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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Labour turn on former Home Secretary over Freedom of Information review

The language of collaboration has become much more common amongst Labour politicians following the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, so we should not be surprised that some are questioning why former Home Secretary Jack Straw is helping the Tories dismantle the Freedom of Information Act.

The Independent say that the Labour Party has turned on Mr. Straw, accusing him of conniving with the Tories to dismantle the Freedom of Information Act.

Party sources have apparently told them that Mr Straw had been asked not to join a committee set up last month by the Cabinet Office to review the workings of the Act. They fear that the committee will be used by the Tories as cover to restrict what information can be released under the Act and make it harder for the Opposition to scrutinise the work of the Government.

They add that  the new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Fallon, is understood to be equally irritated at Lord Carlile’s decision to join the committee.

There are genuine concerns that  the commission could relax rules that allow Government departments and local councils to veto requests on grounds of cost. These concerns have already been voiced by Kirsty Williams in Wales. We would oppose any change that means that we are less able to scrutinise government, at whatever level.

As it happens I take comfort that a good liberal like Alex Carlile is on this committee. Alex has been criticised by members of the party in the past for his role as a reviewer of terrorist legislation and I certainly did not agree with many things that he said and did at the that time.

But he has a strong record of standing up for individual rights and as a scrutineer of government and I am confident that he will bring that experience to this committee and ensure that the Freedom of Information Act remains an important tool for those wishing to hold governments to account.
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