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Thursday, September 29, 2005


The Freedom of Information Act has done a great deal to expose previously hidden information about the process of government. It has also revealed the lengths that some Ministers and civil servants will go to avoid revealing things that they would prefer to keep secret, though to be fair in many cases they do have a legitimate reason.

Jenny Randerson yesterday uncovered a real gem. It is best described in her own words:

Jenny Randerson: I raise a point of order under Standing Order No. 6.36. I submitted a question under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to the Minister for Economic Development and Transport some time ago. I have had a reply in which I am told by the official concerned that not all the documents that I have requested can be provided. The reason given is:

‘the documents relate to discussions between Ministers and officials, who are encouraged to be imaginative and consider innovative ideas. The exposure of some of these discussions to the public domain, via a freedom of information request, may lead to individuals or Cabinet being targeted for ridicule through the media. Such a prospect would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank exchange of ideas’.

You have previously ruled on the issue of questions and freedom of information, Presiding Officer, therefore is it your view that it is a a legitimate exemption from the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that information should not be supplied because a Minister may be held up to ridicule as a result?

Alas the Presiding Officer was unable to help. Presumably, he thought that the Minister concerned was perfectly capable of subjecting himself to ridicule without help from the Chair.
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