Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Template applied again

The other day, I made the case for developing a simple template that you can use to cover every problem you encounter instead of having to come up with arguments on individual issues.

So, here's the latest. There seems to be a consensus that - while Freedom of Information is good idea in principle - it is reasonable to filter out the vexatious and avoid the abuse of the system for commercial purposes. The problem, of course, is that - in order to distinguish the wheat from the chaff - the Sir Humphreys have to set up a panel of the great-and-good with a secretariat comparable to the odious and useless Standards Board to sift the vexatious from the sensible.

Like almost everything else, it seems that FOI wasn't a liberalising reform at all. It was just the latest in a massively long line of job creation schemes for bureaucrats.

Before the current legislation came in to force, dozens of £500-a-day conferences were packed out (at public expense) with paper-pushers learning how to be as uncooperative as possible in the face of requests, and as a result, the 'freedom' is hardly being recognised as such.

Why not - instead - insist that every request should be routed through a local MPs office (and only the local MP to the requester).

FOI requests should be justified in a respectful and sensible way. Any that aren't get spiked. And MPs would be able to insist upon actual answers instead of the context-free data that civil servants have been trained to respond with.

MPs allowances can be slightly increased to compensate for the inconvenience.

Problem solved. Freedom of Information achieved. And if you think that your MP is stifling reasonable requests and can make the case for this, you can damage their prospects at the next election.


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