UK Information Commissioner issues enforcement notice against Attorney General ordering disclosure of Iraq war advice

According to the Independent, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, breached his Government's own freedom of information laws by refusing to disclose to the public how he came to the controversial conclusion that war with Iraq would be legal.

Upholding a complaint made by The Independent, the UK's information watchdog ordered Lord Goldsmith yesterday to publish details of how and why he had hardened up his final legal opinion, presented to Parliament on 17 March 2003.

In an enforcement notice issued against the Attorney General, the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said: "When Government chooses to publish a statement which was intended to be seen as a clear statement of the legal position the Government was adopting, there is a public interest in knowing the extent to which it had been based on firm and confident analysis and advice, or was at least consistent with what had gone before."

The Independent reported that these disclosures have failed to satisfy its request for all documents, e-mails, memos and minutes relating to the formulation of the Attorney General's advice. It is now planning to take its complaint to the Information Tribunal.

Goldsmith broke rules on disclosing Iraq war advice (The Independent, 26 May 2006)

The Daily Telegraph reported that Labour MPs and Liberal Democrats have called for the release of all relevant information about the deliberations of Goldsmith, who has been accused of buckling under political pressure when he declared that the invasion of Iraq was legal in a statement to parliament on March 17, 2003.

Disclosure of the Attorney General's advice, which is by tradition confidential, was justified by the information commissioner by citing the public interest. He said: "This is an exceptional, complex and sensitive case which has raised many issues. As the Government chose to outline an unequivocal legal position on such a critical issue at such a critical time, the balance of the public interest calls for disclosure of the recorded information which lay behind those views."

But Richard Thomas also used the issue of "public interest" to rule out the disclosure of "uncirculated drafts, reservations or possible counter-arguments".

Blair is accused of new cover-up over Attorney General's advice on Iraq war (Daily Telegraph, 26 May 2006)

The Financial Times reports that Richard Thomas warned he could take a tougher line against government departments and other public bodies after forcing Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, to reveal more of his legal thinking about the Iraq war.

Watchdog warns of tougher line after Iraq war disclosure ruling (Financial Times, 26 May 2006)

Read the full enforcement notice here: