FoI in the UK - the debate goes on

The Daily Telegraph asks why the UK government is treating the public with such disrespect, in refusing to disclose the Cabinet minutes that favoured the invasion of Iraq:

"This Government has become its own worst enemy, as the Goodwin fiasco demonstrates. It gives the impression of regarding its citizens with distrust. The decision of Justice Secretary Jack Straw to impose a veto on publication of Cabinet minutes relating to the invasion of Iraq, despite rulings by both the Information Commission and the Information Tribunal that they should be released, was just the latest instance of this de haut en bas attitude towards the public.

Of course the release of government material under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act must be guided by a balanced consideration of the public interest, weighed against the need for a degree of confidentiality in decision making; but that legitimate reticence must not be allowed to degenerate into a culture of secrecy. Mr Straw's desire to impose further restrictions on an FoI law that is just four years old is ominous.

Too often, Government secrecy has smacked of guilt. Claims that British security agents were complicit in the torture of former Guantánamo detainee Binyan Mohamed in Pakistan are disturbing. Even more so is the admission by Defence Secretary John Hutton that Britain has been party to rendition of terror suspects – an accusation repeatedly denied by Jack Straw and other ministers over a period of years. Such deception corrodes public trust."

Our liberties are at stake in this crisis of confidence (Daily Telegraph, 1 March 2009)