UK Denies Release of Cabinet Minutes on Iraq War

3 August 2012

The British government has again refused to release the minutes of Cabinet meetings from 2003 at which the invasion of Iraq was discussed.

The decision announced July 31 rejects an order by Information Commissioner Christopher Graham to release the minutes.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve said he issued a certificate under the Freedom of Information Act after consulting former Labour ministers, his cabinet colleagues, and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband.

A Guardian report says:

He described the case as “exceptional” and one where, in his view, the public interest demanded the papers should be kept secret. He says he took into account “serious potential prejudice to the maintenance of effective cabinet government”.

The attorney said he also considered the fact that “the issue discussed was exceptionally serious, being a decision to commit British service personnel to an armed conflict situation”, that the issue “remains the focus of both domestic and international interest”, and that “Iraq remains very much a live political issue in its own right” with links to the “overall security situation in the Middle East and the perceived link between the terror threat to the UK and military action in Iraq”.

Grieve noted that most of those present at the cabinet meetings in March 2003 were still MPs or “otherwise active in public life”.

Graham, the information commissioner, supported releasing the materials because of the “exceptional gravity and controversy” of the matters discussed at the Cabinet meetings of March 13 and 17, 2003, just before the invasion.¬† This is the third time the coalition government has used such a veto to block releases, Graham said. (See previous report.)

“The commissioner will now study the Attorney General’s statement of reasons and present a report to Parliament in September,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said.

 Disclosure of the same records was also denied in 2009 by Jack Straw, then justice minister.

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