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Speaker election: Richard Shepherd MP on FOI

Richard Shepherd MP made a powerful speech in favour of Freedom of Information when he addressed MPs yesterday as one of the candidates for Speaker of the House of Commons:

All my parliamentary career has been directed towards the ambitions that we all shared when we came into this Chamber. I refer to a profound belief in our central democratic institution. We see now it at a nadir. We see that we are under pressure, and the reasons are evident to everyone out there. The secrecy in which many parts of our national life operated has been rolled back just a little, revealing that which has disconnected us from those who sent us here in the first place.

I have always believed in opening things up. I stood up for reform of section 2 of the old Official Secrets Act. I stood up for the whistleblowers Bill, originally introduced by the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright). I have wanted this House to represent the very best of our nation. But what I have found, and what I think we have all found, is that we are so disconnected from the public that on the first great issue of trust—public finance, public money and knowledge of it—we failed. That means that, collectively, we are held in disregard.

I believe in freedom of information. There is no way of shrugging that off. I believe that it was a great, great statute that the Labour Government introduced. I believe that although it seems our nemesis at the moment, it is in fact the path to redemption. A public out there expect openness, and where public money is used, whether in local authorities or by this institution, they have a right to know. That I profoundly believe.

It’s well worth listening to the speech in full here. It’s 43 mins in to the recording.
Or read it in Hansard.

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