'PANDORA' COLUMN

By Oliver Marre

Independent – 12 January 2005

So, the Ministry of Defence has announced that thousands of pages of documents have been contaminated by asbestos and will have to be destroyed. Can this really be? wonders the canny Tory MP Julian Lewis. Or could it be a wheeze to avoid their disclosure under the new Freedom of Information Act?

Either way, lest the Government wants to protect any other sensitive information, Lewis – the shadow Cabinet Office minister who is co-ordinating the Conservatives' parliamentary questions to test the FOI Act – has come up with a competition for Pandora's readers.

"I shall give a bottle of House of Commons champagne to the person who can offer the most ingenious excuse for the Government to use next time they don't want to disclose information,"

he offers, generously.

Answers on a postcard, or by e-mail, please [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.].

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Freedom Finale

Independent – 21 January 2005

Time for the result of our Freedom of Information competition, launched last week after the MoD shredded thousands of documents "contaminated by asbestos".

Scores of entries – in which readers suggested other dubious reasons for information to be withheld – raised a giggle. But two stand out from the crowd.

"We'd like to publish our dossier on Iraq's weapons in full, but we're awaiting permission from the tutor of the student who wrote it,"

suggests Iain Hollingshead.

"The print is so small and faded that Health and Safety legislation prevents publication,"

reckons Mair Gaunt.

"It could damage readers' eyesight."

Our kind sponsor, Julian Lewis MP, will present both winners with a bottle of champagne, over tea at the House of Commons.