Who wants to see Lord Falconer's diary?

Lord Chancellor and cabinet minister responsible for the Freedom of Information Act, Charles Falconer has said that ministers' diaries and details of who they meet should be opened up to public scrutiny.

He has received a request to disclose the names of people he has met as a government minister and he is also considering whether to publish his diary over the next few days.

After an 18-month secrecy battle with Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, which initially refused to disclose the names of guests entertained at the taxpayers' expense, The Observer finally managed last week to obtain a list of people Tony Blair had entertained at his Chequers country estate (Guess who's coming to Chequers? Pop stars and tobacco bosses - The Observer, 2 January 2005).

Sir David Omand, security and intelligence co-ordinator at the Cabinet Office, argued that to disclose the names would 'harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion' but this was overruled by the parliamentary commissioner, Ann Abraham, who condemned Downing Street's secrecy and ordered the Cabinet Office to publish a list of Chequers' guests. These included a French tobacco tycoon, a millionaire Labour donor, and celebrities such as Geri Halliwell.

In America, which has had a Freedom of Information law since 1966, a public register discloses the individuals acting for outside interests who are met by ministers and their advisers.

Falconer to curb secrecy of ministers (The Observer, 9 January 2005)