by RAY FLEMING
Clearly, I was too optimistic about the success of the British government's Freedom of Information Act in this space yesterday. The House of Commons statement by the Justice Minister, Jack Straw, yesterday afternoon, that he had vetoed release of Cabinet minutes about the decision to go to war against Iraq, made clear that there are limits to what this government will allow the public to know. Mr Straw's unprecedented action was within his rights under the Act, but the reasons he gave for it demonstrated yet again how disgracefully the Blair government conducted its business. The reason that there is so much interest in the Cabinet minutes affected by this ruling is threefold: it is believed that the Attorney General changed his advice to the Cabinet on the legality of an invasion of Iraq between meetings on 13 and 17 March 2003; some members of the Cabinet never saw the full written advice of 17 March; the government has still not agreed to a full scale inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war. Mr Straw defended his decision on the grounds that to reveal what was said in Cabinet would work against “maintaining the integrity of our system of government and by the prime minister's readiness to be “economical with the truth” when justifying the war to the House of Commons. What he fails to realise, or refuses to recognise, is that the integrity he speaks of was destroyed by Tony Blair's “sofa cabinet” style of government and his “economy with the truth” in justifying the war to the House of Commons.