MP calls time on "veil of secrecy"

September 30, 2010 12:00 AM

In Parliament last week, MP for Carshalton and Wallington Tom Brake introduced an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act of 2000 in an attempt to create greater transparency within the Government. The FOI Act has attracted widespread criticism for its role in allowing the withholding of information from the public, which Tom Brake describes as creating "a veil of secrecy."

In a speech to Parliament, Tom Brake expressed concern over the Government taking opportunities to withhold information from the public. Tom Brake drew attention to the Ministerial veto clause of the FOI Act - granting Ministers the opportunity to prevent information being released to the public for whatever reason - which was used by former foreign secretary, Jack Straw to conceal key information about the Iraq war from the public.

Tom Brake described this secretive activity as "setting a dangerous precedent that paints a worrying picture of a disdainful relationship between Government and electorate."

In addition to the removal of the Ministerial veto, reformers seek to enforce a strict limit on the time granted to public authorities to respond to requests involving the public and an increase in the number of establishments that should be subject to the FOI Act.

Tom Brake said: "Our major challenge is to create a transparent Government; one that cannot hide its mistakes behind unfair legislation. It is imperative that the public can trust the Government it elected."

At present, the amendment is seeking approval within the Commons and will hopefully receive a second reading in October.

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