The Welwyn & Hatfield Times reports that local MP Grant Shapps is backing the paper’s opposition to Government plans that would water down the Freedom of Information Act.
Shapps also committed to back Press Gazette’s campaign on the issue by introducing an Early Day Motion opposing the Government proposals, which will make it harder for “serial requeters” like journalists to obtain information under the Act.
“I will be backing the Gazette’s campaign and am intending to put down an Early Day Motion in Parliament designed to put pressure on the Government to think again,” Shapps told his local paper.
Shapps should be applauded for his stand.
However, it will be interesting to see if those MPs who sign up to his Early Day Motion will also bother to turn up in the chamber to oppose a Private Member’s Bill designed to exempt Parliament from the FOI Act.
If MPs like Shapps truly believe in the principle of Freedom of Information, they will also speak up to oppose a bill designed to exempt themselves from the law.
Update: The BBC’s FOI expert Martin Rosenbaum has much more on this today. Rosenbaum points out that Shapps has been one of the the most effective MPs at using FOI.
He also points out a Guardian report about a Cabinet split on the Maclean bill. According to the Guardian’s David Hencke, the minister responsible for Freedom of Information, Lord Falconer, is opposed to Maclean’s bill, while Jack Straw (who is usually known a friend of FOI), Margaret Beckett and Peter Hain support it.
Hencke bases his report on a leaked cabinet memo, which suggests that the Government is debating whether to support Maclean’s bill. If it does, it will be allocated extra time for debate and is very likely to pass.
Rosenbaum and Hencke have been the only journalists making much noise about this story. Isn’t it time everyone else woke up?