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MPs demand wider access for inquiries

Press Association
Monday March 22, 2004

Tony Blair was today facing a fresh call to allow MPs to question Downing Street policy advisers about their work at No 10.

The Commons liaison committee - made up of the chairmen and women of all the select committees - complained they were given less access to information than official inquiries like Lord Hutton's investigation into the death of David Kelly.

As well as access to Downing Street advisers, it said that committees also needed to be able to take evidence on "joined up" policies involving more than one Whitehall department, including the Treasury.

"The government has undertaken to cooperate as fully as possible in the provision of information to parliament," the liaison committee said in its annual report.

"It is therefore reasonable to expect that select committees should receive government cooperation as fully as an inquiry set up by the government itself."

The report follows recent complaints by both the defence committee and the foreign affairs committee that they denied access to important evidence during their inquiries into Iraq and the war on international terrorism.

The defence committee took the rare step last week of appealing to MPs to consider sanctions if the government refuses to let them see crucial documents or cross-examine intelligence officials.

It called the government's refusal to cooperate fully with its inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq a "failure of accountability to parliament".