UK Liberty

Openness

Posted in accountability, British Bill of Rights, ID Cards by ukliberty on March 7, 2008

Computer Weekly:

Government lawyers have asked the High Court to throw out a ruling to publish Gateway reviews into the progress of the government’s ID cards project on the basis of a piece of 319-year-old English legislation.

The hearing is seen as a test case on whether Gateway reviews – independent assessments of high- and medium-risk IT projects at critical stages – should be subject to public scrutiny.

If the judge accepts the case put forward by government lawyers, and he has indicated that he may, Gateway reviews on ID cards and other major schemes will remain secret for at least another six months, and possibly much longer.

The government is using the 1689 Bill of Rights, which lays down the principles of parliamentary supremacy, as a central argument in its legal battle to prevent Gateway reviews becoming public. The case will decide whether a ruling by the Information Tribunal that Gateway reviews on ID cards be published should stand.

The OGC’s barrister Jonathan Swift asked judge Stanley Brunton to reject the ruling that the reviews should be made public, in the High Court last week.

Swift said Parliamentary Privilege granted by the 1689 Bill of Rights stopped the courts from questioning or examining parliamentary proceedings. [this is my emphasis]

This could undermine the Information Tribunal’s ruling, which relied heavily on an investigation into Gateway reviews by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

Swift – who was backed by Martin Chamberlain, a lawyer representing the speaker of the House of Commons – said the tribunal was wrong to quote extensively from the committee’s report.

SpyBlog has a history of the OGC FOIA requests in question. Note that two neutral decision-makers (ICO and Information Tribunal) separately ruled that the FOIA requests should be complied with.

Justice Minister Michael Wills recently made “a speech on the need for a national debate on constitutional reform to inform discussions about the new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Full of the usual waffle – with some worrying arguments against the rule of law – but the following was interesting:

the debate that will shortly begin on the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities can only make sense in the context of the wider debate about power in our society. Where it resides. Where it should reside. How it should be distributed. How we should decide how it should be distributed. Who should decide how it should be distributed.

I think it’s clear where the Government believes power should reside and who decides how it should be distributed, don’t you?

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One Response

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  1. […] it is still a struggle to get information if the Government minds you having it (example). And these reforms are working. The vibrant debate, currently energising politics in Scotland and […]


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