The British government is braced for the publication of the Chilcot report on the Iraq war during the EU referendum campaign, The Times reported.
John Penrose, the cabinet office minister, admitted that there was nothing to stop Sir John Chilcot releasing his report, which exceeds two million words, before June 23.
He said the final vetting of the report, to start next week, would take no longer than two weeks and cannot be used to remove “embarrassing” material. Insiders said much of the material on former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s involvement in the 2003 conflict was already well known.
Penrose said Chilcot would understand the frustration at how long it was taking.
Conservative MP David Davis said the delay could cost lives as subsequent deployment decisions are taken without the lessons learned from Iraq.
Sir John set himself a deadline of next week to finish writing the report.
The inquiry, which is considering how UK forces came to participate in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its aftermath, began in 2009 under former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.
In October Sir John said the text of the report would be finished on 18 April, at which point national security checking could begin, with a view to publishing in June or July 2016.
Penrose said Sir John would "understand the thirst to see the results of his work" and would have "listened to the tone and tenor of this debate".
He also said there was nothing in the rules governing the EU referendum that would mean the report could not be published until after the 23 June poll.
Downing Street said the prime minister wanted the report to be published "as soon as possible".
Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said once it was completed the process of national security checking could begin, then it needed to be proofread - "so that may take some time".