Jun 102009

Last updated on November 21st, 2015

Hardly is the ink dry on my post today titled UK Judges See Terror Sense in which I actually praise Brown for some positive moves regarding freedom, then he goes and dumps shit on everything again:  Government plans FOI restrictions.

Here’s the salient point of Brown’s speech to the commons today:

And given the vital role transparency has played in sweeping aside the discredited system of allowances, and holding power to account, I believe we should do more to spread the culture and practice of freedom of information.

So as a next step, the Justice Secretary will set out further plans to look at broadening the application of Freedom of Information to include additional bodies which also need to be subject to greater transparency and accountability. This is the public’s money. They should know how it is spent.  (One step forward -SP)

I should also announce that, as part of extending the availability of official information and as our response to the Dacre Review, we will progressively reduce the time taken to release official documents. (One step forward -SP)

As the report recommended, we have considered the need to strengthen protection for particularly sensitive material and there will be protection of Royal Family and Cabinet papers as part of strictly limited exemptions. But we will reduce the time for release of all other official documents below the current 30 years, to 20 years. (One step backward -SP)

And that’s the trouble.  If we replace the word “sensitive” by the word “embarrassing” it all becomes clear.  Anything that’s embarrassing to royalty or the current government (Q. Who decides what’s senstive?  A.  the PM, that’s who!) will get buried for even longer than now.  So despite the gestures of openness, if a future expenses scandal arose, it could immediately be judged “sensitive” and then no-one would know anything about it!!!

I tell you, Brown is like the Arnhem of politics.  Always one paragraph too late and too far.

The whole speech has actually some very sound proposals to redress much of the current unease within the coountry about the validity of our public representatives.  It’s just that one paragraph that mucks it up!


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