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    MPs exempt themselves from FOI act

    by Sunny on 18th May, 2007 at 9:26 pm    

    Several of you emailed in to register your anger at the fact that MPs today passed a bill exempting themselves from the Freedom of Information Act, which I had warned about earlier. Not many people made a fuss then and now the damn thing is passed on to the Lords for approval. I hope they chuck it out.

    While Tory chief-whip David Maclean introduced it, it was voted in mostly by Labour MPs. Iain Dale has some background info; Index on Comment published a letter in the Times yesterday on this too. Feel free to vent your anger below.

    Update: As Unity points out not only is the reason why Maclean wants this legislation inapplicable, but he made no attempt to ask the Information Commissioner about them! Kudos to the Libdems.

    On a positive note for the weekend, Sarkozy of France has announced a cabinet with nearly half of them women (highest in Europe now) and the first woman MP of North African decent. Respect where it’s due.

      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Civil liberties, Current affairs, Sex equality

    26 Comments below   |  

    1. Kulvinder — on 18th May, 2007 at 9:44 pm  

      Its not a huge surprise which party backed this the most. I’d try to care more, but to be perfectly honest i haven’t got any energy left. If you fight The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, they just bring in something else.

    2. Kulvinder — on 18th May, 2007 at 9:47 pm  

      Oh and good job guys releasing the increasing costs of the ID card scheme right when the papers were filled with Tony Blair’s resignation. Things like that just make us love you.

    3. Refresh — on 18th May, 2007 at 11:05 pm  


    4. douglas clark — on 19th May, 2007 at 12:21 am  


      Thanks for putting this up, when the world elsewhere seems to be falling apart.

      Frankly, this is why folk are turned off politics. When they see the self serving little dancers for what they are, it is a joke to expect people to vote for them. Precious little darlings that can’t deal in an open manner.

      I am absolutely disgusted. Allegedly our new PM is going around asking folk what they think. And, you know what? This will be below the radar. So he’ll be able to pretend it was just a carry over from Blair, just an anomaly, nothing to worry about. Yet it is.

      It is something to worry about, simply because it makes the folk we elect less accountable. It gives them wriggle room they don’t deserve.

      Political accountability has gone down the tubes. No-one resigns anymore. Believe me, if they can hide shit under a Freedom of Information Act (Ammended for the sake of MPs), they most certainly will.

      This is a disgraceful cheat on behalf of self serving MPs against the democracy they are supposed to espouse. Did I mention, I’m disgusted?

      And so goes accountability, openness, freedom. It is enough to make you sick.

    5. Gump — on 19th May, 2007 at 12:53 am  

      David Maclean is ex tory chief-whip.

      I think the idea is that the information that is currently published will still be available in the future. However, any more detailed information will be much harder to, if not impossible, to find out.

      Brown can’t really do much about it.
      Either he intervenes, and rides out the ‘we will be more open’ wave. But if he does this he will be over-riding the sovereignty of Parliament, something he has also spoken about recently.
      Or he encourages the Lords to reject it, but again, encouraging Labour Peers to reject legislation voted for by the Commons is not the thing he wants to be doing (setting precedents etc).
      Or he could say nothing, and get the stick for it.

    6. leon — on 19th May, 2007 at 1:51 am  

      Yep and Brown did nothing to stop this, so much for his ‘new type of politics’…

    7. Riz — on 19th May, 2007 at 2:28 am  

      This sucks. Of course when MPs get to vote on motions that relate only to their self-interest, they will get passed!

    8. douglas clark — on 19th May, 2007 at 5:52 am  


      “Either he intervenes, and rides out the ‘we will be more open’ wave. But if he does this he will be over-riding the sovereignty of Parliament, something he has also spoken about recently.”

      Gordon Brown as a Beach Boy is an amusing image. Either he means it when he talks about openness or he doesn’t. This is not auspicious of anything other than another step away from accountability.

      Y’know something, I don’t give a monkeys for the so-called sovereignty of parliament. It is you and I who are sovereign. These chumps, chimps, chancers are there because we voted them in. They are acting as though they are not accountable.

      They fucking well are!

      We should be asking each individual MP what, exactly, they have to hide. Did I mention that I’m disgusted with these loathsome little careerists?

      Riz - only because we let them! We elect these self serving little autocrats!

      This is not a trivial issue. This is our elected representatives preferring secrecy to openness. This says, in effect, we are not accountable to you, the electorate, for our actions.

      And then they wonder why fewer and fewer folk vote….

      A broken democracy is no democracy at all.

    9. douglas clark — on 19th May, 2007 at 5:57 am  

      Duc de Lemours,

      Where are you mate? You and I have some tall buildings to climb!

    10. douglas clark — on 19th May, 2007 at 6:08 am  

      I have sent the following to David McLean, the sponsor of this scurrilous piece of legislation:

      “Dear David,

      This is the most ridiculously anti democratic measure imaginable. What you are advocating, in effect, is that elected representatives should be given carte blanche. Please consider how this looks from the point of view of a citizen. Presumeably you are a democrat first and foremost. And not a Roman Senator.

      If this is not withdrawn, I shall investigate the possibilities of getting a horse to stand against you at your next election.”

      Oh! I mean it.

    11. Refresh — on 19th May, 2007 at 9:47 am  

      How many horses do we need?

    12. Gump — on 19th May, 2007 at 10:13 am  

      Douglas Clark:

      “Y’know something, I don’t give a monkeys for the so-called sovereignty of parliament. It is you and I who are sovereign. These chumps, chimps, chancers are there because we voted them in. They are acting as though they are not accountable.”

      The soveriegnty of parliament is important.
      People always go on about how you have to protect parliament from an over-bearing executive. You have to ensure that what MPs debate and vote for is paramount.

      You answered your own point.
      They are accountable because you voted them in.
      So, that’s how you hold them to account, vote them out.
      You could take the conversation into the realms of representation and on what basis someone is chosen as a representative and how they are expected or entrusted to make a decision, but if you don’t agree with what your representatives have done, change it.


    13. Gump — on 19th May, 2007 at 10:16 am  

      I should say, I do think Brown beleives in openess. But i think he doesn’t want to interven in this one because (as i said before) it would be over-riding Parliament. In addition, i don’t think he has any qualms about telling people about expenses. I think the point is when people want to know specifics. So, how much did that train journey from London to Newcastle cost, and how much did you spend on tea and biscuits on the way?

    14. douglas clark — on 19th May, 2007 at 10:34 am  


      That is a quite Pollyannaish attitude. It should be a given that politicians are open. It should be a given that they do not exempt themselves from legislation that they apply to others. Not something we should have to force on them. I’ve already written to the twit that proposed it. What have you done?

      I am struggling to understand quite where you think you are coming from. I wish I lived in your ‘best of all possible worlds’.

    15. douglas clark — on 19th May, 2007 at 10:51 am  


      Unity spells it out better than I can, you have to scroll down the page a bit:


    16. Gump — on 19th May, 2007 at 11:32 am  

      i’m not saying i agree with it.
      i’m not saying it makes sense.

      but i can see why Brown hasn’t done anything.

      with regards to your point that MPs should be more open. yes, they should.
      there’s important information in what they do. you can find out a lot about what they are up to and who they are dealing with and talking to through that information.
      but, there’s a problem.
      so people don’t want to be open and therefore you have to make them. they should be, but they’re not.
      there are some things they want to keep secret.
      for obvious reasons. we’d like to know a hell of a lot more than they want to let on. that’s never changed.

      there are genuine concerns about constituency correspondence. there have been breaches. not in the sense that people have reported what has exactly been said. but in the sense that journalists have said “..and so and so has had conversations with consitutents about this and they have spoken about how important such and such is…”
      there are better ways of dealing with it though.
      they didn’t need the legislation. but its to their advantage to have it.

      those that voted for it probably come from two camps.
      those that genuinely believe that they should be open but want some protection for contstituents.
      and those that don’t want people to know what’s going on.
      some people are using the first reason as a cover-up.
      and some people believe both.

      i think they should be more open.
      it’s a way of gaining trust.
      and this is a way of losing it.

      there are other problems with the FOI system.
      i think it’s still the case that they can accept a request to release information, but don’t have to say when, just that they will do so. so it can easily be used as a diversionary tactic, releasing information when the medi spotlight has moved on.
      and i think i’m right in saying that they wanted to change the gudielines on FOI. currently they can reject a request because it is too expensive. that in itself maybe be appropriate in some situations. however, they wanted to change it so that they took into account the cost in terms of hours spent on finding the information. therefore, all costs would automatically rise and lots of requests would be rejected. i don’t know if the plan was dropped or if it went through..either way it’d be a major setback.

      i think once you create a situation of increased openess, people who aren’t comfortable with it will always want to change it.
      and that’s why you have to stop them.

      i have hand cramp too.

    17. ducdenemours — on 19th May, 2007 at 11:40 am  


      I was having such fun watching the cricket too.

    18. Gump — on 19th May, 2007 at 11:46 am  


      it’s a bit too one-sided to be interesting.

    19. ducdenemours — on 19th May, 2007 at 11:50 am  

      Yeah but we’re winning

      Wicket to Plunkett as I type!

      Get in

    20. Gump — on 19th May, 2007 at 11:52 am  

      i guess that makes it fun then.
      all about TMS.

    21. The Wardman Wire » Blog Roundup: David Maclean Freedom of Information Bill Roundup — on 19th May, 2007 at 3:57 pm  

      [...] Pickled Politics : No coverage  MPs exempt themselves from FOI Act [...]

    22. Matt — on 19th May, 2007 at 3:59 pm  


      I’ve updated my roundup on this subject - sorry for missing your article.

      Something to do with “Future Post”-ing to avoid getting up on a Saturday. Lesson learnt.


    23. ChrisC — on 20th May, 2007 at 10:25 am  

      What an extraordinary lack of self-awareness by these imbeciles! Do they have no idea of the contempt in which they are all held? Or, even worse perhaps, do they not care?

      But equally guilty are the hundreds of MPs who didn’t turn up to make sure it was defeated, as of course is Gordon “humble” Brown.

    24. The Dude — on 20th May, 2007 at 11:34 pm  

      This proves one thing. New Labour and New Conservatives are now one in the same thing, the same party. If ever we were really fucked, we’re really fucked now! Last week I watched Simon Hughes of the Lib-Dems ripped apart some Labour Lackie for speaking crap on the TV. Simon didn’t mince his word either calling this dude of being either naive, stupid or corrupt for his advocation of MP’s exempting themselves from the FOI act. Shame that Simon and Co didn’t speak like this during the run up to the Iraq war.

    25. Amit — on 21st May, 2007 at 12:10 pm  

      Good on you for covering this Sunny! This pretty much amounts to tyranny! We need to keep this in the spotlight and keep making a fuss!

    26. squared — on 21st May, 2007 at 4:13 pm  

      So, basically, our privacy means less than theirs?

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