Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Department of “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”…

A huge backlog of requests under the Freedom of Information Act has built up in the Whitehall department with overall responsibility for the legislation.

Between January and September last year, the Ministry of Justice received 1,798 requests under the legislation. It admitted to The Times that it had responded to only 1,200 on time.
Perhaps because it underestimated just how much the new law would be used, and how each request might throw up potentially embarrassing problems for the Government..?
Nick Herbert, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “If the department sponsoring freedom of information, run by the minister who introduced the legislation, won’t answer requests, what does that say about the Government’s commitment to open government?”
It says exactly what you think it says – that politicians believe that the rules don’t apply to them….

Meanwhile:
Sir Gus O’Donnell, the head of the Civil Service, will lead the Government’s last-ditch attempt to block the release of minutes of Cabinet meetings in the run-up to the war in Iraq, The Times has learnt.
I guess that gives you a bit more of a clue about the government’s commitment to ‘open government’, doesn’t it, Nick..?
The Cabinet Office is fighting the decision because it believes that a vital principle of government is at stake – the right to have private discussions.
Unless you are a celebrity, or – heaven forbid - a member of the Royal Family, that is. Then Gordon's quite happy to gain desperately needed good publicity by issuing fatuous statements about private conversations made three years ago
Ministers argue that releasing the documents could end hundreds of years of confidential Cabinet discussions and undermine collective Cabinet responsibility, where ministers must defend policies in public that they may not agree with in private.
Allow me to save you the trouble – we are already quite well aware that you are all a lying bunch of hypocrites who don’t feel the need to abide by the rules you impose on everyone else.

Further confirmation isn’t going to make things significantly worse….

After all, you are already planning how you can duck out of this one, aren’t you?
If the Government loses, one of the Cabinet Office ministers could issue a decree under Section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act unilaterally blocking the release of the document. This would be a highly controversial move – the first time the Government has used this power since the FoI Act came into force in 2005.
Heads I win, tails you lose….

3 comments:

AntiCitizenOne said...

> the right to have private discussions

Doesn't seem to apply to email, phone or txt messages for proles.

Jeff Wood said...

AC1 nails it. I would easily accept that much of government can be debated in private, if they will just keep their long noses out of my business.

And if the second condition is applied first, there is less to worry about in the first.

JuliaM said...

"I would easily accept that much of government can be debated in private, if they will just keep their long noses out of my business."

Sadly, little chance of that...