Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Trough Snufflings


Queuing for expenses

More disgusting grunts from the trough (courtesy Freedom of Information):

  • "The cost of entertaining by Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street and Chequers soared to more than £101,178 last year.The annual bill has almost doubled since Labour came to power in 1997 when the cost of parties at the Prime Minister's residences was £57,303. Guests included Sting, Bono, Sir Elton John, and Prince Girolamo Strozzi Guicciardini, his wife and daughters. The Blairs enjoyed two free holidays at the Italian nobleman's Tuscan villa. No 10 officials had tried to keep the guest list secret, saying confidentiality was needed because some guests could have been involved in "policy development and analysis". " (Telegraph 17.10.06)
  • The excellent Heather Brooke (who runs Your Right To Know) has been rebuffed in her attempt to get details of MPs' travel expense claims. Her FOI request has been rejected by the House of Commons Commission. Publishing the corresponding information in Scotland "recently led to a huge drop in the amount that members of the Scottish Parliament claimed for travel, and exposed abuse by two MSPs that led one to quit and another to resign as Tory leader". Now I wonder why our Westminster porkers don't want us to know?

Freedom of Information is all downside for our rulers. Which is precisely why they're so busy trying to get it back in the box. To this end, the DCA commissioned Frontier Economics to come up with some reasons why it should be curtailed. Their Report focuses on cost, reckoning FOI requests currently cost £35m pa to process; Charlie Faulkner naturally says that's far too much, so FOI requests will henceforth be rationed. By an impartial person such as his good self.

Even if you accept the £35m figure (given that Frontier Economics does include the last Cabinet Secretary among its directors...), it represents just 0.007 per cent of public spending: less than the rounding error on Prezza's pie bill. And we can all think of a load of stuff that should be junked well before FOI.

It's never been clear how half-baked Nu Labour ever thought they were going to manage Freedom of Information. Obviously it wasn't intended to be more than another bit of image flim-flam. But now it's out of the box they're sort of stuffed.

Just like those porkers.

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