The Guardian goes toe-to-toe with No 10 over gagging order

The Guardian is taking the Government to court in a case which could have wideranging implications for freedom of information.

A high court judge allowed the paper to use the judicial review process to try to overturn a gagging order imposed by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs Lord Falconer.

The case is due to be heard early next year. It stems from a request made in 2001 by Guardian journalists under the non-statutory Open Government Code of Practice.

They sent letters to all 15 Government departments asking for details of incidents where ministers have had clashes between their public and private interests and what they have done to rectify them.

When faced with a blanket refusal, The Guardian then took the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. In June Lord Falconer stopped the Ombudsman from making revelations about conflicts of interest with an order made to protect the “safety of the state”.

In particular, it prevented the disclosure of documents related to three unnamed ministers.

Guardian reporter Rob Evans, who has been working on the story, said: “This doesn’t inspire confidence in the Government’s commitment to open government and freedom of information.

“If we win this case it would be a victory for open government. The public and the press would be able to see whether ministers have acted properly and it would go some way to increasing the trust that the public has in politicians.

“We don’t actually know what they are trying to keep secret. We are bemused as to who these politicians are.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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