A week ago, Simon Jenkins took a swipe at the Freedom of Information Act in the pages of the Guardian.
Blair made almost all public documents discoverable, down to the contents of every laptop, the first draft of every email, every text message, every scribbled note. It was, he now says, "utterly undermining of sensible government". Jack Straw and the former cabinet secretary, Lord (Gus) O'Donnell, agree with him. Total disclosure, they say, has damaged honest civil service advice and stifled confidential debate among ministers. Stupid amounts of official time and money are spent conserving archives and responding to FOI requests. There must be some limit.
The similarities to Paul Nurse's misrepresentation of the FOI Act are striking, and the result has been identical: a slapdown from the chairman of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Maurice Frankel:
The act exempts information where disclosure is likely to be harmful and/or contrary to the public interest. It permits a ministerial veto over any order to disclose in the public interest. Some information is exempt regardless of harm or public interest.
Jenkins claims the level of disclosure extends to "even the most personal communication between individuals". It does not. Personal information, about family matters for example, is vigorously protected. But officials cannot circumvent FoI by discussing government business via personal email accounts.