, the SNP’s deputy foreign affairs spokesman, said the decision was “tawdry” and “disrespectful” to the families, who had waited so long. He insisted the report should be published immediately and that it was being delayed out of “expediency for the EU referendum” on June 23.
Publication will come almost 2,000 days after the inquiry hearings ended in 2011.
Last month, David Davis, the Conservative former frontbencher argued that lives had "probably'' been lost as a result of the delays because Britain had made recent interventions in Libya, Syria and Iraq without proper knowledge of the controversial 2003 choice to go to war.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeatedly denied being responsible for the hold-ups.
Jack Straw, who was his foreign secretary in the run-up to the war and gave evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, said he hoped the report would be as "comprehensive" as possible, adding: “It was a very important and controversial decision and it is right that the inquiry has taken the time they felt they needed."
The most recent delay was due to so-called Maxwellisation, the process whereby those criticised in the report have had the right to reply before publication.
An inquiry spokesman explained that the checking procedure was a standard one for such investigations and ensured government ministers met their obligations to safeguard national security under the European Convention on Human Rights.
In recent days, the final report has been vetted by the security services and emerged in an unredacted form.
The Iraq Inquiry was set up in June 2009 by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to consider the UK’s involvement in Iraq from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009. The scope of the report is unprecedented; covering decisions over a nine-year period to establish what happened and to identify lessons that can be learned.
Arrangements are being put in place so that the families of the fallen can have early access to the report on the day of publication.