Summary of the meetings in London on 3 and 4 July 2012


Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th of July Marco Pannella and Matteo Angioli went to London for a series of meetings, in particular with Stephen Plowden who filed a formal request for information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Before meeting Mr Plowden we were received by the expert and influential Clerk of the House of Commons, Robert Rogers, whose texts and books on the working of Westminster and on parliamentary law and are a reference for scholars and politicians.
After that, we met Stephen Plowden, who received us at his place for about an hour. Plowden is a Londoner who used to work as a consultant for the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) and the World Bank, especially in the Middle East. Over a cup of coffee, he explained how he succesfully tabled his inquiry.
He presented a request two years ago. It got the green light by the Information Commissioner only last September. Mr Plowden requested that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) publish the words spoken by Blair in a telephone conversation with Bush, in March 2003, which showed their preoccupation and misleading interpretation for the position of President Chirac.
The FCO has appealed to the Information Tribunal and Mr Plowden, in turn, appealed to this tribunal.
The tribunal upheld the decision by the Information commissioner, but days before complying with the ruling of the court (whose deadline for publication was due on June 20), the FCO has again appealed to the superior instance, which has delayed of one month or so the decision of Judge John Angels. The decision of the superior instance, expected in August, is not appealable by Mr Plowden. No British newspaper has taken up this fact, perhaps awaiting the final decision which will establish definitively whether or not to release that part of the conversation.
The British Government therefore continues to actively oppose the publication of information and documents deemed relevant especially with regard to the "special relationship" between the U.S. and the UK. Among other things, a similar request to that of Mr Plowden was officially presented also by Sir John Chilcot, for the Iraq Inquiry. Thanks to public pressure and the media, Chilcot has in fact so far the merit of having declassified some interesting papers. The ones that matter most, however, were provided to committee members on a private basis. However, the Chilcot inquiry was authorized to see the most relevant documents privately. The confrontation between the government and the Inquiry goes on and coud last until December of this year.
We have also provided Stephen with the evidence given by Tory MP Peter Lilley to the Iraq Inquiry, the minutes of the Crawford conversation between Bush and Aznar, the statements by Hans Blix in February and March 2003, the meeting of March 1st in Sharm-el-Sheikh and the misleading statements by Jack Straw in the House of Commons March 10, 2003.
We then had meetings with Lord Steel and journalists with the Independent, the Telegraph and the Guardian as well as with Chris Ames, blogger who closely follows the Iraq Inquiry.