Comments for en-gb 30 Thu 21 Aug 2014 01:44:36 GMT+1 A feed of user comments from the page found at Bloofs I can only assure Tony that I am not a journalist or linked to the media and regularly use FoI for my own reasons. So, thanks, Tone! Tue 26 Oct 2010 17:26:14 GMT+1 Soloduck I work in FoI. I believe in the Law and concept itself, I don't agree in how the media and those with a commerical interest use it. Examples would be the media and a request about information security incidents. It was so badly written to be next to meaningless. Of course, the media outlet then ran a (non)story on it.Write to every public sector body and trawl for a story.or the commerical requests that want names and phone numbers, etc.These requests actually spoil a good piece of legislation that should hold public bodies to account and promote openness.And of course the media then decide what is and isn't suitable for "openness"... Thu 07 Oct 2010 12:59:51 GMT+1 WolfiePeters Isn’t there an element of hypocrisy in Mr Blair raising ‘openness’ etc in a book where he talks ‘openly’ about whatever he likes, including offending his successor? I admit my comment is based on hearsay from BBC reports as I refuse to buy (or in any way support buying) a book by Mr B.Martin, I cannot leave your title without comment.Why Tony Blair thinks he was an idiotCould it be that even he had a moment of lucidity? If he has some more, he may realise that he satisfied the requirements for far more unpleasant epithets than idiot. Should he do so, he may abandon telling us about himself, become very depressed and disappear forever. Sun 05 Sep 2010 12:25:28 GMT+1 WolfiePeters "...highlighted in particular ways..." = sexing up a bit.Surely, that's something this former PM was an expert on. Or did he think that only his kitchen cabinet knew how to do it? Sat 04 Sep 2010 13:58:39 GMT+1 Wicked_Witch_of_the_West_Coast All FOIs do is allow journalists to obtain information from civil servants, sometimes at great cost (as they don't like to use the 'too expensive' refusal) which said journalists then pass off as their own work. No wonder civil servants hate the press! Thu 02 Sep 2010 18:33:05 GMT+1 Ian Westbrook "Although he admits he criticises his officials for not warning him of the damage he now thinks he was doing when legislating for FOI "in the first throes of power""What, you mean when he still had some small measure of idealism left and before he became utterly corrupted by power and turned into a lying war criminal? Thu 02 Sep 2010 15:42:45 GMT+1 losticini Blair has it partially right: the FOI Act, taken in conjunction with the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Legislation is a nightmare: a dog's breakfast of conflicting laws which is a goldmine for lawyers and a constant drain on public sector resources to administer. I know, I have had to do so. Occasionally - very occasionally - it manages to generate, almost by accident, some useful results, like the information that exposed the corruption over expenses. Otherwise, it is used by journalists going on fishing expeditions, direct marketing companies and sales managers who want to build up target lists, disgruntled employees with a grudge against their organisation and firms who have tendered for public sector contracts unsuccessfuly. And that is leaving out the various obsessives, nutters and numpties who just love writing letters in capitals with every other word triple underlined. The BBC know very well that it is possible to whip up a cracking exemption or two when needed - the Beeb has a blanket exemption to FOI requests that it applies when anyone asks it a difficult question and doesn't even have to conduct a review of an applicant's subsequent complaint - they have an exemption to that too. Do us a favour BBC and drop this hypocritical blog until you join in the spirit of the Act. Thu 02 Sep 2010 11:39:09 GMT+1 Sciamachy @Andrew Morton: hear, hear! I was just thinking, if Tony Blair thinks that he's a numptie for having passed the FOI Act, then he is a numptie, but for different reasons. Any democratic government needs to be accountable to the people who elect it, and they can only be held accountable if what they do in the name of the people is known. Journalists have a responsibility as the Fourth Estate to expose corruption, wrong-doing & wrong ideas where they occur so that the people are well-informed and can make the best decisions when reviewing a leader's actions come election time.If Tony Blair thinks he can lead a democratic country without transparency & freedom of information, he's either a numptie or he doesn't really support the ideal of democracy at all. Since Napoleon said "Never ascribe to malice what can be equally attributed to idiocy" I'll go with Blair as numptie. Thu 02 Sep 2010 08:49:35 GMT+1 BobRocket #12 Hellojim and #15 Badgerer,Yes, the FOI can be costly for a council in the short term.A council can reduce the longer term costs by first publishing each FOI request on their websites as they came in and the response when it was forthcoming.Secondly they can mine the responses and start to pre-emptively publish similar information.This would help to prevent requests that were broadly similar in nature but that correspond to different data.For example, the council already knows how much is spent on biscuits, lists of suppliers, contact names (or at least depts.).When the first request comes in regarding biscuits then that information should be published on the website, it doesn't take a great oracle to predict that someone else will want to know how much is spent on teabags so why not print that at the same time to stop the barrage of separate but almost duplicate requests. Thu 02 Sep 2010 07:49:18 GMT+1 PlatinumPlatypus Bliar only regrets FOI because it brought the expenses scam crashing down, bet all his old cronies are thanking him for that one. Thu 02 Sep 2010 00:28:06 GMT+1 Andrew Morton Tony Blair misses the point. The FOI Act was a genuine triumph of his government exactly BECAUSE it's left him thinking he was a numptie. The FOI Act genuinely empowers ordinary people in this country. It lets us find out at least some of the things that those who govern us would like to keep secret. Without the FOI Act there would have been no revelation of MPs' expenses. Without the FOI Act we would know far less about the run-up to Iraq. Without the FOI Act citizens of this country are at the mercy of "lobby correspondents"So, really, thank you Tony for the FOI Act. If politicians didn't hate it, it wouldn't be worth having. Wed 01 Sep 2010 23:13:15 GMT+1 tarquin The FOI Act is right, and in use in many, many countries - the fact is that yes it would be easier for governments to operate if they could do anything they liked behind closed but ultimately they shouldn't, we have developed a culture in this country where the public don't need to know and all the parties do little to offend anyone publicly, the public need to see real decisions and arguments and to keep that situation would have been plain wrong, it would simply be politically expedient for the politicians to not have this 'mallet' - but the reality is we should have that mallet and it should be right in their facesand of course, no cabinet minutes have ever been revealed - and they won't be, so what is Blair on about anyway?It was right, and his regret probably shows it as his most important achievementReminds me of Disraeli in the 1870s - the parties continued to bribe people after the Secret Ballot Act and he bemoaned the fact they weren't getting the results promised to them, a pain for them, but surely it was still the right thing to do though Wed 01 Sep 2010 22:36:45 GMT+1 george reilly I am surprised FOIA is thought to be a bad law. Why is it bad that journalists can ask these questions and get answers? They are doing it for the public. The public after all buy their newspapers. If they do not want these stories, do not read these papers.Imagine how hard it must have been to get any information before the FOIA. As to the holy secrets and confidentiality being diminished, I think it is quite the opposite. So very little in councils or government is confidential. In reality, it is just someone not want extra scrutiny on their, potentially flawed, decisions. In any case, the really confidential stuff will be withheld. When was the last time a serious confidential issue, such as the list of informants working for MI5 was released under FOIA? To make it out that this is happenning is silly and misdirects the argument.Blair knew what was happenning when he did this law, the US and other countries had been using it for years, so it is at best disingenuous. Perhaps it is a way for him to confess to a smaller sin so we forget or overlook his larger sins.In any case true transparency occurs when people have to disclose the reasons for their decisions before they make them, rather than afterwards. For the most part, FOIA is after the fact rather than before, which is its design. However, true transparency is when a government tells you what it is going to do and why, discusses it openly, and then does what it says it was going to do. Too often, the issues are raised indirectly, real outcomes or effects are rarely explored, and then when the true cost and implications are raised, the government makes a weak argument about "consultation".In the end, like the Iraq War, it is one of the better things TB did but for the wrong reasons. Wed 01 Sep 2010 21:42:23 GMT+1 ApricotJelly @HelloJim (12):I too used to work in FoI, at a London borough council. I saw plenty of frivolous FoI requests, and many more commercially motivated ones. But the majority of requests were for information that it was perfectly reasonable the public should have access to, whether they were made by individuals or by journalists. It's all very well saying that councils already publish details of salaries, expenditure and so on - but they wouldn't have done if this information had not been persistently requested under the Act since 2005. Even then, many councils continued arrogantly to hold out against the legislation until they were issued with enforcement notices by the Information Commissioner or even, finally, had these upheld at the Tribunal. Yes, compliance with FoI costs councils money. But if they are well-organised and well-intentioned they will be able to construct an efficient regime that will give the public value for money. In the case of the council I worked at and, I suspect, many others, there is little appetite to build such a regime because there is little belief in the value of the principles underlying the legislation.That Tony Blair and so many council executive directors are so displeased with FoI is a measure of its success in the teeth of the government's cowardly and thoroughly dishonest attempts to disarm it. Wed 01 Sep 2010 21:25:11 GMT+1 Badgerer HelloJim is correct. I also work for a council, and there are several staff whose jobs are almost entirely dedicated to FOIs. It wouldn't be so bad if they were about serious issues such as how badly the council is being ripped off by its private contractors (though that's usually withheld based on "commercial sensitivity") or the qualifications of councillors to hold key portfolios, but instead most of them are about how much the council spends on biscuits or how many team-building exercises staff have had. Someone should submit an FOI asking how much time councils spend on FOI requests, where they come from, and how much that equates to in staff time costs. Wed 01 Sep 2010 21:08:45 GMT+1 Dave H FOI requests are very useful when a government department (whether local or central) is being evasive and unhelpful. If nothing else, the mere fact that they're attempting to apply an exemption suggests that the request is fully justified. I can quite see why TB didn't like them, although the amount of dirt uncovered shows that the transparency was badly needed. Perhaps the FOI is not the most efficient way of achieving the end result, but it has certainly helped. Wed 01 Sep 2010 21:02:41 GMT+1 Martin It's scary that someone who was the Prime Minister completely failed to grasp the ramifications of such an important piece of legislation. My pet goldfish could tell it was a bad law yet he seemed to live in a fluffy world of his own make-believe that the FoI would lead to utopia. A classic demonstration of meglomania by ignoring all advice that didn't match his entrenched beliefs. Wed 01 Sep 2010 20:58:18 GMT+1 HelloJim TB is right, it is a great example of a well intended piece of legislation being abused. I work for a council. We spend hundreds of hours every week responding to frivolous FOI requests. Everyone who doesn't get a job puts in a FOI request wanting various notes, biodata on those appointed etc. Anyone with a gripe against the council submits them. Companies selling products put in FOI demanding contact names, lists of existing suppliers etc. And countless requests from journalists. We already publish details of salaries, expenditure, minutes of meetings, papers etc. I can't remember the last genuine interest FOI request we received. Every council has an FOI Officer and hundreds of staff hours are used every week. And this waste of public sector staff members time costs the tax payer millions. Wed 01 Sep 2010 20:15:48 GMT+1 G Cox These comments on the FOI Act conform my poor view of him as someone who wants to rules with a PR invincibility shield.From my own personal experience, the FOI has been superb in allowing members of the public to hold local authorities to account. Wed 01 Sep 2010 19:10:41 GMT+1 G Cox These comment on the FOI Act conform my poor view of him as someone who wants to rules with a PR in invincibility shield. From my own personal experience the FOI has been superb in allowing members of the public to hold local authorities to account. Wed 01 Sep 2010 19:09:52 GMT+1 jauntycyclist funny how tony's expenses got accidentally shredded? Wed 01 Sep 2010 18:55:26 GMT+1 centenarysquare I always thought the FOI was once of Blair's better Acts - precisely because it is so annoying to those Governing by making them accountable to the governed; and it is the type of act that can only be introduced in the first throes of power. Similar to Osborne publishing the Treasury COINS dataset (though evidently that is not the whole story but a decent step).The interesting thing about FOIs is that the results are private not public - which is why media publishing them at least helps promulgate results; but only those that are newsworthy / sensationalist (depending on your view). Another attempt - that answers Justin Case's comment>Blair might think that the FOI is for the people not the media, but what percentage of the populous would even know how to go about using the FOI?is a site like which allows sending FOI requests and publishes the results for all to read. Perhaps Blair may gain some solace in reading accounts of real voters holding their authorities to account; before having to wait for the book to come out. Wed 01 Sep 2010 18:00:54 GMT+1 Justin Case Blair might think that the FOI is for the people not the media, but what percentage of the populous would even know how to go about using the FOI? I contend that if it was not for the media using the Act the public would be wholly unaware of the shenanigans of the politicians. That is why Blair is mad about it. He was thinking of a FOI that nobody would know how to use or be able to afford to pursue. Of course the media has an element of self-serving. Just as politicians have self-serving interests. The public aren't stupid. An element is accepted. The public gets angry when it sees the only element is self-serving. Wed 01 Sep 2010 17:39:38 GMT+1 Apolloin Freedom of Information is one of those things that we're constantly being told is in the best interests of the people and of democracy in general.Of course the people who are telling us this are invariably journalists!Mind you, I find it hard to feel animosity towards any legislation that allowed the media to hound expense-fiddling politicians in a way that the courts and their peers never would. Wed 01 Sep 2010 16:12:55 GMT+1 U14399620 This post has been Removed Wed 01 Sep 2010 14:43:12 GMT+1 Calaba Yup, it's because "news" stories in the media broadly fall under 2 categories:1) Copy-and-Paste of press releases. This is where most "real" news comes from - companies making various announcements, etc. Unfortunately, it's also how most spin is done too.2) Just making it all up. If you want a top-notch example, try googling "end of the world in nine days" - it's (supposedly) about the LHC. This sort of journalism is hardly ever done well, as it's basically the journalist's non-expert opinion. This is the kind of thing the FOI encourages. Wed 01 Sep 2010 14:09:58 GMT+1 John HW The problem about journalists commenting on politicians remarks about journalists is that you are bound to end up with the journalist's interpretation. The media is blind and deaf to the intrinsic validity of anyone else's view, before it goes through the media mincing machine. We have got ourselves trapped in a situation where just about anything a politician says or does is endlessly scrutinised by the media as to its 'real' meaning. Nothing is taken at face value. Sadly, cynicism is often the refracting lens. This is unhealthy, but unfortunately is still a debate waiting to happen: journalists notoriously do not like being subject to the intense scrutiny that they regularly put others under. Wed 01 Sep 2010 13:26:59 GMT+1 BobRocket I think it's just sour grapes on TBs part, he wanted to write an autobiography that painted himself in the light he would like to be seen by but the truth (in the form of FOI) kept getting in the way. Without FOI he could have written any old tosh he liked without fear of being found out and discredited. Wed 01 Sep 2010 13:01:26 GMT+1 pandatank The 'mallet' isn't the FOI act, the mallet is the medias unrestricted licence to make stories up. A Press Complaints Commission with teeth and no vested interest, would have balanced out the increased access to previously confidential information. As TB said "If you are trying to take a difficult decision and you're weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations... And if those conversations then are put out in a published form that afterwards are liable to be highlighted in particular ways, you are going to be very cautious. That's why it's not a sensible thing."The point is (and it was always the point that TB missed) that "highlighting in a particular way" is a far cry from the treatment many of todays news stories get ie. Making it up. That's why we now have "trial by soundbite". Wed 01 Sep 2010 12:17:17 GMT+1