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FOI spotlight now shines on policy formulation

Martin Rosenbaum | 12:17 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2007

Freedom of information is beginning to bite, and hard.

That's clear from the intense row that Gordon Brown is now facing over the advice he received from officials on changes to dividend tax relief in 1997.

As I wrote last month, recent decisions by the Information Tribunal mean that the spotlight of FOI is moving closer to heart of goverment. It is now shining into what for central goverment is one of the most sensitive areas, the process of policy formulation and internal discussion. These other cases affected the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Work and Pensions.

What's interesting in this case is that the Treasury decided not to contest it at the Information Tribunal - the hearing was scheduled for next month - but to concede now. Possibly this was influenced by the decisions already issued by the Tribunal in the DfES and DWP cases, which may have persuaded Treasury lawyers that their resistance was going nowhere.

The DfES and DWP shortly have to announce whether they will continue to take their battles against the release of internal advice and discussion to the next stage of the High Court, or whether they will now release the information.

For some, this is what the Freedom of Information Act was always really meant to be about. For others, it's what most worried them about it.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:12 PM on 02 Apr 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, The previous text of yours was titled "You cannot vex a Texan".

Make that in spades as far as vexing Finns are concerned. I told you a while back about a certain person from there complaining about Chancellor Brown's (allegedly) sticky fingers in her pension pot for the past decade. Bad move Gordon. Bad move. Those Nordic gods I mentioned.

Richard Wagner's operas were about Nordic gods "lite" in comparison. So hats off to the newspaper (The Times?) for sticking at the FOI request - but a powerful wind from the North perhaps helped a bit?

Plus the old adage - be careful who you step on going up maybe coming back to bite someone in a tender place?

  • 2.
  • At 08:00 PM on 02 Apr 2007,
  • john field wrote:

there is a bill going through parliament at the moment which seems to mean that both house of parliament will be excluded in the future,at the same time all members will have access to 210,000 each per annum though a communication allowance for the setting up and manning of new ways to inform the public about what goes on in parliament.that is potentially 130,000,000 pounds per year.

A bit of pot/kettle/black when the BBC is still hiding the Balen Report?

  • 4.
  • At 05:30 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Ralph now.

Martin is there some sort of power YOU have within the Beeb that will elicit the release of this Balen Report?

Because as soon as someone like Ralph complains about reports that show Israel or its like in a bad light being suppressed - I want you to arrange its (Balen's) release. These Emails in my opinion ARE a sort of one whinge "flash mob" - so I for one am going to ignore them. I like meat with my arguments. Guido Fawkes type conspiracy (pots calling kettles)theories go over my head.

Someone neutral was/will decide whether The Balen Report IS released and then we will see if that is acceptable to whomever. I suspect it depends what it says. Closed minds. Open Gobs. Too often they come as a pair. No offence, Ralph!

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