“Surely it can only strengthen our democracy…”

The Guardian report on the UK government’s declared intent to extend Freedom of Information laws includes this quote from Hugh Orde.

The Acpo president, Sir Hugh Orde, welcomed the proposals.

He said: “Any organisation that operates as part of a key public service should be accountable and open to public scrutiny.

“The Association of Chief Police Officers has been asking to be included under the act and welcomes the extension of authorities that it offers.”

They also intend to enact legislation reducing the 30-year release rule on secret government records to 20 years.  But, even though the new time limit will be phased in over 10 years from 1 January 2013, there are exceptions.  As the Belfast Telegraph notes

But Ministry of Justice officials confirmed that while the reduced time-lock on records will be extended to other exempted areas such as court documents, an exception will be made for some cabinet documents concerning Northern Ireland.

The presumption will be to release all records but any document that can be shown to contain “information prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs in Northern Ireland or to the work of the Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly” will be held back for 10 years longer. [added emphasis]

A Ministry of Justice official said: “It will have to be shown that the public interest in withholding it outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.”

Was that the result of the anticipated “further consultation between the UK government and OFMDFM” we were told about in August 2009?

Obviously the administration here remains [Forever? – Ed] a “delicate” fragile flower…