Attorney general overrides calls from freedom of information watchdog to release cabinet minutes from before 2003 invasion
Tony Blair and foreign secretary Jack Straw face the media two days after the Iraq invasion began in March 2003. Photograph: Ho/Reuters
The government has vetoed an order by the independent freedom of information watchdog to release the minutes of cabinet meetings held immediately before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
The decision was announced on Tuesday by Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, the only minister to have access to papers of a previous administration, in this case Tony Blair's Labour government.
Grieve said he issued a certificate under the Freedom of Information Act vetoing disclosure after consulting former Labour ministers, his cabinet colleagues, and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband.
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".
One of the reasons Grieve gave for vetoing disclosure was that the Chilcot inquiry meant the invasion of Iraq was still a "live" issue. Yet the panel chaired by Sir John Chilcot is being prevented by Whitehall mandarins from disclosing key documents relating to the decision to invade Iraq.
The March 2003 cabinet minutes are believed to be among them. The continuing dispute between Chilcot and Whitehall officials over disclosure is a main reason why his report has been delayed. read more>>>