FOI request shows that minister told the truth!

The saveFOI campaign has occasionally been critical of some of comments on Freedom of Information Act 2000 by ministers, past and present.

Never let it be said that we’re unfair though. A very interesting post on the excellent fullfact.org site follows up reports from the Morning Star last month which suggested – on the basis of emails disclosed in response to an FOI request – that Iain Duncan Smith had lied to the UK Statistics Authority. Fullfact have looked closer, however, and say that, in fact

…what Mr Duncan Smith had said was in fact accurate…While the emails unearthed by the FoI request do show that there was considerable discussion between DWP Ministers and statisticians on what was and wasn’t an acceptable method of releasing this information, the eventual arrangements conformed with the final advice from the DWP’s Head of Profession for Statistics.

Fullfact point out that this shows that there is ambiguity about statistical practice in government and the hard job that departmental statisticians have. As a result

…in future, Full Fact plans to use more Freedom of Information requests to help scrutinise the important “behind the scenes” role of the government statisticians.

FOI can hold ministers to account. It can expose their wrongdoing. It can also, it seems, exonerate them when they are accused of lying.

It’s in everyone’s interests to save FOI from being weakened following post-legislative scrutiny.

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