Prised open, kicking and screaming government
For those who wondered why last week the Cabinet Office apparently spontaneously published details of top civil servants’ freebies from big business in the greater interests of transparency — resulting in stories like this one — the new Private Eye has the answer.
When the Cabinet Office last week published details of junkets enjoyed by our most senior civil servants, it claimed that “the decision to publish this list reflects the government’s continued commitment to openness and transparency”.
This was, er, bollocks. The junkets only emerged following a two-and-a-half campaign by Private Eye, hassling every Whitehall department for registers of hospitality for the three years up to 2006/07.Far from being open about these, the Cabinet Office orchestrated a cover-up under which all departments would say the older information would be too costly to obtain and that details for 2007 would be published in the “new year”. That was supposed to be the new year 2008, by the way. ….
In a similar vein,
The Office of Government Commerce has spent at least £140,000 on legal fees to keep secret two early Gateway reviews on the national ID cards scheme.
Costs will rise further if government lawyers appeal against a new order by the Information Tribunal to disclose the reviews.
On Thursday last week the Tribunal ordered – for a second time – that the reviews should be published. It gave the Office of Government Commerce 28 days to release them.
But the OGC is likely to appeal the Tribunal’s decision, which means it can continue to keep the reviews secret.
If the OGC were to lose any High Court appeal, it could take the case to the Law Lords. If it lost that too, ministers could veto to stop the reviews being published.