Another couple of Parliamentary Written Answers about the missing RIPA Commissioners Annual Reports for 2005.
What is Tony Blair trying to hide from the public ?
This ongoing saga stands a a grim warning about accepting any "Annual" Reports to a Minister.
It has the effect of completely undermining any public trust in the supposedly independent Commissioners, both under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and all the other Commissioners who have been appointed by this Labour Government, supposedly to provide independent oversight of the state bureaucracy.
This from the Conservative frontbench spokesman on Constitutional Affairs:
Written answers Tuesday, 30 January 2007 Prime Minister Annual Reports
Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire, Conservative)
To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 787W, on annual reports, what the reason is for the time taken to publish the 2005 reports of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Service Commissioners; and if he will undertake to publish them within 28 days.
Tony Blair (Prime Minister)
I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 787W.
We missed this previous one from a rebellious Labour backbencher:
Written answers Wednesday, 17 January 2007
Interception of Communications Commissioner
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak, Labour)
To ask the Prime Minister whether he has received the report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2005; and when he expects the report to be placed before the House.
Tony Blair (Prime Minister)
I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 787W.
So the answer to 4 Parliamentary Questions within a month, by 3 different MPs (see the previous blog entry "Prime Minister Tony Blair evades Questions on the missing RIPA Commissioners Annual Reports, again"), is still:
"The reports will be published in due course."
There is no excuse for not publishing an Annual Report, mandated by an Act of Parliament, annually
The Government should
- Immediately publish these 2005 Annual Reports immediately, after all, any sensitive national security information or topics which the Commissioners may have tto report on is already not made public, according to the legislation.
- Set a publication deadline for the three RIPA Commissioners 2006 Annual Reports e.g. no later than August 2007
- Add all of the RIPA Commissioners to Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 200, as they are undoubtedly Public Bodies, within the meaning of the Act, and fund the secretarial staff required to answer any Freedom of Information Act requests, bearing in mind that there are plenty of things which they could answer, without compromising national security or criminal investigations, in just the same way as the Police or the Information Commissioner's Office etc. answer general FOIA requests about any backlogs of queries or complaints etc.
We did ask the Department for Constitutional Affairs to do this just over a year ago, to no avail - see "Adding Public Bodies to Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act - or not"