The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, had ordered the release of the minutes, arguing that their publication was in the public interest. His decision was supported by an independent tribunal last month.
But for the first time, the Government has decided to make use of "Section 53" of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, allowing it to veto the release of the documents. The clause was added to the Act as a way of placating ministers who wanted final control over the release of sensitive documents.
Using the power, rather than challenging the tribunal's decision at the High Court, makes it almost impossible for campaigners to overturn the veto. They can now only challenge it by seeking a judicial review.
The Government decided to issue the veto during Monday's cabinet meeting in Southampton. The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, said releasing the minutes risked doing "serious damage" to the frank discussions that take place around the cabinet table. (1)
As Ming Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats commented in response to this, Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell said: "This is a Government which, when introducing measures to limit personal freedom, says that those that have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear." (2)
So what do the people that blundered their way into the iraq war have to hide? And how long will we have to wait before they can bear to be honest with the people that voted them into power?
When Labour were elected, back in 1997, one of their manifesto pledges was to bring about ""the democratic renewal of our country through decentralisation and the elimination of excessive government secrecy." (3)
1 - ' Release of Iraq war minutes vetoed,' by Michael Savage, published in The Independent, 25th of February, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/release-of-iraq-war-minutes-vetoed-1631365.html)
2 - ibid.
3 -'New Labour: because Britain deserves better,' the manifesto of the Labour Party for the 1997 general election, reproduced on labour-party.org.uk. Viewed 25th of February, 2009. (http://www.labour-party.org.uk/manifestos/1997/1997-labour-manifesto.shtml)