Information chief's secrecy warning

The presumption of disclosure under
freedom of information (FoI) laws must trump “unnecessary secrecy” –
which only suggests public bodies have something to hide – the
Information Commissioner is to warn on Thursday.

Richard
Thomas will stress that FoI should not be regarded as a threat – even
when it reveals information that is “embarrassing” or “uncomfortable”.

And
he will caution that “wresting” information from government and other
public authorities risks undermining trust between state and citizen.

The public “respects honesty, not cover up”, Mr Thomas will say.

His
comments, at the annual FoI Live conference in central London, come
amid the outcry over a Tory MP's bid to exempt Parliament from its own
FoI laws.

Mr Thomas is not expected to refer
directly to David Maclean's FoI (Amendment) Bill, but will emphasise
the Act “reinforces good government”. He will say it is becoming a
“fixed feature of 21st century democracy” and should not be viewed as a
“battleground”.

Mr Thomas will
remind public bodies that they serve the public and urge them to adopt
a positive approach to openness. But emphasising that FoI must not be
used for mischievous and pointless demands, he will announce a
“charter” for responsible FoI requests and new guidance for public
bodies to resist “vexatious” applications.

“After
nearly two-and-a-half years FoI is delivering real benefits,” Mr Thomas
will say. “There is a presumption of disclosure, unless there is a
genuine reason to withhold information. This must trump any instinct of
unnecessary secrecy which simply suggests a public authority has
something to hide.”

And he will
argue: “Openness – even where it reveals uncertainties, disagreements
or embarrassments – treats citizens as grownups and reflects the
realities of public life.”

In
his speech, Mr Thomas will rebut claims that FoI has an inhibiting
effect, insisting that potential disclosure encourages a record of
full, accurate and impartial advice from officials. And he will
predict: “Greater openness will deter spin and informal decision
making.”

(source)

Words of common sense that must be supported.

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About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
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