Tony Blair could intervene to allow full disclosure of exchanges he had with George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war, Sir John Major has said.
The Conservative former prime minister warned that publishing only partial extracts would allow suspicions about what took place between Mr Blair and the then US president to fester and worsen.
Years of negotiations over the publication of the “vital” material, which includes 25 notes from Mr Blair to Mr Bush and more than 130 records of conversations between them, is understood to have been behind the delay in publication of the long-awaited Chilcot Inquiry report into the invasion.
But campaigners reacted angrily to the decision to limit release to “quotes or gists” and branded the move a whitewash.
Sir John urged Mr Blair and Labour to consider giving permission for full disclosure.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I think it is a pity the papers are going to be withheld for several reasons. Firstly, they will leave suspicions unresolved and those suspicions will fester and maybe worsen.
“Secondly, in many ways I think withholding them is going to be very embarrassing for Tony Blair, not least of course because he brought the Freedom of Information Act into law when he was in government.”
Sir John said there were “strict rules” that prevented the current Government from getting involved and insisted it was down to Labour or Mr Blair to a pproach the Cabinet Office, which handled the negotiations, to give the go-ahead for the papers to be released.
“Mr Blair could, the previous Labour government could, and maybe in their own interests they should think about that because otherwise, as I say, this will fester and I don’t think anybody wishes to see that,” he concluded.
Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son Gordon was killed in Iraq in June 2004, said she was “sickened” by the decision to publish only selected sections and believed Mr Blair would “walk away from it with a smile on his face”.
“How will the families get to know the truth?” she asked. “We are just shoved aside. We just feel ‘What’s the point?’
“I think Tony Blair has got a lot to do with the decision. He is kind of behind it.”
Mrs Gentle said the limited disclosure would mean the families were “still going to be wondering” about what had actually gone on between Mr Blair and Mr Bush before the invasion.
She added: “I think it is definitely (a whitewash).
“I feel Tony Blair is going to walk away from it with a smile on his face.
“I feel he is laughing at us.”
Former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, who was a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: ” I am not surprised that Chilcot has surrendered.
“It is a bad, bad day for democracy and justice. The Establishment of this country, and the security and intelligence services, have won again. Truth has lost out.”
He added: ” We were lied to as a country time and time again on Iraq. The lies endure.”