Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Ihat has become a self-financing taxpayer money-eating machine that has grown disastrously beyond anyone’s controlJohnny Mercer Almost all its cases were submitted to Ihat by a single law firm – Public Interest Lawyers – which folded in the summer after its legal aid contract was withdrawn over alleged irregularities over its work in Iraq.Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into Ihat and the treatment of soldiers under investigation, said: “Ihat has become a self-financing taxpayer money-eating machine that has grown disastrously beyond anyone’s control.”His inquiry has heard how a recruitment agency is paid almost £5 million a year to provide about 125 investigators – many of them retired police officers already receiving a full pension – to carry out the bulk of its work.Mr Mercer, a former Army captain, added: “If this money had instead been invested into creating a Department for Veterans’ Affairs, we would now be looking at making the military covenant a reality for every serviceman and women and their families.“We have a long way to go in our relationship with our military in the United Kingdom today.”Sir Henry Bellingham, a former Conservative minister who requested the information on Ihat’s cost, said: “This is an absolutely staggering figure, and to be spending this kind of money on pursuing our brave and honourable troops when the Ministry of Defence budget is under so much pressure, is fast becoming a national disgrace.“I do not believe there is a single other country in Nato that would spend this sort of money pursuing what are in the main, wholly spurious allegations put together by dubious legal aid lawyers.”Sir henry added: “It is absolutely imperative that the Ihat is immediately wound up, and the vast amounts being spent on it put to a far more constructive use.” MP Johnny MercerCredit:Paul Grover More than 3,300 allegations of abuse have been submitted to Ihat but more than half of those were dismissed immediately, suggesting they were spurious or even false.The latest figures show that just 176 investigations have so far been completed or are nearing completion. Just four of those have prompted any further action.Two were passed to the Director of Service Prosecutions, who decided not to prosecute in both cases; another case was referred to the RAF Police, while the fourth resulted in a soldier receiving a £3,000 fine.An Ihat spokeswoman insisted the inquiry was on course to complete its work by the end of 2019. “Ministers have approved an overall budget figure of £57.2 million to the end of 2019,” said the Ihat spokesman, adding: “The Ihat remains within budget and is on track to complete its work by December 2019.”The MoD has said Ihat was necessary to avoid the possibility of Britain being dragged before the International Criminal Court if it failed to be investigating the allegations of abuse thoroughly.An MoD spokesman said: “An independent investigation is the best way to make sure that innocent personnel are not dragged through international courts without cause, leaving the door open to a lengthy, and costly public inquiry.”The telegraph has publicised a series of concerns about Ihat and a parallel investigation into alleged abuses in Afghanistan. It prompted the Prime Minister Theresa May to complain of the “industrial scale” of claims lodged with Ihat and to vow that British troops would not be ‘hounded’ following future conflicts. The cost of the controversial investigation into alleged historic abuse by British troops in Iraq has soared to £35 million, ministers admitted today.Critics said the ‘staggering’ cost of the criminal inquiry emphasised the need to shut it down before any more money was wasted. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), which was set up by the Ministry of Defence six years ago, is currently investigating almost 1,500 cases of alleged mistreatment and unlawful killings of Iraqis following the 2003 invasion.But so far, not a single soldier has been charged with any offence. Three war veterans, including a major decorated for bravery, are facing possible prosecution over the death of a 19-year-old Iraqi man who drowned in 2003.In response to a parliamentary question, Mike Penning, a defence minister, said the cost of Ihat had reached £34.7 million up to the end of September. The inquiry is funded by the Ministry of Defence and is expected to cost £57.2 million in total by the end of 2019 when its work should be complete after a decade.