News – Government Minutes

Government told to disclose meeting minutes

The BBC today reports that government ministers have been ordered to release minutes of the cabinet meetings which discussed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ministers failed to block the Freedom of Information bid to release the minutes, and the Cabinet Office now has 28 days to decide whether to appeal to the High Court against the ruling. Alternatively, the government could decide to veto the request under Section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act within 20 working days of the Information Tribunal’s ruling.

Cabinet minutes are not normally released until at least 30 years after the event, but the Tribunal stressed that disclosure of the Iraq material would not necessarily set a precedent. Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said he was ‘pleased’ the Tribunal had upheld the decision he made in February last year that ‘the public interest in disclosing the official cabinet minutes in this particular case outweighs the public interest in withholding the information.’ He added, ‘Disclosing the minutes will allow the public to more fully understand this particular decision.’

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson, however, noted that even if the minutes were published, some might be disappointed as by tradition they only list points made, without saying who made them.

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