William Hague has been swift to respond to this afternoon’s decision by an Information Tribunal that minutes of two Cabinet meetings in 2003 at which the invasion of Iraq was discussed must be released.

The shadow foreign secretary said:

“Rather than have items of evidence dragged into the public domain piece by piece the Government should set up a full-scale Privy Council inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war.
“The sooner we can learn the lessons of the war the sooner we can apply them. It is imperative to begin an inquiry before memories have faded, emails have been deleted and documents have disappeared.”

Personally I am not convinced about the merits of an inquiry while British troops remain in Iraq, but it is not clear whether or not Mr Hague is unahppy about the publication of the Cabinet minutes.

For my part, I am extremely sceptical about the Cabinet minutes being published. Whilst my journalistic instinct is to be fascinated at the prospect of their publication a very long time before the thirty-year rule kicks in, has this ruling not the potential to damage the likelihood of serious Cabinet government being restored?

We know that Tony Blair resorted to government from the Downing Street sofas, where business often got conducted without civil servants to take minutes; but how can we expect ministers to take seriously the notion of Cabinet government if there is the possibility that minutes of their meetings could yet be published whilst they are still in office?

Jonathan Isaby