Tuesday, May 15, 2007

(Semi)official Endorsement for Secrecy Bill

According to the BBC the PLP Committee is attempting to shepherd the NuLab flock into the aye lobby on Friday to back the Freedom of Information (Amendment) bill on Friday.

Martin Salter from the committee makes the usual pathetic argument that the change is necessary to:

"'plug the dangerous and unintended consequence' of private correspondence between an MP and a constituent being released."

As usual no attempt is made to rebut the argument of the opponents of the bill, that the Data Protection Act means that there is nothing whatsoever to plug in this area.

While both government and opposition front benches remain officially neutral, it's almost impossible to infer anything other than qui tacit consentire videtur. They want the bill, but are too spineless to stand up and justify their support. It's a mistake in my opinion, as they are now pretty clearly associated with the sentiment of the bill anyway.

What about their respective sheep? In the absence of any real rebuttal of the counterarguments, I can/would only like to think one of two things. Either they have been too lazy to try to understand the nature of the protection the DPA offers, or somehow try and imagine there is some infitesimily small chance of an infitesimily small hole in the existing legislation that they can't quite envisage. To the first group I would say that they are in the wrong job (see www.chilternhundreds.com); to the second I would say that science teaches that there are many theoretical situations where there are infitesimily small chances of a myriad strange things happening, but we don't, for example see the 'Palace of Westminster, Spontaneous Appearance of African Elephants (Prohibition Of) Bill' mentioned in Hansard for the time being.

It will be unusual to be cheering on the likes of Simon Hughes but he and his LibDem colleague Norman Baker's work, along with principled support from other MPs of other parties, to block this bill and maintain both openness and the appearance of openness, is to be applauded.

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