High praise for Freedom of Information

What better advertisement of the power that Freedom of Information gives the people than MP Anthony Steen‘s intemperate comments:

“It was this Government that introduced the Freedom of Information Act and it is this Government that insisted on the things which caught me on the wrong foot.”

Mr Steen also complained:

“What right does the public have to interfere with my private life? None.”

I am in complete agreement with him on this point. I’ve only ever been interested in how MPs spent taxpayers’ money “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” in connection with their public duties, that their claims were “above reproach”, and of course that they were careful there were “no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money”.

I’m sure that Mr Steen took careful note of those Green Book rules when he submitted his claims for rabbit-proofing his country house!

Still, he has certainly shown great insight into the biggest scandal to hit Parliament for decades:

“As far as I am concerned and as of this day I don’t know what the fuss is about.”

17 Responses to “High praise for Freedom of Information”

  1. John Connell says:

    The unfortunate thing is, he probably is genuinely bewildered by the ‘fuss’ over his and others’ misuse of public money – that, indeed, has been the real problem all the way along for Steen and his ilk on all sides of the Commons.

  2. Alistair Duff says:

    Just wanted to congratulate you on making history in the best way possible! This is a rotten parliament, stuffed with 1) unprincipled careerists in the Blair mould and 2) docile lobby-fodder (there are many exceptions, of course, but in the main I think this characterisation stands up.) Shame you are not being acknowledged sufficiently for helping to strip them bare.
    Alistair Duff

  3. That’s what depresses me; that bewildered, “Why are you complaining?” attitude. Some are starting to bleat
    about the pressure. Tough. Enter the real world.

    A lot of them still don’t get it. Take Ruth Kelly’s ‘insurance’ claim. If anyone else hadn’t been able to
    make a claim for furniture considered to have no value they wouldn’t have been able to claim from another
    source and, worse, think they had a right to do so.

    How can we respect people like that and what a cheek that they think they can represent us?

    They are not of us because they have this cushion that divorces them from reality and, even now,
    most don’t seem to fully realise how that plays with the rest of us ordinary folk.

  4. Linda says:

    How many more MP’s think like MP Anthony Steen? We have to weed them out and put in people who really believe in freedom of information and the our right to know what is going on. Heather we could never have got this far without your excellent and tireless work. You should go down in history with some kind of recognition for all your hard work and service to the people of this country. Which MP’s are brave enough to put Heather forward for some kind of award?

  5. Excellent work, Heather. Your unsung efforts over the last few years have finally been vindicated by the events of the last fortnight. Congratulations! (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/credit-where-its-due.html ).

  6. tracey says:

    You are a hero! Although it’s been called a bleak time for politics, I think the opposite. It’s the first time I’ve felt optimistic because it’s the first time I’ve felt the possibility for a change and our arrogant rulers humbled. They mustn’t be allowed to slip back to their old ways! Eternal vigilance and all that.

  7. Nancee says:

    Thanks for all your hard work. I’ve been following this story from California and will continue to as more MPs decide to “spend more time with their families.” Some things are just common sense and yet it continues to amaze me when public officials pretend to not understand why those who pay their salaries (taxpayers) are entitled to know how that money is spent. Congratulations and keep up the great work, Heather, you are a true muckraker (and I mean that in the best sense of the word).

  8. David Hodge says:

    Well done Heather. I have suggested on other blogs that the Queen should make you a Baroness. I apologize. Baroness is too low a title. Want to move you up two ranks to Countess. I like to think we can give Americans a title. In the House of Lords they would not know what hit them. Keep up the good work.

  9. chris says:

    Takes an American to do in a few difficult years what Guy Fawkes and all manner of faint hearts could`nt do in a few centuries. When history is written, your name will be forever honoured and thanked!I see a day commemorating your achievements in turning the stone up with these would-lies underneath…choose your day Lady Brooke of Westminster!

  10. Louie Jerome says:

    Great job! It is hard to see how we can ever trust this lot again. Even the freedom information act doesn’t tell us what we really need to know. How can this dishonest ‘old boys club’ expect us to trust them. If they can’t get their expenses claims right, how can they sort out the country’s financial mess?

  11. tracey says:

    Interesting comments from the BBC website, do you have any opinion on this?

    “A cynic would say that the reason they were not too worried about Parliamentary information falling within the Act’s sway was that they were pretty confident that they could keep the most sensitive and damaging material from being released, whatever the legislation. They were probably right, generally speaking. The fact that they were short-sighted about the danger of expense claims being made public is more an indication of how complacent they had become about the system than their ability to calculate risk.

    It is blindingly obvious that a UK government will always be able to keep the worst of its secrets, so the FoI Act was never going to be a great leveller. While I welcome its principles, I still think it is a very bad piece of legislation and when taken in conjunction with the Data Protection Act and similar legislation, it is a nightmare for public sector bodies to work within and a gravy train for lawyers.

    As a person who once had to respond to FoI requests – many of them ridiculous pursuits of non-existent information by obsessives or blatent attempts by commercial organisations to harvest sales and marketing information – I have to admit to feeling somewhat pleased that the legislators are having a taste of their own medicine.”

  12. David Hodge says:

    Now found out that although Heather is an American she was born to British parents and has duel nationality. Is one of us. Makes me feel better.

  13. kate says:

    Hello, can someone tell me what an appropriate or inappropriate use of the data protection act or FOI is?

    For instance, I am interested in getting hold of any documents regarding my mother’s adoption process in the 1930’s. I was also in care in the 1980’s.

    It is just out of curiosity but I have no idea how to go about it or whether that is the appropriate route?

  14. Flemingcrag says:

    I note on Ian Dale’s blog he observed Peter Oborne kneel down at your feet and kiss them.
    Given that your efforts to out the truth about MPs abusing expense allowances has underwritten just about everything he accused politicians of in his book; The Triumph of the Political Class, I think it was the least he could do.
    Methinks the Barclay twins read Peter’s book too and once you opened pandora’s box they decided to clean out the pigsty.
    Watch the postbox for your invite to the Isle of Sark their thankyou could outrank Paters.

  15. John L Bell says:

    Steen’s views:

    Give a whole new explanation of of ‘They just don’t get it, do they?’ when applied to politicians!

  16. tracey says:

    It’s interesting Fleming mentions the Barclay twins, who pay no tax and are as transparent as the Kremlin. Hypocrisy anyone?

  17. Gregory Williams says:

    The Government seems to have lost the plot. What the developers of 36Degrees and MySociety are trying to enforce is that Government serves us. The government are not elected for any other reason than to: regulate society for the good of all; legislate for the protection of all; serve society for the elevation of all; educate society for the stimulation of all. Somewhere along the last twenty years weve lost the ‘why’ – in all the privatisation of public services the focus has become the PROFIT found in the delivery of public services – not the services, or the value or the quality – and where does this profit come from? YOUR taxes! This Strategy is bleeding the value from our public services into the pensions of the board members and shareholders of these companies supplying our public services. The abuse of Tax payers money for personal expenses discussed here is another symptom of the perspective of this government – a feudal imperious establishment that simply does not comprehend the concepts embodied in the phrase ‘To Serve’

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