The big Parliamentary news yesterday was the announcement by Jack Straw that he was over-ruling an Information Tribunal ruling and taking the unprecedented step of withholding information they had ordered should be released – the minutes of the Cabinet meetings which decided to go to war with Iraq.
The move was opposed by the Liberal Democrats, with David Howarth leading the charge:
The decision to go to war in Iraq was momentous, controversial and disastrous, especially for this country’s reputation as an upholder of international law.
There never has been a full and comprehensive public inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. Jack Straw must now give his support for such an inquiry. We need to learn the lessons, and we need to learn them as quickly as possible. That is why these Cabinet minutes should be released much earlier than would normally be the case.
We already know the names of the dissenters from their memoirs. All we need to know is whether there was any discussion and any challenge of any sort. That is a matter of great public importance and goes to the heart of accountability.
Jack Straw must explain why he has chosen to block the release, rather than appealing to the High Court in the ordinary way. Why is Jack Straw silencing opposition to his position by decree instead of trying to persuade an objective court of its strength? This shows that, in reality, even he suspects his position to be weak.
The comment that really caught my eye came from Ming Campbell, who pithily pointed out:
This is a Government which when introducing measures to limit personal freedom says that those that have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.
Quite. If Labour has nothing to hide about how and why Britain went to war, why are they so fearful of publication?