Last updated at 1:11 PM on 23rd January 2011
Tony Blair should be forced to release secret documents that are believed to show he lied to Parliament over the Iraq War, a former Cabinet Secretary said last night.
The respected mandarin, who served in the last Labour Government, said the ex-Prime Minister was wrong to refuse to release notes of discussions and private memos concerning his pledges to George Bush.
Current Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell came under fire last week after announcing that Mr Blair would not be forced to publish the documents.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of Sir Gus’s predecessors, who worked in the Blair administration, said: ‘I think it is clear to most people that the right thing for Mr Blair to do would be to release the documents.
'Shameless cover-up': Sir Gus O'Donnell (left) came under fire last week after announcing that Tony Blair (right) would not be forced to publish the documents
‘It is unfair to all those who have lost loved ones in Iraq and to the public to keep them secret. Gus should have put the onus firmly on Mr Blair by saying it was up to him to decide if they are released instead of going along with it.’
Four Cabinet Secretaries spanned Mr Blair’s ten years in office; Lord Butler, Lord Wilson, Lord Turnbull and Sir Gus.
Lord Wilson, Lord Turnbull and Sir Gus will this week give evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry into the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Sir Gus is expected to be challenged by the five-member panel for refusing to release the secret files containing details of the talks between Mr Bush and Mr Blair.
Sir Gus was accused of a ‘shameless cover-up’ by Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in Iraq, for withholding ‘critical’ evidence for fear it would damage relations between Britain and America.
Sir John Chilcot did not conceal his anger and said he was ‘disappointed’ that notes of the discussions and private memos would remain under lock and key.
The inquiry panel has seen the documents but was banned from making them public or even referring to extracts when Mr Blair was grilled for a second time last week.
The Cabinet Office said Sir Gus consulted Mr Blair before making his decision. An official said there was an ‘established convention...whereby former Ministers would normally be consulted before release of papers from their time in government’.
But relatives of the 179 servicemen who died in Iraq were outraged. They believe the documents have been suppressed because they prove Mr Blair made private promises to the White House in 2002 to join military action, with or without United Nations support.
Initially, Sir Gus sought to block the committee from referring to the timing of Mr Blair’s notes to Washington, or the fact they even existed.