By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:
Blair under fire for Freedom of Information review refusal
Thursday 26 July 2012
Mr Blair has claimed that there was no place for the Freedom of Information Act in sensible government, despite the fact that it was his government that introduced it.
David Cameron has also expressed his frustration with the Act, claiming that it “furs up the whole of government.”
The justice select committee report, published today, doesn’t recommend that its scope be reduced or more fees introduced.
But the MPs had written it before they got a letter from Mr Blair, who claimed that it undermines discussions at the highest levels of government.
The committee said Mr Blair was given every chance to give evidence in person, but had only answered written questions after the press suggested they would criticise him for fobbing them off.
Chairman Sir Alan Beith said they “deplore Mr Blair‘s failure to co-operate.
He had “described himself as a ‘nincompoop’ for his role in the legislation, saying that it was ‘antithetical to sensible government.’
“Yet when we sought to question Mr Blair on his change of opinion he refused to defend his views before us and submitted answers to our written questions only after our report was agreed, and after a press report had appeared suggesting we might criticise his failure to give evidence.”
The MPs say the Act, fully in force since 2005, was “working well” and “a significant enhancement of our democracy.
“We do not believe that there has been any general harmful effect at all on the ability to conduct business in the public service and in our view the additional burdens are outweighed by the benefits.”
They dismissed concerns about the cost to public authorities of handling freedom of information requests, saying that had to be “weighed against the greater accountability the right to access information brings.”
Tony Blair may itch to return, but he faces a cruel reality check: here.
Tony Blair’s Iraq meetings to remain secret after government veto. Attorney general overrides calls from freedom of information watchdog to release cabinet minutes from before 2003 invasion: here.