Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wonder what they're hiding

FOI requests are brilliant and quite frankly I cannot imagine what Labour was thinking of when they introduced them.What's even more telling is when they're refused.
Jack Straw (he of the infamous English are violent quote) has decided he doesn't want us to know about a cabinet meeting back in 1997, just after Labour came to power.


Justice Secretary Jack Straw today blocked the publication of minutes of a 1997 Cabinet committee meeting on devolution.
It is only the second time since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005 that the Government has used its veto following a ruling to release material by the Information Commissioner.
Mr Straw told MPs that disclosure of the information would put the convention of collective Cabinet responsibility for decisions "at serious risk of harm".
In a written statement to Parliament he said the decision "was not taken lightly".
Mr Straw said that in his opinion the Information Commissioner "wrongly found that the Cabinet Office had failed to comply" with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by withholding copies of the minutes.
The only other time Mr Straw has vetoed publication was in February this year when he blocked the release of Cabinet minutes relating to the Iraq War.
In his statement today, he said: "This is only the second time this power has been exercised since the Act came into force in 2005 and over that period of time central government has received approximately 160,000 non-routine requests for information."
He added: "My conclusion rests on an assessment of the public interest in disclosure and non-disclosure of these Cabinet minutes and of the exceptional nature of the case.
 Now what in hells name could Straw have to hide over devolution, after all it was a Labour flagship policy. I suspect the reasons might be a little prosaic, but I'm more than willing to speculate even if I'm wrong.
I suspect that one of the cabinet members strongly objected to the idea of Scottish devolution, at least in private and I suspect that that member may have been Scottish themselves.
So, lets away to the rogues gallery of Blair's cabinet 1997.

The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service
The Right Honourable John Prescott, MP
Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
The Right Honourable Gordon Brown, MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Right Honourable Robin Cook, MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Right Honourable The Lord Irvine of Lairg
Lord Chancellor
The Right Honourable Jack Straw, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
The Right Honourable David Blunkett, MP
Secretary of State for Education and Employment
The Right Honourable Margaret Beckett, MP
President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
The Right Honourable Dr Jack Cunningham, MP
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
The Right Honourable Donald Dewar, MP
Secretary of State for Scotland
The Right Honourable George Robertson, MP
Secretary of State for Defence
The Right Honourable Frank Dobson, MP
Secretary of State for Health
The Right Honourable Ann Taylor, MP
President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
The Right Honourable Chris Smith, MP
Secretary of State for National Heritage
The Right Honourable Harriet Harman, MP
Secretary of State for Social Security
The Right Honourable Dr Marjorie Mowlam, MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
The Right Honourable Ron Davies, MP
Secretary of State for Wales
The Right Honourable Clare Short, MP
Secretary of State for International Development
The Right Honourable The Lord Richard
Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords
The Right Honourable David Clark, MP
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Right Honourable Gavin Strang, MP
Minister of Transport
The Right Honourable Alistair Darling, MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Now out of this lot only Brown and Darling are left who are Scottish, so did Gordon Brown oppose Scottish devolution? Seems a bit unlikely, but it's the most interesting of the possibilities, however, Darling himself represents Edinburgh South West and has a majority of about 7,000 as of the last general election and is a possible swing to the Conservatives if a bit unlikely unless and of course it turns out he opposed Scottish devolution and this was used in the campaign against him.
Only speculation I know, but as the English or Welsh candidates are either not in the cabinet anymore or would not be in danger from a nationalist backlash it makes sense to me, even if it's not true.

2 annotations:

Anonymous said...

It will be something dirty and underhand as usual. It can't be nitty gritty stuff, because as I understand it Cabinet minutes are very very general.

As an aside, the First Ministers Questions this week are worth a watch on the iplayer if you enjoy humiliation of Labour. The actual broadcast is not available, but there is a programme which covers it. Iain Gray is left looking like a washed out floor cloth.

James Higham said...

Curiouser and curiouser.