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Freedom of Information
We at BBB are instinctively in favour of freedom of information (FOC) legislation. Why do we like it? Because it is nice. Of course it does mean that politicians are far more guarded in their utterances at minuted meetings, or many meetings are probably not recorded at all. If the public end up with a less well run government, so what? If government and the civil service become more secretive because of FOC, what do we care? The important things is that we can use FOC to undermine those on the right and thus further our own political agenda.

1. FOC is a lazy way to gather news. It can also unearth a load of trivial information. If we discover, through FOC, that some judges have been disciplined in the past, will the publication of these facts be a benefit to the public? No, not really. Undermining the judiciary is great fun, though. It's nearly as good as undermining the police.

2. Because the UK police are split into semi-autonomous authorities, there are in-built differences between methods and results between these authorities. This means there is a never-ending seam of statistics to be mined, many of which show the police to be inconsistent. Well, of course there would be inconsistencies if that's the way the service is structured, but these irregularities can be easily be unearthed using FOC and used to slag off the police. OK, so this will lead eventually to a national police force and even a police state, but so what?

3. We know that most FOC requests are for trivial things and that uncapped requests cost the taxpayer money. But, hey, when have we ever worried about the taxpayer? When we are calling for more regulations in every area of life the last thing we think of is the cost of them.

4. One area where we do not like FOC requests is when they are made of us, such as with the Balen report. How dare anybody ask to see a report we commissioned privately? The next thing they will want to know is the disciplinary record of our journalists!

Alistair Campbell
Freedom of Information

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