Minutes of Cabinet meetings for 13 and 17 March 2003

christopher lamb made this Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Cabinet Office.

Dear Cabinet Office,

I have previously made Freedom of Information requests for disclosure of the minutes of Cabinet meetings held on 13 and 17 March 2003 preceding the invasion of Iraq. These requests, which gained the support of the Information Commissioner and, in the first case, the majority of the Information Tribunal, were subject to the Ministerial Veto in 2009 and 2012.

In the context that the Cabinet Office, under its Protocol with the Chilcot Inquiry, has agreed to the declassification of Cabinet minutes amongst a larger tranche of Cabinet records, I make a third request for the disclosure of minutes for the Cabinet meetings referred to above.

I make this request, firstly, to test and challenge the reasons for refusal to disclose in the cases of the two previous requests and the grounds for applying the Ministerial Veto. Central to both remains the argument that any form of public disclosure of such minutes would irreparably damage the constitutional convention of Cabinet collective responsibility and its confidentiality principle.

The decision to declassify these documents, or parts there-from, I argue countermands the contention that disclosure threatens to irreparably damage Cabinet collective responsibility. I further argue that the decision to declassify casts substantive doubt on the veracity of this contention when it was first used in order to refuse disclosure.

I submit the view in support of this new Freedom of Information request that the public interest in disclosure of these minutes remains as strong as ever. For example, the minutes of the Cabinet meeting of 13 March 2003 could show whether Prime Minister Tony Blair consulted and took the views of his Cabinet before declaring Saddam Hussein in further material breach of UNSCR1441 on 14-15 March, a unilateral action without a majority decision of the UN Security Council, which effectively set this country on the road to war. This Cabinet meeting was the last opportunity for such deliberation. There can be no guarantee that the Chilcot Report will address this specific question.

Disclosure of the Cabinet minutes for 17 March 2003, far from endangering the principle, would reveal whether the free and frank debate requisite for Cabinet collective responsibility was effectively ruled out by how the meeting was managed by senior Cabinet ministers.

If so, such a failure of the Cabinet to check and balance the Prime Ministerial Office and its sofa government is strongly in the public interest to expose.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Lamb

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE:  FOI320670

Dear CHRISTOPHER LAMB

Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received on
13/2/2015 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

This email is just a short acknowledgement of your request.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the FOI team.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Knowledge and Information Management Unit

Cabinet Office

E: [1][email address]

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christopher lamb

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

This is to alert you that the time laid down by statute for a reply to my latest FoI request for the Cabinet minutes of 13 and 17 March 2003 has now elapsed.

Can you please send a prompt response.

Yours sincerely,

christopher lamb

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

Please find attached the reply to your recent FOI request

 

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI Team

1 Horse Guards Road

London

SW1A 2HQ

 

Email – [1][email address]

 

 

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christopher lamb

Dear Cabinet Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Cabinet Office's handling of my FOI request 'Minutes of Cabinet meetings for 13 and 17 March 2003'.

My original request raised two specific questions of considerable public interest (I contend) in support of disclosure of these minutes. To reiterate; these were whether evidence in the Cabinet minutes of 13 March 2003 showed that Tony Blair consulted his Cabinet and invited discussion before usurping the authority of the UN Security Council in declaring Iraq in further material breach of its UN treaty obligations during 14 and 15 March 2003 and, secondly, whether the way that the Cabinet meeting of 17 March was managed by senior ministers subverted the confidentiality principle of collective Cabinet responsibility which required full and frank Cabinet deliberation over complete and impartial official advice.

The argument contained in your response that the only premise which the Cabinet Office is prepared to permit disclosure in the form of declassification is the placing of these minutes within nine years worth of documents (comprising over 200 Cabinet papers) cannot but raise the doubt that the specific questions I raise may well be buried in the resulting avalanche or answered in a less than complete way. It is not clear that the full Cabinet minutes will be made available in this exercise.

I find it difficult to accept your argument that release of two sets of Cabinet minutes would prove more of a danger than the release of many sets. The two sets released individually would contain essentially the same material and thus reveal the same 'truths' in the sense of evidence as they would when released in a mass- unless, of course, there is an underlying editing process going on which would be difficult to detect when a vast amount of other documentation envelopes it.

For these reasons, I seek an internal review of your decision.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

Yours faithfully,

christopher lamb

James left an annotation ()

Dr Lamb, Would it help to update your request to include reference to Today's supreme court judgement, in light of which I do not think the use of the ministerial veto can be sustained?

christopher lamb

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

I write this not in relation to my third request for the Cabinet minutes of 13 and 17 March 2003, for which I have already asked for an internal review. I ask for your response to the repercussions of the Supreme Court ruling of 26 March 2005 with respect to use of the Section 53 ministerial veto to block the 27 so-called 'spider memo' letters of Prince Charles in relation for my earlier FoI requests seeking disclosure of the above 'Iraq War' Cabinet minutes. The Supreme Court effectively quashed the use of the veto by the Attorney General against disclosure of the Prince Charles letters.

I suggest that neither ministerial veto can now stand against my FoI requests of 2006 and 2011. I will be interested to hear your view.

Yours sincerely,

christopher lamb

christopher lamb

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

With reference to the note seeking your views on the implications of the Supreme Court ruling of 26 March 2015 for the sustainability of the ministerial veto used twice against my FoI requests for the Iraq War Cabinet minutes, the year I referred to should, of course, have been 2015 not '2005'. Apologies for that.

Yours sincerely,

christopher lamb

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE:  IR320670

Dear CHRISTOPHER LAMB

Thank you for your request for an internal review. Your request was
received on 23/3/2015 and is being dealt with under the terms of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.

This email is just a short acknowledgement of your request.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the FOI team.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Knowledge and Information Management Unit

Cabinet Office

E: [1][email address]

 

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christopher lamb

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

This is to remind you that you are reaching the end of the statutory period allowed for a response to my request for an internal review over the above request.

Yours sincerely,

christopher lamb

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

Please find attached the reply to your recent internal review request

 

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI Team

1 Horse Guards Road

London

SW1A 2HQ

 

Email – [1][email address]

 

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Taherali Gulamhussein left an annotation ()

The Iraq Inquiry appears to have disclosed the requested documents (with redactions) here:

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/2441...

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/2335...