Defence CommitteeLetter from Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister to the Chair

Thank you for your letter of 22 March about the Defence Committee’s request to see the legal advice provided to the Government by the Attorney General on the legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets to Libya.

As I said during my Statement on Monday 29 March, I think the long-standing convention that the Government is entitled to receive legal advice in confidence, and then to act in the terms of that legal advice, is worth upholding.

I see this as a matter of principle. I hope you agree that the Government needs sound legal advice that remains legally privileged. I do not think we can make an exception to release certain legal advice or release to certain groups. It begs the question why won’t we release subsequent advice or release it to wider groups. Therefore I am not minded to break with this precedent.

Nevertheless, recognising the significance of this issue, the Government considered it appropriate in these exceptional circumstances to confirm that we had obtained advice from the Attorney General. We also considered that it was right that Parliament should be informed about the legal position to inform its debate which was why we made available to Members a note setting out the legal basis for the deployment of our armed forces. In doing so I hope you agree we have struck the right balance.

30 March 2011

Prepared 7th February 2012