Who wants to undermine Cabinet government now?
Finally, on the August Catch-Up Service, I have caught up with the decision by Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General (pictured), on 31 July to veto the publication of the Cabinet minutes on 13 and 17 March 2003, which discussed the use of military force against Saddam Hussein’s government.
These were the same minutes, requested by the same person, the publication of which had been vetoed by Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Justice, in February 2009. The requester hoped that the passage of time and a change of government would produce a different outcome.
He did not notice that Grieve as shadow Attorney General supported Straw’s veto, and said, further, that there should be an absolute exemption from Freedom of Information law for Cabinet minutes.
Anyway, the Information Commissioner came to the same decision as he did last time, that the minutes should be published subject to some redactions. But Grieve came to the same decision as Straw, for the same reasons.
Interestingly, however, the newspaper that was opposed to the Iraq war after it was over disagreed with Grieve, although three years ago it said that Straw had been right to veto publication.
Unlike the Daily Mail, but like Grieve and the Information Commissioner, I take the same view now as three years ago, to summarise three blog posts from 2009:
1. We know what happened at these Cabinet meetings, from Alastair Campbell’s diaries and Robin Cook’s memoir; but it is still worth protecting the principle of confidential Cabinet discussion.
2. The same people who criticise Tony Blair for undermining Cabinet government (the “sofa government” myth) are now keenest to undermine Cabinet government by publishing its confidential records.
3. The only reason for believing that these minutes should be published is that they must contain the secret “real” reason why the UK joined the military action against Saddam. That is a conspiracy theory that would not be satisfied by publication but would simply move on to something else.Tagged in: foi, iraq
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