Tag Archives: freedom of information

LibLink: Norman Baker – I want to see the end of all animal testing

Norman BakerIt is, perhaps, unusual for a minister to declare that he or she would like to see the end of part, or all, of their job. But then, Norman Baker isn’t necessarily your average minister. It is ironic that, given his record as an anti-vivisection campaigner, he was given responsibility for the regulation of animal experimentation. In an interview with BBC News, he said that he wants to see an end to such testing, although he understands that it “would not happen tomorrow”.

Unexpectedly perhaps, the number of experiments using …

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Caroline Pidgeon AM writes: In praise of Freedom of Information legislation

Parliament ActsTony Blair’s latest comments about Iraq, seeking to defend his disastrous actions back in 2003, have generated extensive media coverage.  However, there are other views expressed by Tony Blair which also deserve attention, most notably his incredible views over freedom of information.

But, before examining his comments lets go back 20 years or so.

For some people it might be hard to remember how Government departments and public bodies often operated.  Holding onto vast amounts of information, however mundane or non-controversial, was considered totally appropriate by most Government departments, quangos and local …

photo by: -JvL-
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I don’t care where Alex Salmond lays his head – but does he have to be so evasive about it?

The Benjamin HotelBuckwheat or memory foam, or water. Those are some of the pillows Alex Salmond could have had, according to the Telegraph when he stayed in New York’s Benjamin Hotel in 2007 when he was there on official business. But, do you know what? I’m not really that bothered. Yes, luxury hotel suites are expensive but in the world of international diplomacy and business, it’s pretty much par for the course. Sure, some people would be happier to see our politicians stay in a Bed and Breakfast with squeaky, staticky, purple nylon sheets and those duvets with flowers on that were so popular in the 70s, and a bit of thrift never goes amiss, but I’m not going to get in a lather about it.

photo by: Reading Tom
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An open letter to Jeremy Browne MP…Part 2: Problems at the Home Office

Dear Jeremy,

In part 1 I explained why the Interception of Communications Commissioner is a failed regulator and one the Home Office should be fixing, yet your civil servants have been reluctant to do so. That should give a pause for thought about the proposals Home Office civil servants keep on pushing to extend the ability of the government to snoop on what we do online.

So too should the way in which the Home Office regularly changes its views of what counts as being in the national interest or vital for the fight against crime, and indeed makes outlandish claims …

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An open letter to Jeremy Browne MP on civil liberties… Part 1: The failed regulator

Dear Jeremy

I doubt that in amongst all the ludicrously large number of issues that pass across the desk of a minister, and a Home Office one no less, you will have noticed a small victory I scored over the Home Office recently.

But I hope you’ll give a pause for thought to the implications of the ruling the Information Commissioner made in my favour over the Home Office (decision notice reference FS50469527).

Partly it’s because of what it says about the never-quite-dead proposals for a huge expansion of monitoring of our online activity. Partly it’s because of what the case reveals …

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David Heath MP writes… Freedom of Information and the NHS risk register – we should publish as much as possible

It was 12 years ago that I sat on my very first House of Commons bill committee, and a pretty important bill it was too. We were considering what was to become the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and I was helping Bob McLennan try to stiffen up what was in danger of becoming, in the hands of the last government, an increasingly flaccid piece of legislation.

After decades of campaigning, the 2000 Act was certainly a longtime in coming for Liberal Democrats. It was Clement Freud who first introduced a Private Members Bill in 1978 that attracted considerable support, …

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Tom Brake writes: The Freedom Bill is a staging post towards an even freer society

The Freedom Bill is clear evidence of the Liberal Democrats setting the political agenda and making a positive difference to how we live in Britain.

It’s our robust answer to unwelcome and unwarranted intrusions into our everyday lives. It starts the dismantling of an overbearing surveillance state and restores British civil liberties that we used to be able to take for granted.

At the heart of the Bill is a commitment to safeguarding and protecting individuals and national security. What has felt to many like an obsession of the state to monitor our every waking moment is broken down by the …

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Opinion: Interesting proposal, Mr Assange, but when will you let us vote on it?

Wikileaks has a theory, that “if acting in a just manner is easier than acting in an unjust manner, most actions will be just.”

Their argument has been strengthened by what has been hailed the “first Wikileaks revolution” in Tunisia. For those who want the corrupt autocracies in the middle East replaced with democracies, this may be seen as a ringing endorsement of Wikileaks.

But is it as simple as that?

Wikileaks talks about the “unintended consequences of failing to publish”, but, of course, there can also be unintended consequences to publishing.

When diplomats of a democratic country send frank briefings …

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The Royal Family, freedom of information and the rest of the story

At the weekend The Independent ran a piece very critical of the Liberal Democrats in government:

The Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.

Letters, emails and documents relating to the monarch, her heir and the second in line to the throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest…

The decision to push through the changes also raises questions about the sincerity of the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to government transparency.

And …

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats in government are protecting free speech and other cherished civil liberties

The Institute for Government was the setting for Deputy Prime Minister’s keynote address on the Coalition Government’s plans for protecting civil liberties – and for those of us keen to see Britain’s tarnished international reputation on personal freedoms restored, Nick Clegg’s speech was enough to brighten even the most dismal of days.

Nick began with a nice touch, telling us why his belief in civil liberties sprang from an upbringing that “made sure that my brothers and sister and I grew up certain of one thing: you must never take your freedom for granted.” This personal insight helped set …

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Met Police and Home Office put on special measures for breaking rules

One for the bureaucratic irony files this. The Information Commissioner has announced that 33 public sector bodies have so regularly broken the rules on responding to Freedom of Information requests that they have been put in special measures.

The 33 bodies are all being required to fully document how they handle future requests and report monthly to the Information Commissioner on how they are doing are complying with the rules. Their record will be reviewed in three months time.

Home Office frontage. Photo credit: </a>…</p>
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The Independent View: Close the Freedom of Information loophole

John Cross from the MySociety team writes about their latest campaign:

On New Year’s Day 2005, when the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force it was described in the Government Press Release as “one of the most generous Freedom of Information regimes in the world.” The reality has been mixed, information released has lead to thousands of news stories but there are still too many loopholes that can be used to avoid or delay the release of information that really ought to be made public.

I recently wrote to MP about one of the worst of the loopholes which …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | 2 Comments

Opinion: Power2010 gives a unique form of democracy a chance to blossom

Statutory instruments. A Bill of Rights. Freedom of Information. Proportional Representation.

Such ideas are not ones you hear bandied about by your average man or women on the street. Yet they were among those chosen by members of the public to try and mend the lack of trust in Britain’s political system.

For those of you who’ve not yet heard of Power2010 it’s a campaign which launched in the wake of the expenses scandal, with public trust in politics at an all time low. It’s a campaign for political and democratic reform, but with …

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Children added to DNA database daily

Figures uncovered by Jo Shaw, Lib Dem PPC for Holborn and St Pancras, show that DNA samples are being taken from children in Camden at the rate of nearly one a day.

From the BBC:

A freedom of information (FOI) request by the Liberal Democrats showed DNA has been taken from an average of 360 young people in Camden every year since 2000.

The samples, from children as young as 10, have been kept regardless of whether charges were ever brought…

Ms Shaw, Lib Dem parliamentary campaigner for Holborn & St Pancras, made the FOI request to the government’s DNA database

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Has David Cameron gagged David Davis?

I only ask because, you see, when the Freedom of Information legislation was going through Parliament, David Davis was one of the MPs who opposed the idea that a Government minister could veto the release of information:

A cross-party alliance of senior MPs was formed yesterday to attack the Home Office for giving ministers wide-ranging powers of veto in the Freedom of Information Bill … Others who joined the call for fellow MPs to back cross-party amendments to the Bill included David Davis (C, Haltemprice and Howden) (The Independent, 31 March 2000)

So now that Jack Straw has used the

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Cabinet minutes on Iraq 2: Can you guess what Dominic Grieve said next?

So there he was, sat in the House of Commons listening to Jack Straw announce his decision to veto the Information Tribunal’s decision that the Cabinet minutes of the decision to go to war in Iraq should be released.

Up he then got, and this is what Dominic Grieve said:

The Secretary of State’s decision to use his powers of veto in this case classically illustrates what has been wrong with the Government’s approach to freedom of information.

and

The public have had their expectations about openness raised by Labour’s spin and propaganda, only to be brought down to earth.

and

Does

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Cabinet minutes on Iraq 1: Straw vetoes, Lib Dems oppose

The big Parliamentary news yesterday was the announcement by Jack Straw that he was over-ruling an Information Tribunal ruling and taking the unprecedented step of withholding information they had ordered should be released – the minutes of the Cabinet meetings which decided to go to war with Iraq.

The move was opposed by the Liberal Democrats, with David Howarth leading the charge:

The decision to go to war in Iraq was momentous, controversial and disastrous, especially for this country’s reputation as an upholder of international law.

There never has been a full and comprehensive public inquiry into the decision to go

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Straw vetoes release of Iraq minutes: a nearly-LDV exclusive

There is a lot of cynicism out there about Twitter, and, yes, for some time I was one of the realists.

No longer, for a couple of hours ago Twitter almost provided Lib Dem Voice with a genu-ine world exclusive shock horror with bells on.

Jo Swinson tweeted from the Chamber at 15.39 as follows:

in Parl hearing Jack Straw vetoing releasing Cabinet minutes of Iraq war even though FOI tribunal ordered it – shocking

Now, if only I’d been farting about on Twitter like I should have been and not doing productive things like speccing for new work, I’d have

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Stormin’ Norman on the warpath again

That tireless Parliamentary terrier, Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, has been doing what he does best, once again: demanding answers to awkward questions. The man who forced Peter Mandelson to quit the cabinet last time around has now turned his attention to two new bete-noires:

1) Gordon Brown’s refusal to answer questions, which The Guardian’s Politics Blog notes – here’s what Norman said to the House of Commons, courtesy of Hansard:

The issue of openness is crucial for democracy. We touched on it in the previous debate about MPs’ expenses. After all my years in politics, both

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Lib Dem MP to put down motion against expenses cover-up

Yesterday David Heath said that both he and Nick Clegg opposed plans to exempt MPs from having to publish full details of their expenses. Now fellow Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has said she will be putting down a Parliamentary motion supporting this opposition:

Jo Swinson, will on Monday table a parliamentary motion against the Government’s decision to exempt MPs from publishing full details of their expenses.

The motion criticises the “regressive effect” of the move on Parliamentary transparency.

Commenting, Jo Swinson said: “Ministers should not be cooking up plans to keep MPs’ expenses hidden from public view. With this

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Lib Dems to oppose Labour/Tory attempts to weaken Freedom of Information

Today’s Guardian reports on Labour’s latest attempts to dilute the very Freedom of Information Act (2000) which it once passed:

Ministers today faced a backlash following the revelation that they are backing plans to exempt MPs from Freedom of Information Act legislation. The Liberal Democrats denounced the move, saying the party’s MPs would be advised to vote against the plan when it is considered in a free vote next Thursday. Tories are being urged to abstain. However, with many backbenchers from the two main parties privately in favour of the move, it is expected to be approved. …

Downing Street defended

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  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 22nd Sep - 7:04pm
    Huntbach - I agree. Devolution can very easily become the ideal model for corporate interests. Politics of course is the study of the allocation of...
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    An interesting piece by Anthony Faircough and he is right to highlight the disaster that has hit the Liberal Democrat in elections over the last...
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    From the post: "The Liberal Democrats is a political party not a loose collection of residents association councillors". Are you sure? Yes, I know it...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 22nd Sep - 6:56pm
    OK. I do recognise that I'm likely rather out of step here. I'm pretty sceptical of devolution per se. Whilst it is great to see...
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    "so that when they cast their vote, they at least have a conception of what we’re about" - you mean what Liberal Reform are about...