Almost immediately after receiving his party nomination as our new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown would said that he rejected calls to block a controversial move by MPs to get out of freedom of information laws. He said that "If MPs have voted this measure through then that is a matter for them" In real-politik this comes across as code for 'I support this bill, but don't want to be associated with it if it goes wrong'. Via Brown's now slightly redundant campaign website I sent the following message:
Why, just hours after talking about the need to restore trust in parliament, did Brown give tacit support to restrictions on the Freedom of Information act as it applied to that body?
He could have spoken out on this issue, but chose to say nothing, and the vote passed (with the vast majority of MPs absent)
Private correspondence with MPs wasn't at risk - and in any event, protecting this doesn't imply that MPs information about expenses should be restricted.
Hours after the nomination, this leaves a sour taste. I'm forced to recycle the argument that we sometimes hear in favour of ID cards.... why oppose Freedom of Information if you've nothing to hide?
I look forward to a convincing reply.
I expect that the reply will talk vaguely about respecting the sovereignty of parliament, letting parliament have it's say and so on. I doubt if there'll be anything which reveals what Brown's opinion might be. Seeing the trouble that Blair got into trying to get people to follow him, after 'successful' years of following opinion polls, could Brown be planning to lead from the rear?
See Also the Freedom of Information Blog by Martin Rosenbaum.
Over the years we have seen many private members bills with important popular support fall by the wayside by being "talked out". This one was talked out, but surprise, surprise makes a reappearance. Can the fact it gives MPs privileges the rest of government doesn't have be a coincidence?
Michael Salter's arguments on Ch4 last night were abysmal - I trust the voters of Reading West will kick him out.
ID card: "nothing to hide, nothing to fear"
MPs FOI: "trust us, we are hiding nothing"
Erwin Schrodinger, Hampshire
I have written to my MP, first of all commending that he did not vote in favour, saying that I trusted that he was one of the few who voted against and not one of the vast majority of MPs who did not show up (who I presume were either apathetic, or tacitly supporting the bill without wishing to be associated with it). I've asked him for his opinion, whilst pointing out that protecting the correspondence of constituents was, by my understanding, already covered by the Freedom of Information act - and in any event, should extra protection be needed then it could be done without restricted information on expense claims. I made explicit that correspondence should not be considered confidential and so I look forward to his reply.