Before the election, the Conservatives promised to ‘extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act’ and the Prime Minister was absolutely right when he said that sunlight was “the best disinfectant”.
But as with the DNA Database (samples retained rather than destroyed), local authority powers of entry (2 year review rather than needing a warrant) the Draft Communications Data Bill (from reversing the surveillance state to resurrecting Labour’s biggest surveillance proposal) the Home Office has decided to pursue the alternative course of action. Well, we say alternative, we mean a 180-degree change of course.
Today we learn from the Yorkshire Post that the Home Office plans to exempt the new National Crime Agency from Freedom of Information Law.
There are already countless grounds (from it taking too long to find the information to national security) for organisations to refuse to disclose information.
Freedom of Information would not prevent intelligence sharing, protecting sources of information or expose police tactics and technology – indeed, every police force in the country and the Association of Chief Police Officers all manage to operate with FOI applying to them.
For a Government supposedly committed to transparency, this is a calculated move that would shut the public out of holding the country’s most senior policing officials to account.
At a time when the Home Office wants to give these officers access to details of who we email, call and send postcards to, it is remarkable to be proposing they should be able to do so behind a cloak of secrecy.