Monday, 2 November 2009

Secrecy at the Inquiry

It looks as if the Iraq Inquiry is going to be a lot less transparent than was promised.

This morning, on the Iraq Inquiry Digest and Comment is Free, I have analysed the protocol that the Cabinet Office has published, setting out the terms on which the government will disclose information to the Inquiry and the circumstances in which the Inquiry will be allowed to publish such information.

In both cases, the rules are a lot more restrictive than the statements made by Gordon Brown when he set up the Inquiry in June. In spite of a promise that an Inquiry by Privy Counsellors will be allowed to see absolutely everything, the government is now saying that "confidential" information will be withheld.

Similarly, although it was promised that only national security reasons would prevent the Inquiry publishing such information, the government has now given a long list of reasons, beginning with the infinitely flexible "public interest", why it might block publication. The Inquiry has to seek permission to publish and every piece of information and the government has a veto.

I've asked the Inquiry how it reconciles this with its statement that
It is the Committee’s intention to publish all the relevant evidence except where national security considerations prevent that.
In my view, the two are entirely incompatible. We'll see how long the statement remains on the Inquiry website.

3 comments:

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