UK Liberty

More secrecy, Darling?

Posted in freedom of information by ukliberty on May 24, 2007

The BBC on a ‘leaked letter‘:

Trade Secretary Alistair Darling is calling for tighter restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC has learnt.

Mr Darling is concerned that it does not sufficiently protect advice from officials to ministers.

Why does the BBC make that a statement of ‘fact’? We do not know whether that is his concern or not. It seems to me likely that he’s concerned that the FOIA doesn’t sufficiently protect his Government from the public.

In a letter to the lord chancellor he argues that “incremental harm” could be done to policy development and asks for the Act to be reviewed.

We need to watch that sort of claim very carefully.

There are already moves underway to limit the Act, including one to exempt MPs and another to restrict costs.

In the letter, Mr Darling highlights a concern that the Information Tribunal, has ruled against the government in favour of openness.

In other words he appears to be concerned that the Tribunal upholds the law, even when it goes against the Government.

He writes: “The problem seems to stem from the case-by-case approach that the Act requires us to take to FOI requests, and 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.”

Let me re-write that:

Sometimes the Tribunal doesn’t agree with our decisions and rules against us.

We can’t have that, can we?

Back to the BBC:

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, in a speech to the FOI conference on Thursday, urged public bodies to adopt a positive approach to openness.

He also said that the government would have to provide “clear, specific and credible evidence that the formulation or development of policy would be materially altered for the worse by the threat of disclosure.”

How dare he demand clear, specific and – even worse – credible evidence!

3 Responses

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  1. […] if science worked like politics May 31st, 2007 writes Heather Brooke, on Alistair Darling’s leaked letter: Imagine if science worked in this way. Someone could determine (in secret) that his snake-oil was […]

  2. Gordon Brown on liberty « UK Liberty said, on October 30, 2007 at 12:06 am

    […] will we be having words with Alistair, and David Maclean (and anyone who was neutral or supportive), are we going to stop fighting […]

  3. Jack Straw on liberty « UK Liberty said, on December 19, 2007 at 10:44 am

    […] Which of course the Labour Government made all but toothless and wants to further undermine. […]

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