In a free society, the rights and laws protect the individual from the government.
In a dictatorship, the rights and laws protect the government from the people.
When governments begin to abuse laws to protect their own wrongdoing, we should be rightly worried, but more so when the supposedly impartial Speaker of the House shows his bias by siding with government in a court of law.
We have for centuries trusted our judiciary to do the right thing in the protection of those members of the public who need protection from overbearing and authoritarian government, likewise we have expected that the office of the Speaker remains impartial, no matter what the event in hand.
Today, we can see this NuLab government, showing its full totalitarian and dictatorial colours, in our name and at our expense are using lawyers paid for by the taxpayer, in collusion with lawyers for the Speaker of the House, also paid for by taxpayers, in court to stop the publication of the ID Cards gateway reviews, so that you, the taxpayer may not know what the government is hiding about ID Cards.
Their own mantra 'if there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing to fear' rings so true whilst we watch them before a court, abusing our constitutional laws, hiding more abuse from the public.
Spyblog has all the details of this abuse of power, which I publish for the purpose of wider readership below, and we can only hope that some in the judiciary are still fulfilling their role as the defender of the public good.
Government and the Speaker of the House of
Commons collude to try to abuse the 17th Century Bill of Rights to
suppress the FOIA disclosure of OGC Gateway Reviews of the ID Cards
The Bill of Rights 1689 a historical piece of the English Constitution, which was intended to preserve the rights and freedoms of the public and of Members of Parliament from abuses by the Executive branch of Government, which, in the 17th Century was:
Whereas the late King James the Second by the Assistance of diverse evill Councellors Judges and Ministers imployed by him did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion and the Lawes and Liberties of this Kingdome.
If you replace “the late King James the Second” with.”Tony Blair”or “Gordon Brown”, the words fit just as well.
We are astonished and furious, that this Bill of
Rights, is being abused in the High Court to try to weasel out of
having to disclose the early (and now very out of date) Gateway Reviews
of the Home Office's Identity Cards Programme (as it was then, circa
2002 / 2003), by the lawyers for the Government's Office for Government Commerce, supported by, incredibly, lawyers for the Speaker of the House of Commons,
in their Appeal against the Decision of the independent Information
Tribunal, which ordered full disclosure, in the public interest.
Are the Government and their lawyers desperate, or evil ?
Why is the Speaker of the House of Commons helping the Executive
branch of Government, to suppress freedom of speech and transparent
open government, in a matter of huge public interest ?
Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday: 319-year-old law used by Speaker Michael Martin to gag ID report
Computer Weekly: Government seeks to bury ID card reviews
[hat tip to UK Liberty for spotting this before us]
Bill of Rights 1688 ( “Act declared to be a Statute by Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689 (c. 1)”)
That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament
ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of
See the history of this long running Freedom of Information Act disclosure suppression in our OGC Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards Programme blog category archive.
lawyers for the Government, seem to be desperately clutching at straws,
by claiming that the Information Tribunal, in its very thorough 4 day
hearing, involving submissions from top barristers Queens Councils and
specialist professors of Freedom of Information Act law, somehow made
improper use of a publicly published report from a Select Committee of the House of Commons, the one which scrutinises the Department for Work and Pensions.
See the House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions report: Third
Report – 7 July 2004 – Department for Work and Pensions Management of
Information Technology Projects: Making IT Deliver for DWP Customers specifically paras. 110 – 123 Publishing OGC Gateway Reviews
If they are allowed to get away with this line of reasoning, then there is no point in any of the supposedly powerful Select Committees whatsoever,
if their official public reports following their inquiries and
investigations, cannot be used to scrutinise the policies and decisions
of Central Government Departments or Agencies.
Incredibly, they are being supported by a lawyer acting on behalf of the Speaker of the House of Commons,
to help the Executive branch of the Government (i.e. no longer the
Monarch, but a Central Government Department, which was not the case in
the 17th Century) to suppress the rights of the public in general, and
of the two people who submitted the original Freedom of Information Act
requests, which have been considered together by the Information
Tribunal. One of those people is actually a Member of Parliament !
This bit of law is what is supposed to protect Members of Parliament
from libel cases for what they say, with Parliamentary Privilege, in
speeches or debates, in the Chamber of the House of Commons.
This fundamental constitutional law pre-dates the official record of
the proceedings of Parliament i.e. Hansard, which started out as a
private sector journalistic publishing venture, and the general
acceptance of press and media reporting of the procedures of
Parliament. Neither of these existed back in the 17th Century.
Provided that these reports use fair and accurate quotations, then
these media reports are themselves protected by Parliamentary Privilege
from being accused of promulgating what might be a libel, if it had not
been uttered by an MP within the House of Commons. This protection
against libel or other civil cases also extends to the witnesses giving
oral or written evidence before a Select Committee and to the official
written Reports of Select Committees of the House of Commons, and the
Lords or Joint Committees of both Houses of Parliament.
There are perverse consequences of this Parliamentary Privilege e.g.
1995 case of the then MP Neil Hamilton (“Cash for Questions”), trying
to sue The Guardian newspaper for libel, and being unable to, because
The Guardian would not have been able to get a fair trial in a UK
Court, by not being able to quote any of his speeches or the rules of
the House of Commons. This anomaly was later amended by specific
legislation allowing MPs to waive their parliamentary Privilege on an
individual, case by case basis, so as to sue for defamation..
The provisos in this section of the Act explicitly cover Select Committee evidence and reports.
Information Tribunal was not criticising, let alone
libeling or even “Questioning” the Select Committee report. The
Information Tribunal simply cited this publicly published Report as
evidence, noting the arguments, both for and against publication of
such Gateway Reviews.
In the course of this hearing, the Tribunal was referred to the
inquiry conducted by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions that
reported in 2004 on Management of Information Technology Projects: Making IT Deliver for DWP Customers. It considered, amongst other things, the arguments for and against publishing GR’s.
The “Questioning” by the Information Tribunal Judgement was of the
Office for Government Commerce, part of HM Treasury, headed, at the
time (May 2007) by the “control freak” Chancellor / Prime Minister
That is definitely not anything to do with the
“Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament” which is
what the Bill of Rights clause is on about !
How can the High Court, Judge Mr. Justice Stanley Brunton possibly
decide that reading or mentioning a Select Committee Report contravenes
the Bill of Rights, without also destroying Hansard, official
Government Press Releases, the wider Freedom of Speech and Freedom of
the Press ?
How can he ignore the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840 ?
The Speaker of the House of Commons should not be colluding with the Government and the civil service bureaucracy,
he should be Ordering them, under threat of Contempt of Parliament, to
obey the several cross-party Select Committees such as the Public
Accounts Committee, the Home Affairs Committee, and the Work and
Pensions Committee etc. have not even been allowed to see copies of
Gateway Review reports, even in closed evidence sessions.
That is the scandal which the Speaker of the House of Commons should be employing lawyers to remedy.
He should not be helping to suppress proper public and Parliamentary scrutiny
of massive Government IT projects, involving millions of pounds of
public money, which will affect every person in the UK, individually.
weeks or months. We await the result, with mounting despair and
resentment of the English legal system, which is stacked by the
Government so heavily against normal individual citizens, and which
fails to uphold their fundamental human rights, in a speedy and just
A Libertarian government would publish this OCG review and all other government reviews as a matter of course. You the taxpayer have paid for this, you are therefore entitled to know what this corrupt government has spent your money on, and forcing you to use.