Bigger moats to clean

In the hoo-ha about the Government’s new plans to be more transparent we should not be surprised that these reforms also include attempts to be more secretive. In the same way the Zimbabwe Government shut down newspapers under that country’s Freedom of Information law, so this Government plans to make Cabinet minutes automatically exempt from FOI for 20 years under the guise of ‘improving freedom of information’.

Sometimes I wonder if the scriptwriters for ‘Yes Minister’ are secretly working in Gordon Brown’s policy unit.

It’s not only Cabinet minutes that will receive this special secrecy. The Royal Family, too, will become even more unaccountable. The democratic campaign group Republic today condemned the plans which would see a blanket ban on access to all royal documents for 20 years, removing the current public interest test.

The Royal Family costs the taxpayer a good deal of money and it’s essential in a democracy that people have a right to see how that money is spent. The Royals aren’t above the law and this attempt to make them so will not help their case if they are to remain a valid institution in modern-day Britain.

One wonders why the Royals need such special protection. Bigger moats to clean? The costs of running a house that actually is Balmoral? To maintain public trust they should be open and accountable.

4 Responses to “Bigger moats to clean”

  1. Dan Brusca says:

    Actually, the Queen *is* above the law 😉

    Part of the problem with applying FOI to the royal family is that there is often a blurring of the line between them as private and public individuals, so you have to balance the public right to information about them with their own right to a private life.

  2. Zorro says:

    The royals generally may not be ‘above the law’ but I thought the queen actually was? They are her courts aren’t they? 🙂

    Keep up the great work Heather!

  3. Nick says:

    I think people are jumping to conclusions here. Brown’s statement is very brief: “As the [Dacre] report recommended, we have considered the need to strengthen protection for particularly sensitive material and there will be protection of Royal Family and Cabinet papers as part of strictly limited exemptions. But we will reduce the time for release of all other official documents below the current 30 years, to 20 years.”

    It’s not clear to me whether that means Cabinet and Royal papers will be exempt from FoI, or whether they’ll be exempt from the reduction in the 30 yr rule.

    The Minister didn’t seem to know at a conference yesterday, so it’s certainly worth lobbying on the point.

    And, of course, any such restriction would not apply to the Environmental Information Regs. So we could still get access to Prince Charles’s attempts to skew the planning system.

  4. Flemingcrag says:

    Politicians of all shades will never change, the attempt to exclude us mere mortals from knowing how they milked and abused the expenses allowance to the Nth degree is just the tip of an iceberg they wish to keep secret to themselves.
    The culprits are not confined to Gordon’s Policy Unit, if it was Dave’s Policy Unit the results would be just as prohibitive. It does not stop there the collusion of some (many) of the Media is depressing. I mean the whole debate on the 30 year rule centres on a report from Paul Dacre, the biggest apologist for Gordon Brown and this Government it has been my misfortune to read over the last few years.
    As to any question of how secrecy is applied to the Royal family, that is not of their making it is up to the Politicians to determine how open to the public their affairs should be. I suspect they are the smokescreen behind which the Government intends to hide its own secret interests. It’s known in the “Trade” as a diversionary tactic.

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