Democracy campaigners have reacted with anger and dismay to news that the UK Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has issued a 'veto' certificate under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act.
This case relates to a Freedom of Information request to release the minutes of a 1997 Cabinet Meeting about Devolution to Scotland and Wales. The Secretary of State cited that release of the minutes was not in the public interest, would be damaging to the doctrine of collective responsibility and detrimental to the effective operation of Cabinet government.
Peter Facey, Director of Unlock Democracy, responded: "So much for open Government! We struggle to see how it is in the public interest not to disclose all the information relevant to this case, especially as national security is not involved."
He continued: "This is 12 years after the event. Devolution has already happened and is well established. There have been two general elections, a change of Prime Minister and numerous Government reshuffles since this Cabinet meeting."
"A cynic could easily think that the Government is vetoing this to save themselves of political embarrassment months away from an election. The Freedom of Information Act is meant to empower the public, not protect politicians. It is ironic that the day after the Pre-Budget Report, this veto will leave many feeling they have been short-changed," added Mr Facey.
Unlock Democracy is a leading UK campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms. It was formed in 2007, is the successor organisation to Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, and is part of the Power 2010 coalition (www.power2010.org.uk), of which Ekklesia is also a supporter.