Blair should ask Chilcot to publish full Iraq letters to Bush says Major
Former Conservative prime minister says public suspicions will continue to fester if correspondence is not published in full.
Tony Blair should ask the Chilcot inquiry to publish his correspondence with George Bush about the Iraq war, as releasing only the “gist and quotes” will allow suspicions to fester, Sir John Major has said.
The former Conservative prime minister, who lost power to Blair in 1997, said it was a pity the full papers were going to be withheld by the Cabinet Office.
The Chilcot inquiry has been accused of allowing a whitewash after it struck a deal with ministers to publish the gist of letters between Blair and Bush, but not the full correspondence.
The publication of the Chilcot report has been overdue for several years, with discussions in recent months focusing on 25 notes from Blair to Bush and 130 records of conversations.
After intense negotiations, Sir John Chilcot, who has been leading the inquiry since 2009, has agreed with the Cabinet Office that the gist of the conversation can be made public, but direct quotations from the notes will be kept to “a minimum necessary for the inquiry to articulate its conclusions”. He has also agreed that use of material from the letters “should not reflect President Bush’s views”.
No decision has been taken, however, on exactly which quotations from the correspondence will be published, or how the “gist” will be phrased.
There is now an agreement to release a small number of extracts from the most critical minutes of more than 200 cabinet-level discussions.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Major said: “Firstly, they will leave suspicions unresolved and those suspicions will fester and maybe worsen. And secondly, in many ways I think withholding them is going to be very embarrassing for Mr Blair, not least of course because he brought the Freedom of Information Act into law when he was in government. But that is the decision that has been reached, effectively by the Cabinet Office.”