The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
FOI
Posted Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 16:49

 

A hypothetical case in point.

 

A group of businessmen have put forward proposals to build a massive new development in my constituency. There are many question marks hanging over this development, not least the way public funds have been used so far.

 

I may or may not have engaged in an extensive dialogue with the local Councils; and without prejudice, they may have extensively replied.

 

I may have felt as the MP that it was incumbent upon me to explore, without hindrance, on behalf of my constituents, where their hard earned money was being spent, and, by whom.

 

The group of businessmen may or may not have been a bit worried about this.

 

A local newspaper may have been aware of what I may have been doing and decide to use the FOI act to obtain copies of all my correspondence – including emails - via the County Council, because of course, at the moment, my office is exempt.

 

Imagine what my shock would have been like if I had been bombarded by letters from a top city law firm threatening me with legal action? How awful would that be?

 

 It would mean that I could no longer execute the duties incumbent upon my office in a democratic manner, because those businessmen, who may have had far more money than me, could prevent me from asking the questions that needed to be asked.

 

Gosh, maybe there is another side to this FOI bill?

 
 
 
Bryan Askham said:
Responded: Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Hi Nadine FOI - with the amendment being designed solely to safeguard MP's correspondence, are you and the rest of the Honourable Members prepared to continue giving details of expenses on a voluntary basis? Yours Byeck
 
 
Mike H said:
Responded: Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Wow! I suggested you might give us some thoughts on David Maclean's FOI amendment, but hadn't expected you to choose that subject the very next day! I would support 100%, no that should be 1000%, the right of any MP to investigate said development (or anything else) without having to worry about the threat of legal action. The idea of that not being the case is completely ludicrous. How else would the needs of an open democracy be served if MP's couldn't even ask questions and express an opinion of the local council or other public bodies in private? I'm no lawyer, but surely if you have private correspondence with an authority (or anyone else) on this matter, it is not you who should be subject to legal action but the publishers of that correspondence? Presumably we're talking about the laws of libel here? If you have privately expressed an opinion on aspects of said development to the local council, where is the libel in that? If I think my bank has delivered poor service over the last couple of years and I write to them to complain (a not infrequent occurrence, I should add), is it the case that my letter could be published under FOI and I could be sued by my bank for defamation? If that's the case, then the law truly is a complete ass and the libel laws need to be changed ASAP. If, on the other hand, I volunteer a copy of my letter to a local newspaper, then I can understand that I might have my allegations challenged in court. I am concerned about the Maclean amendment - I'll admit that, and I'm glad to see that David Cameron has suggested that the Conservative Peers will chuck it out. Not so much because I think the majority of MPs are hiding things from their electorate, but because I think it's important in a democracy that MPs are SEEN to be completely open about their affairs, especially at a time when the general public is becoming more and more cynical about politicians and politics in general. Having said that, it is self evident that the private affairs and concerns of constituents should remain private at all times but, from what I understand, that situation is already catered-for in the Data Protection Act. My understanding is that if private matters relating to a constituent have been made public (and that constituent's identity has been revealed) as a result of FOI requests, this is because the individuals concerned with releasing the information are not familiar with the requirements of the DPA in those circumstances, rather than any failing in the existing FOI legislation.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
I was under the impression that regardless of the FOI bill's success, MP's expenses will continue to be published. Am I mistaken?
 
 
Stuart Fairney said:
Responded: Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Nadine, these points you are trying to make in support of the FOI exclusions are ridiculous. 1. If you want something to be treated on a without prejudice basis, simply write the words “Without prejudice” on top of the correspondence, you’d be surprised how effective that can be. 2. What could the ‘top city law firm’ threaten you with, if you were merely asking questions? Specific examples please, otherwise you are just creating imaginary legal hobgoblins 3. Suggesting that the way public money is spent will in someway be more transparent if you are allowed FOI exemption is perverse double-speak and expecting anyone to believe to the contrary is treating them like idiots. PS heard you on Radio 5 on the education thing. Is Mayo quite as annoying as he sounds?
 
 
Redditch Case said:
Responded: Thursday, 24 May 2007
Nadine-these 'businessmen',you wouldn't be referring to NIRAH per chance ?. If so, see the light, stop torpedoeing this great project and use all your political muscle to get NIRAH to Midbeds.
 
 
Simon Chapman said:
Responded: Thursday, 24 May 2007
Nadine, If a "top city law firm" started sending you threatening letters on behalf of their clients, to try to stop you investigating this dvelopment, you presumably would publish those on this website thereby scoring an immediate and overwhelming PR victory. Wouldn't you? Love the blog - this is the first time I've posted.
 
 
John said:
Responded: Sunday, 27 May 2007
Nadine!! Remember your supposed to be taking the 'wall' down. You've just put a brick back in.
 
 
 
Contact Nadine
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
via e-mail at: nadine.dorries.mp@parliament.uk
or Telephone on 020 7219 5928

 
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