'SELECTIVE FREEDOM TO HAVE INFORMATION'
Daily Telegraph – 8 February 2005
Alastair Campbell runs true to form (letter, February 7) in demolishing his own 'Aunt Sally'. [Of course it was the Financial Times which put in the request for documents about John Major's government and not him; but who was it who rang around the press propagating the falsehood that Mr Major was trying to block their release? Campbell may or may not have picked up the phone personally in the course of this 'black propaganda' operation, but, as Labour's Head of Strategic Election Communications, he had total responsibility for it.]
Meanwhile, his colleague Lord Falconer has been moaning in the Observer (February 6) that the Conservatives put in a baker's dozen of information requests to each of 10 government departments "to test the limits of the legislation". This, he claims, is "not trying to find things out on behalf of the public, but playing politics".
Labour, it is said, has tabled only 20 requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Conveniently overlooked is the leaked Labour memo showing attempts by the Party secretly to get stooges to dig up dirt against the Conservatives by remote control.
Our 130 questions are overwhelmingly about substantive policy issues in the present or relatively recent past, the answers to which might yield valuable lessons for the future. Naturally, we are testing the limits of the legislation, because we anticipated all along that this Government was not to be trusted to operate the new law even-handedly.
Indeed, the responses to our questions – few and far between so far, despite the 20-day deadline – have yielded precious little of substance, while the Government bends over backwards to be obliging to anti-Conservative interrogators. Yes, we did intend our questions, in part, to be a test – and this shabby Government has failed it miserably.
JULIAN LEWIS MP
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
[NOTE: The two sentences in square brackets were not included in the published version.]