THE Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Straw, on Tuesday, told the House of Commons that he had, as Minister, taken the decision to make use of the ministerial veto under Section 53 of the misnamed Freedom of Information Act.
This was to prevent the publication of minutes from two cabinet meetings at which it was decided to go to war with Iraq in March 2003.
As we all know the way to war was paved with lies – the biggest being that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery – and dodgy dossiers, plus the unexplained death of a whistleblower, David Kelly.
Also the UN Security Council had refused to support any US-UK attack on Iraq, opening up the UK’s political and military chiefs to charges of war crimes and directing a campaign of mass murder.
There have been many demands to know just what cabinet members said about these issues and how they voted on an action that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees, and destroyed the life of an entire nation.
Straw told the House of Commons that the Freedom of Information Act has ‘as intended, made the Executive far more open and accountable’. He added however that he was going to make use of Section 53 of the Act which provided that ‘in specific circumstances Ministers and certain others could override a decision of the commissioner or tribunal requiring the release of information, if they believed on reasonable grounds that the decision to withhold the information was in accordance with the requirements of the Act.’
The bourgeoisie had wisely decided that in the interests of its own freedom to run capitalism without the interference of the people, the freedom of the vast majority of people to know the truth about its decisions would not be tolerated. The deception of the essence of the Freedom of Information has been revealed. It is just democratic window dressing, which is not allowed to interfere with the secret life-and-death deliberations of the bourgeoisie.
Within the velvet glove of the ‘freedom of information’ is the mailed fist of bourgeois dictatorship, this time personally exercised by a Labour minister.
Straw put the matter thus. ‘To permit the commissioner’s and the tribunal’s view of the public interest to prevail would, in my judgement, risk serious damage to Cabinet government — an essential principle of British parliamentary democracy.’ Knowing what the cabinet says or does is not in the bourgeois interest. Keeping the views and votes of cabinet members top secret is ‘an essential principle of British parliamentary democracy.’
Straw continues that ‘In the view of the majority of the tribunal the questions and concerns that remain about the quite exceptional circumstances of the two relevant meetings create a very strong case in favour of the formal records being disclosed.’
Straw stresses ‘But in my judgment, that analysis is not correct. The convention of Cabinet confidentiality and the public interest in its maintenance are especially crucial when the issues at hand are of the greatest importance and sensitivity. Indeed, the minority view of the tribunal — that the minutes should be withheld – was formulated on this basis.’
The less the public knows about the cabinet’s bourgeois freedom to decide in secret whether millions will live or die, the better it is says Straw.
He adds for good measure ‘The minority view seeks to reach the decision most likely to support continued confidence that Cabinets can explore difficult issues in full and in private’. The less the public knows the better the cabinet functions, is the credo of the bourgeois democrat Straw.
He concludes ‘In summary, the decision to take military action has been examined with a fine-tooth comb; we have been held to account for it in this House and elsewhere. We have done much to meet the public interest in openness and accountability. But the duty to advance that interest further cannot supplant the public interest in maintaining the integrity of our system of Government.’
The essence of the ‘system of Government’ is that its velvet glove contains the mailed fist. We shall be seeing a lot more of the latter.