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Cabinet split over FOI and MPs

Martin Rosenbaum | 11:39 UK time, Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Ministers are today reported to be divided over the Bill proposed by Tory MP David Maclean that would exempt MPs from freedom of information.

Lord Falconer is opposed and has warned his colleagues that it would add to the perception 'of being an increasingly secretive goverment', while in contrast the proposal is being welcomed by Jack Straw and some others 'because of the special circumstances of Parliament'.

It is believed by many that there was a similar internal disagreement over the government's planned restrictions on FOI, which were pushed through by Straw and others over-ruling a reluctant Falconer, while other Cabinet ministers without a specific interest in FOI were told it was a simple tidying up exercise to which they need pay no attention.

But there's another angle to this topic, which is the considerable use that MPs themselves make of FOI, a topic which has been researched by Steve Wood of Liverpool John Moores University. FOI gives MPs numerous advantages over Parliamentary Questions, such as the option of appealing to the Information Commissioner when dissatisfied with a response.

Some MPs, notably the enegetic Tory Grant Shapps, have been particularly effective at use of FOI.

One consequence of the Maclean Bill is that it would make it much more difficult to research MPs' use of FOI, since public authorities may keep secret FOI requests received from MPs. But research into how others use FOI would still be possible unimpeded.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:38 AM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • B. Menzies wrote:

So some M.P.s want to be exempt from the freedom of information act. Considering we are paying the wages and everything else they take from the public purse I think they have damned cheek. They didn't want us to know about their hike in expenses, so one asks what else do they have to hide? Some of these people would be well at home running a banana republic. When you look at the Labour front bench and remember what "champions of freedom" some of them used to be (union leaders etc) and see how power has changed them you see the hypocrisy of politics.

  • 2.
  • At 12:19 PM on 21 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:


The Independent under the heading "Plan to curb access to freedom of information would be "unworkable" makes interestin reading today. Robert Verkaik forecasts what the Government may say despite this view from Richard Thomas the Information Commissioner. A talk by Lord Falconer this evening.

Reading this site sort of makes the scales fall from your eyes in language and I loved reading what my lord is anticipated to say:

"We believe in openness - this Government has opened up Whitehall and beyond in ways unimagined, unattempted and unrealised by any previous government in the UK. Good government is open government but good government is effective government too"

UNbelievable. In ways unimagined, unattempted and unrealised?

Previous governments would not have dared!

  • 3.
  • At 11:54 AM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Robert Verkaik followed up on yesterdays piece and the article was entitled "Freedom of Information Act misused, says Falconer".

I nodded sagely and thought "unusual honesty from Labour" but reading on the headline was a precise of Lord Falconer accusing the media of this NOT a self admission.

Lord Falconer added "The job of the Government is not to provide page leads for the papers but information for the citizen. FOI was never considered to be and for our part will never be considered to be a research arm for the media"

Information for the citizen? Hang on a second I thought. LOL Are we sure there isn't an "i" between the "o" and the "n" in my lord's surname? Lord FalCOINER?

Martin, when the Government makes such sterling efforts on behalf of us mere citizens, I am always big enough to admit I get choked up with gratitude. It has been so much easier in the two decades since I first started to try and get my life back. A breeze. LOL

Anyway - I am afraid like me, The Independent remained unconvinced as did a few other recorded commentators, in the piece that Lord Falconer's concern is for our own good and easier Government.

Is "paranoia" a good thing for a ruling party to be accused of suffering from? LOL

  • 4.
  • At 04:51 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:


I do not know if it figures large in the Freedom of Information Act but if information IS to be given we need subtlety and we must have more of it.

The full horror of the following article can only be gauged from the newspaper version - which has a picture of Mr Gordon Brown paying a visit yesterday to my alma mater, now called Lewisham College - formerly SELTC.

The female catering student (my former department of study too) is hunched over a lap top - hopefully doing lessons in creative accounting and not "cooking the books". Subtlety Independent, subtlety.

Remember my line about being a s unnoticeable as "a tarantula on a piece of angel food"? Of all the gin joints, in all the world, the guy due to control the direction the government goes on FOI had to come into what was formerly mine. I am not going to open my front door for a couple of days. Those pesky gods of serendipity again! LOL

Note to the wise - the Independent - other departments like - Engineering at Lewisham College were no doubt. Engineering? Hmmm. I think I see where the idea may have come from

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