Thursday, 24 January 2008

Freedom of Information

This week two very important decisions have emerged from the offices of the Information Commissioner. The first was the ruling that all MP’s expenses must be outlined individually and released for public consumption. Richard Thomas, the IC, ruled that MP’s claims should be broken down into 12 different sections. The House of Commons have 35 days to comply with the ruling. But will they? The Commons has always claimed that they have a degree of “privacy” not enjoyed by the average member of the public. Run through the Northern Herald Universal Language Translator, this comes out as “we are above the law”. As MP’s last year actually failed to change said law in their favour, they intend to appeal against the Commissioner’s decision on the grounds that they have special needs. Couldn’t agree more on that assumption!

The second decision concerns the original draft of the Iraqi arms dossier, which is rumoured to include the first mention of the 45 minute mass destruction element. Ordered by the IC to place the draft in the public domain, the Foreign Office objected and the issue went to an Information Tribunal. The Tribunal has backed the decision, and publication should follow. Oops, here we go again. The Foreign Office doesn’t like the end result, with a spokesman saying it would be "studying the decision". Sources said there were no plans to release the draft in the near future. If pushed it will either go to the High Court or ask Miliband to sign a “ministerial veto” stopping the release.

So that’s MP’s who are above the law, and now the Foreign Office.

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