Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goldsmith advice Cabinet minutes ordered to be released

From the Press Association:

Order to reveal Iraq Cabinet papers

4 hours ago

The Government has been ordered to release the minutes of crucial 2003 Cabinet meetings where the invasion of Iraq was discussed.

The Information Tribunal upheld a decision by the Information Commissioner that details of the sessions on March 13 and 17 should be disclosed.

The ruling opens up the prospect of one of the most controversial Government decisions of recent years being laid bare - although the Tribunal stressed that disclosure would not necessarily set a precedent.

The meetings considered the highly controversial issue of whether the invasion was allowed under international law. The arguments in favour of keeping the formulation of Government policy secret and preserving the principle of collective responsibility were defeated in this "exceptional case", the ruling said.

The Tribunal said: "The decision to commit the nation's armed forces to the invasion of another country is momentous in its own right, and ... its seriousness is increased by the criticisms that have been made (particularly in the Butler Report) of the general decision-making processes in the Cabinet at the time.

"There has also been criticism of the Attorney General's legal advice and of the particular way in which the March 17 opinion was made available to the Cabinet only at the last moment and the March 7 opinion was not disclosed to it at all."

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said: "I am pleased that the Tribunal has upheld my decision that the public interest in disclosing the official Cabinet minutes in this particular case outweighs the public interest in withholding the information.

"Disclosing the minutes will allow the public to more fully understand this particular decision."

The Cabinet Office now has 28 days to decide whether to appeal to the High Court against the ruling.

Downing Street said: "The Information Commissioner has just made an announcement on this and we are considering our response."

Copyright © 2009 The Press Association



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