YESTERDAY'S unexpected decision that Cabinet records showing how Britain decided to go to war against Iraq should be made public was very welcome. The records are of Cabinet discussion on 13 and 17 March 2003. On the first date the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is believed to have said that an invasion of Iraq might be illegal under international law; on the second date, in a document presented at the last moment, he is thought to have advised that it would be compatible with that law. Under the Freedom of Information Act various requests have been made for these papers to be released. Last year the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, instructed the government to make the papers available but the government refused and appealed to the Information Tribunal which rules in such cases. Yesterday the Tribunal found in favour of the release of the papers but said its decision was by majority vote and not reached without difficulty. It took into account the importance of a decision to go to war and also the criticism made elsewhere about the looseness of government decision-making processes at the time. The government has 28 days to appeal against the decision, and almost certainly will do so. William Hague said yesterday that it would be better to set in motion a full-scale inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war rather than rely on piecemeal release of some documents. That is right.
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