by Chris Ames
The Press Association has more on what Nick Clegg said at the Hay Festival:
Mr Clegg also told the audience there must be “a presumption of disclosure” with regards to the Chilcot Inquiry and its openness would be the key to determining its legitimacy.
He said: “The battle that needs to be fought is to make sure in the final Chilcot report the presumption is towards real, meaningful, thorough disclosure.
“The acid test for the Chilcot Inquiry for its legitimacy and cathartic value, for a country still trying to grapple to come to terms in the way that we did, is it needs to be fully open.
“I know for a fact they have sought to have access to far more documents that they thought and the challenge is to make sure there is real disclosure when they publish their findings.”
It seems that he doesn’t get it after all. The challenge is not just to make sure there is real disclosure when the Inquiry publishes its findings: it is also to make sure there is real disclosure now. An Inquiry that is constrained in what it can ask witnesses and what it can publish now is not fully open. It is very worrying that Clegg thinks this is openness.
Looking back at what Clegg actually said to Gordon Brown in November, he was – it has to be said – focussed on what would be published alongside the Inquiry’s report. In fact, he said this:
“Will the Prime Minister therefore confirm that when Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues come to publish their final report, they will able to publish all information available to them, with the sole exception of information essential to national security?”
Has Clegg dropped the demand that only “information essential to national security” will be withheld? A presumption of disclosure is meaningless. There is a presumption of disclosure in the Freedom of Information Act but that doesn’t stop the government using any number of reasons to block disclosure.