Secretary of State in turmoil over Freedom of Information – Ford

Alliance Leader David Ford has described as ‘farcical’ the handling of a Freedom of Information request he made on the work done by the Programme for Government Committee. He has further described the work of the committee as a disgraceful waste of public money.

David Ford asked the Secretary of State for the information passed by those under his direction to the Committee and also asked the Assembly Clerk for information received by the Committee from Ministers and civil servants. The Assembly officially refused to release the information to David Ford last week, yet

the information was published on Monday.

David Ford said: “The response to my request is absolutely farcical.

“The four sectarian parties on the Programme for Government committee have conducted their proceedings in private since St Andrews. There have been no Hansards published and only very brief minutes. This is a complete contrast with the Preparation for Government committee, on which Alliance sat, before St Andrews.

“The Minutes record that on 15 January, the committee refused my request for information. This was confirmed by the Assembly’s Freedom of Information officer.

“Yet, the committee agreed to publish all the work done by it and its sub-committees. The decision followed their refusal to give me the information. What could be more farcical?

“Now, these committee reports have been published and we can see their total lack of substance.

“The Secretary of State also offered the four sectarian parties in this committee substantial sums of public money to employ research staff to help them ‘prepare for government’.

“First, Mr Hain anticipated the outcome of the election and offered bribes to the four parties he has chosen. Now, it appears that these cash handouts have achieved no significant value for the public expenditure. They were, in fact, a disgraceful waste of public money.

“I believe that my position on Freedom of Information and my opposition to the payment of Special Advisers has been completely vindicated.”


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