Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”The government remains fully committed to transparency”

Michael Gove, Cabinet Minister, Response to an open letter co-ordinated by openDemocracy

Facts

On 8th February 2021 openDemocracy published an open letter signed by the editors of many newspapers (including the Editor of this website) outlining concerns about the difficulties when trying to use Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

It cited the National Audit Office report’s criticism about the lack of transparency in government COVID contracting.

An OpenDemocracy investigation also revealed that the present government has granted less – and rejected more – Freedom of Information requests than ever before.

OpenDemocracy had also revealed that the Johnson government has spent at least half a million pounds on legal fees trying to prevent the release of information under FOI legislation. 

A report titled Behind the screens – maintaining government transparency and data security in the age of messaging apps was published in July 2022 by the Information Commissioner’s Office. The report looked at the use of private correspondence channels by Ministers, and staff employed by the Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC). Looking at how the use of private correspondence channels affected transparency and accountability regarding decisions made by the DHSC during the pandemic it found that “Evidence more widely available in the public domain also suggests this practice is commonly seen across much of the rest of Government and predates the pandemic.”. 

The report goes on to list WhatsApp specifically as the most commonly used private correspondence channel with DHSC saying that official information has been shared through 29 private WhatsApp accounts. 

The report concluded that “The use of such channels presented risks to the confidentiality, integrity and accessibility of the data exchanged.”

Verdict

Gove’s statement was simply wrong, and as the Cabinet Office minister he must have known this. 

We emailed Mr Gove’s office offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

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