Posts Tagged ‘FOI’

Letter from Wales: Still the establishment evasion goes on

26/07/2013, 09:49:33 AM

by Julian Ruck

Whatever one’s point of view in respect of political malfeasance where Westminster is concerned ,we still have the cleanest political system in Europe. It has its faults but that’s democracy for you, and call me naïve but I still believe that 99% of politicians do not set out to harm the country or voters.

They make mistakes, they are human but it’s so easy to sit an armchair and criticise. I know one thing, I wouldn’t want their job for all the political tea in China!

This being said, there is a profound difference between the political landscape of Westminster and that which obtains in Wales. Whatever else, Westminster enjoys a certain maturity, a certain sophistication of political endeavour and to a large degree, openness – one only has to consider the public accounts committee for evidence of this, not to mention the fact that scandals are at least exposed on a regular basis.

None of this is the case where Wales is concerned.

Allow me to give you just one out of many examples of Welsh political backwardness, immaturity and crude deliberation when faced with a public interest challenge.

A couple of weeks ago you may remember, I requested some interviews and comment from minister’s Edwina Hart (business and economy) and John Griffiths (culture). The former in respect of a £130m private investment in north Wales going AWOL and the latter in respect of millions being wasted on Welsh arts, more particularly book publishing.

After some blatant evasion, Welsh Labour’s head of news finally entered the fray, indeed he is now the only person who is allowed to deal with me, it seems. I suppose I should be rather flattered.

His response to my initial enquiries were, “We do not reply to blogs”, to which I replied as follows:- (more…)

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Thursday News Review

04/08/2011, 06:53:23 AM

The most transparent Government ever

A series of changes to ease the rules for freedom of information requests are to be examined as part of a public consultation designed to open up Whitehall. Fees could be changed and a time limit, which means that departments can refuse requests if they take more than 18 hours to process, could be relaxed under government proposals in a consultation document. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will launch the document as he pledges to deliver “the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world”. – the Guardian

Thousands of pieces of information about public services, from warnings of delays on the railways to details of jobs landed by new graduates, will be thrown open to scrutiny under plans for a “transparency revolution” announced today by the Government. Plans have also been announced to publish data from schools, the National Health Service and the courts. Ministers hope that software developers and individuals will create phone ‘apps’ to make the information accessible and relevant to the public. But Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, last night declared he wanted to go much further and bring vast new swathes of previously confidential information into the open. – the Independent

Parliament to consider capital punishment

MPs face being forced into a landmark vote on restoring the death penalty. Capital punishment is expected to be the first subject debated by Parliament under an e-petitions scheme. The initiative allows the public to help set the government agenda and means anyone can set up an internet petition on any subject. If it attracts more than 100,000 signatures, MPs must consider debating it in the Commons. The scheme is officially launched today, but it has already backfired on the Coalition because Right-wing internet bloggers have been collecting signatures for the last few days. The restoration of hanging for the murderers of children and policemen is by far the most popular serious issue. Commons leader Sir George Young – writing in today’s Daily Mail – says Westminster cannot ignore this popular groundswell. The intervention of Sir George, who is overseeing the e-petition scheme, paves the way for the first Commons vote on capital punishment since 1998. The last hangings in Britain were in 1964. – Daily Mail

MPs must not shy away from debating the restoration of capital punishment if a groundswell of voters backs a petition demanding it, the Commons leader has said. Sir George Young warned that it would damage democracy to ignore strong opinions among members of the public “or pretend that their views do not exist”. He spoke out ahead of the publication on Thursday of the first submissions to a new e-petitions scheme which could see the most popular appeals discussed in parliament. Among the most prominent is one calling for legislation allowing child killers and those who murder police officers to face execution. It has been presented by Paul Staines, who writes the libertarian Guido Fawkes blog, and has already been backed by several MPs. If it is signed by the required 100,000 supporters or more, then the cross-party backbench business committee will decide whether it will be debated. Tory MP Priti Patel said such a debate was long overdue and that she favoured restoring capital punishment “for the most serious and significant crimes” – a position echoed by party colleague Andrew Turner. – the Guardian

MPs warn against defence cuts

Those in Westminster are fond of describing this or that report from a select committee as “damning” in its criticism of government policy. On this occasion, it’s deserved because the defence committee has essentially driven a coach and horses through the coalition’s defence of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. Maligned since its birth as driven more by cuts than capabilities, the Government has invested a huge amount of political capital in sticking firm to the controversial decisions made in last autumn’s review. The cuts will not affect our ability to defend ourselves and others, ministers claimed. Not so, says the committee. It claims that post-2015 the Armed Forces will not be able to do all that is required of them, and there is mounting concern that they are already over-stretched. The committee say uncertainty as to funding post-2015 combined with commitment to the Libyan campaign means a promised real-terms increase in the MoD’s budget is “government aspiration, not government policy”. Even the PM gets it in the neck. His assurance of “full spectrum” defence capability is dismissed. – Sky News

Who has the biggest twitter ‘klout’?

Labour MP Tom Watson, who used Twitter prolifically to raise questions over allegations of phone hacking at News International, scored highest for influence out of the members who use the social networking site. Watson scored a high 78 for Klout in a measure of online influence ranging from 1 to 100. The size of the following is just one small factor in the equation. Twitter users are also marked according to a range of variables including how well they engage with their followers, how influential their own followers are and how far their messages reach. Second to Watson was Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who also used Twitter to discuss the culture select committee hearing that took evidence from Rupert Murdoch and his son James. She scored 76, putting her ahead of Foreign Secretary William Hague (67), Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (60) and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (59). But the scores, calculated by Klout, do not reflect political power. While US President Barack Obama has a Klout score of 89, teen singer Justin Bieber scored a perfect 100. – Daily Telegraph

Labour’s financial turmoil

They were the rich businessmen who secretly backed Labour to the tune of millions of pounds. But now seven of the 12 are demanding their multi-million-pound loans back – meaning that Ed Miliband faces a major financial crisis. The donors are led by Chai Patel, the founder of the Priory Clinic, where drug and drink-addled celebrities such as the late Amy Winehouse received treatment.  This pulling of the financial rug from the Party couldn’t come at a worse time. It means that Miliband will be forced (yet again) to depend on the trade unions whose votes so controversially gave him the Labour leadership in the first place.  Indeed, figures published last month by the Electoral Commission graphically illustrate how much Labour — and ‘Red Ed’ (a nickname he so hates) — is in hock to unions who provide 85 per cent of the Party’s funds. – Daily Mail

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Caroline Flint writes to Eric Pickles over FoI refusal

29/10/2010, 12:21:08 PM


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Labour must learn to oppose, says Benjamin Wegg-Prosser

27/05/2010, 02:22:59 PM

I did something very strange last week: I read a speech by a Secretary of State (Jeremy Hunt’s first – perfectly good if a little predictable).

I did something odder this morning: I watched the Parliament channel on the iPlayer.

Having been lucky enough to have access to the heart of government at various points over the past 13 years, I had fallen out of the habit of actually reading and watching the business of politics.  Having an inside track seemed to give me sense of what was going on without having to do so much of the legwork.

Times have changed. And in changing times following the nitty gritty is essential.  The Tories and Liberals are without doubt approaching government in a different way: identifying common ground, being honest about their differences and, if they can keep this going, I suspect making quite an impact on the public. (more…)

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