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10 Freedom of Information

David Vincent traces the history of the struggle against Britain's culture of secrecy. Heather Brooke recalls how she used the 2000 FOI Act to expose the MPs' expenses scandal.

In this episode, Phil Tinline asks Professor David Vincent to trace the history of the struggle against Britain's culture of secrecy, culminating in a series of causes celebres in the 1980s, particularly the sensational acquittal of senior civil servant, Clive Ponting. Ponting was charged with leaking sensitive information about the sinking, during the Falklands War, of the Argentinian warship the General Belgrano. His defence was that he had leaked the information to an MP in the public interest, and despite questions about whether this was a tenable defence, the jury found him not guilty. Professor Heather Brooke recalls how she used the Freedom of Information Act - eventually passed in 2000 but not active until 2005 - during her years of campaigning to expose the MPs' expenses scandal. And she reflects on how free information is in Britain compared to America.

Producer: Phil Tinline

Release date:

14 minutes

Broadcast