Iraq legal advice published

By staff

The legal advice offered to Tony Blair by the former attorney general over the 2003 invasion of Iraq has been published by the Chilcot Inquiry.

The advice was delivered by Lord Goldsmith in early 2003, when he still believed that invasion would be illegal.

He previously admitted to the Iraq Inquiry that he had changed his mind on the legality of the war following a visit to Washington but today’s release reveals the content of his thoughts at this period.

Lord Goldsmith’s final legal advice, issued to the Cabinet on March 7th 2003, was released by the government five years ago.

In it, he said he was “prepared to accept that a reasonable case” could be made for military actions on the basis of resolution 1441.

The tone is quite different to the one he adopted on January 30th, when a letter to the prime minister reads that “the correct legal interpretation of resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the [UN] security council”.

Security council determination became impossible when leaders realised France would vote against any attempt to trigger an invasion.

Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the civil service, said the advice was being published despite the convention that it should remain secret to ensure full and frank discussions between ministers and legal advisers.

The Iraq invasion had a “unique status”, however.

“The government’s actions with respect to the decision to use military force in Iraq, have in party, contributed to a widely-held view that the public and parliament are entitled to some explanation for the legal basis for the decision,” Sir Gus said.