Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Truth Will Out...

...if only when it gets leaked. The claim that the proposed amendments to the Freedom of Information (FOI) act, removing both Houses of Parliament from its scope, are purely to protect communications between our esteemed parliamentarians and humble constituents lie in tatters tonight. At the same time the the reason that there has been such strong support from the government front bench, despite their officially neutral position has become crystal clear.

According to a leaked letter from Trade Secretary, Alastair Darling, to the Lord Chancellor, the BBC tells us that:
'The Trade Secretary is concerned that it [the Freedom of Information Act] does not sufficiently protect advice from officials to ministers.'

Naturally he does not go on to explain the dangers such releases, even they passed the public interest test, could pose. He does not discuss the prospect of his colleagues spending some of the retirement in substandard government provided accommodation with addresses beginning 'HMP' rather whatever grace and favour prestige homes they can cling on to. Instead he opines that the fact that the is, in his mind...
"a discernible trend within the Information Tribunal that decisions on the public interest test have not been falling in the government's favour in key cases"

...that this is...
"placing good government at risk"

"If we are to live under constant threat of publication, this will prevent MPs from expressing their views frankly when writing to a minister. We need urgent advice on what the position is."

So this is what it is all about, it is not about protecting communications from the man in the street coming into the public domain. It is about preventing the man in the street knowing what the people we pay to represent us are saying to each other.

It's not the battered wives or public spirited informants whose identities and information need protecting, what needs hiding away is the type of thing the BBC highlights:
In March, Treasury documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act which showed officials warned of the effects of abolishing dividend tax credits, saying it "would make a big hole in pensions scheme finances".

Anyway, frankly, if this is the kind 'good government' that the FOI act threatens, I'm more than happy to give the alternative a go.

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