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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Blair shows real democrat colours

Martin Rosenbaum on Open Secrets has a great post on Tony Blair's reflections on his introduction of Freedom of Information law to the UK:
"You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it."
The Constitution Unit  at University College London put out this release (thanks Rick Snell) suggesting
"the former Prime Minister should not have reproached himself in such extravagant terms. He is mistaken to fear that FOI has had a significant effect in inhibiting private policy discussions, says the Constitution Unit director Prof Robert Hazell.  As in other Westminster countries, the Act contains protections for policymaking.

Prof Hazell points out that in the UK, “sections 35 and 36 of the FOI Act offer protections for policymaking discussions and there is also the ultimate protection the of a ministerial veto to prevent the release of information which the government has used twice.” For instance, last year Jack Straw used the veto to block publication of Cabinet discussions in the run-up the Iraq war in 2003.

A two year study 'Does FOI Work'? by the Constitution Unit  found little evidence of a 'chilling effect' inhibiting policy making or committing it to paper.  Prof Hazell adds: “anecdote abounds but hard evidence is difficult to find. Changes in methods of recording policy discussions were due to other factors, notably the use of electronic communications and the changed pace of decision –making.”

Another study undertaken by the Unit for the Information Commissioner’s Office concluded that, although there has been some concern and nervousness, ‘neither officials nor Ministers thought that FOI requests would have much impact on the substance of the decisions taken by government. The same factors would be considered; and the same conclusions reached’.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew7:19 am

    See also this article from the Campaign for Freedom of Information.