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FOI for ministers

Martin Rosenbaum | 14:42 UK time, Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Does the release of documents under freedom of information help to create a better-informed public debate?

Sometimes, certainly, as was made clear on Newsnight last night. The programme disclosed emails from the British embassy in Warsaw which showed the changing attitudes of officials to the migration of Poles to Britain over the past couple of years. The BBC obtained these emails from the Foreign Office through an FOI request.

Those taking part in the discussion included the Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart, who thought the emails were 'interesting' for what they revealed about the change in official thinking. And that's interesting in itself - because she was actually a Home Office minister throughout the relevant period.

Perhaps FOI can help ministers become better informed.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:16 PM on 09 Aug 2006,
  • jenny wrote:

Does the release of documents under the FOI help create a better informed public debate?

Not if the debate is about publicly funded broadcasting.

  • 2.
  • At 01:40 PM on 11 Aug 2006,
  • Peter Galbavy wrote:

Perhaps a better set of questions would be:

1. If documents should be released under the FoI then why don't all governement departments and other organisations simply publish them without asking ?

Could it be that the thinking is that the best way of keeping this mostly embarassing information secret is to hide the existence of the documents in the first place and only reveal them when forced to ?

2. Why did the FoI legislation get watered down so much and why is it so poorly implemented and policed ?

3. Why are we, the taxpayers, not allowed to know how much of our money gets spent on which projects with which suppliers ? Commercially sensitive ? Why ? Are all the "professionals" involved likely to be embarassed about the numbers ?

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