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    Thursday, 31 May 2007

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? its a veritable roundabout

    The Maclean Bill on restricting the applicability of the FoI regime to Parliament is to gain a Second Reading in the House of Lords on 21 June. The Bill which was passed by the Commons earlier this month is purportedly intended to protect constituents' correspondence with MPs from disclosure, although this supposed justification is deeply contested (an 'Early Day Motion' set down by Simon Hughes MP in the Commons which protests - somewhat belatedly - the move to limit the Act has achieved 55 signatories to date).

    Meanwhile, in a (suspiciously) leaked letter Alastair Darling has bemoaned the impact of the FoIA on the policy development process, outlined the case for protections for MPs correspondence, and signalled that - in a neat completion of the circle - the Information Commissioner is under scrutiny by Ministers. This may be part of a wider campaign to undermine the FoI regime, perhaps (tacitly?) supported by the PM-designate on the back of sore recent experiences and more deep-seated opposition.

    For his part, in a recent speech the Information Commissioner indicated that while he agrees that something should be done about vexatious requests (the purported intent behind the government's own (stalled) moves to revise the FoI regime), he feels that much can be achieved simply by applying existing safeguards. He hoped that FoI could be seen as a 'fixed feature of 21st century democracy' and not as a 'battleground'. The problem of course is that those in government (with both a 'G' and a 'g') have much to lose from the exposure that the mechanism allows.

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