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Monday, 5 March 2007

Information Commissioner expected to defend public rights

Tomorrow Information Commissioner Richard Thomas will appear before the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee together with his two deputies and Rob Evans of the Guardian. It's not only the government that are hostile to the FOI Act - MPs on both sides of the house hate it. After years of having their snouts deep in the parliamentary trough with no external scrutiny, the Act has allowed details of their mind-boggling expenses, claims and allowances to be made public.

On the day in January that the news was filled with the arrest of Blair lickspittle Ruth Turner, former Tory whip David Maclean introduced a Bill to exempt Parliament from all FOI requests. It seems the sole dissenting voice was Libdem MP Norman Baker, who has been instrumental in forcing through disclosure of our MPs' cash-grasp. Government whips quietly allowed Maclean's Bill through, in a departure from normal practice for opposition private members' bills.

An unholy alliance of incompetent civil servants, larcenous MPs and a government sensitive about FOI revelations such as Blair's spend of public funds on cosmetics will undoubtedly curtail our brief Spring of official openness.

This is not the only area in which we have much to learn from the cousins across the ditch; a licence to cover-up has never been the American way.

Update
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The select committee hearing was cancelled today (6th March) as MPs felt that attending the debate on House of Lords reform was more important.

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