Straw Decides To Veto FOI Act on Iraq.

Well done Jack. Your "Precious" is safe again. Now scurry on back down that deep, black hole and hide beneath your damp stone in the Ministry of Injustice and your Palace of Denial.

Your Full Weasel Statement to Parliament can be viewed by the people who pay your wages here

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on use of the ministerial veto under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act, in respect of minutes of two cabinet meetings in March 2003 relating to Iraq.

I need first to set out some necessary background.

The FoI Act has profoundly changed the relationship between citizens, and their elected representatives and the media on the one hand, and the government and public authorities on the other.

Too Right it has, we can see you for what you and your comrades are now.

It has, as intended, made the executive far more open and accountable.

Apparently not after today.

The act provides a regime for freedom of information which is one of the most open and rigorous in the world.

Was "the most", but it now isn't.

It was the subject of almost three years [of] intensive debate, by which the original scheme was much improved and strengthened.

As initially proposed, decisions of the information commissioner would in law have been heavily persuasive, but not binding on ministers.

This reflected the regimes in other countries, such as in Canada. However, that scheme was replaced by a much tougher one.

There was, however, a key balancing measure written into the Act, and accepted by parliament. This was to provide – in section 53 — that in specific circumstances ministers (and certain others) could override a decision of the commissioner or tribunal requiring the release of information if they believed on reasonable grounds that the decision to withhold the information was in accordance with the requirements of the Act.

At the time of the passage of the bill, ministers in both houses provided reassurance about the use of this veto. It would not be commonplace.

It's about to become far more common than it was yesterday though.

Undertakings were also given that, although section 53 required a certificate by a single cabinet minister or law officer, any use of the veto would be subject to prior cabinet consideration.

The act came into force on 1 January 2005. From then until September 2008 in approximately 78,000 cases where the requested information was held by government departments, it has been released in full. Before the act, some of it would not have been released for 30 years.

Since 2006, the information commissioner has dealt with more than 1,500 cases involving government departments and the information tribunal has dealt with more than 50 such cases. But no section 53 veto has been used to date.

Bet you  start using  section 53 more often, now you think you can get away with it though?

Mr Speaker, in December 2006, the Cabinet Office received a freedom of information request for cabinet minutes and records relating to meetings it held between 7 and 17 March 2003 where the attorney general's legal advice concerning military action against Iraq was considered and discussed.

There were two meetings of cabinet within that period – 13 and 17 March.

Cabinet Office refused the request, citing the Act's exemptions for information relating to policy development and ministerial communications [(sections 35(1)(a) and (b))].

In keeping with its statutory obligations, the Cabinet Office had considered the public interest in releasing the information, but have found twice, on balance, that there was greater public interest in withholding it.

Possibly because it made the Cabinet look like spineless cowards and lapdogs?

The applicant duly exercised his right to ask the information commissioner to investigate the handling of his request.

In February 2008, the commissioner reasoned, for the first time, that cabinet minutes – these ones – should be released. The Cabinet Office appealed the commissioner's decision to the information tribunal.

Toys flew out of pram and at least one Nokia left an imprint  in someone's forehead?

On 27 January 2009, the tribunal published its decision. The tribunal was unanimous in deciding that the informal notes of the meetings should be withheld.

do you think they've stopped laughing at you yet?

But, by a majority of two to one, it decided that the public interest balance fell in favour of release of the minutes. It therefore upheld the decision of the information commissioner ordering information to be disclosed, subject to some minor redactions.

Following that decision, and having taken the view of cabinet, I have today issued a certificate under section 53 of the Act in an appropriate form and consistent with the Act, the effect of which is that these cabinet minutes will not now be disclosed.

The conclusion I have reached rests on the assessment of the public interest in disclosure and non-disclosure.

No, it rests on your decision that you would all look like complete and utter brown nosing fucktards and that the public, your masters, will point at you and piss themselves laughing. (IMHO)

I have laid a copy of that certificate, and a detailed statement of the reasons for my decision in the libraries of both houses. My decision was made in accordance with the government's policy critera, which is annexed to my statement of reasons.

Copies of these documents have been sent to the requester and are available in the vote office.

Mr Speaker, to permit the commissioner's and tribunal's view of the public interest to prevail would in my judgement risk serious damage to cabinet government; an essential principle of British parliamentary democracy. That eventuality is not in the public interest.

It isn't in the interests of your self esteem more likely.

There's more on the Grauniad website at the links above. I couldn't be asked to read any more of his drivelling statement.


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