Information Commissioner orders the government to release minutes of Iraq discussions

The minutes of cabinet meetings at which ministers discussed the legality of invading Iraq should be published, the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said today.

In an unprecedented ruling, Thomas said the papers about the controversial legal advice should be made public in part because “there is a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision”.

Thomas said the public interest in disclosure outweighed the principles that normally allow the government not to have to publish minutes of cabinet decisions.

The government is expected to appeal against Thomas’s decision, which on its own will not guarantee that the minutes will be disclosed.

The legality of the invasion of Iraq has been a source of huge controversy ever since the invasion in March 2003, with some lawyers and campaigners believing that Tony Blair’s decision to attack was illegal under international law.

At the time the government published a nine-paragraph legal opinion written by the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, claiming that the invasion was legal.

But it subsequently emerged that, in a much longer legal opinion written 10 days earlier, Goldsmith expressed reservations about the legality of the attack.

Thomas issued his ruling today in relation to a request submitted under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act for copies of minutes and records relating to the two meetings of the cabinet held between March 7 2003, when Goldsmith wrote the first legal minute, and March 17, when he published the second.

Source.

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