According to reports from MoneyMarketing and the Telegraph the UK government plan to make troubled bank Northern Rock exempt from the Freedom of Information Act once they’ve steam-rollered its “temporary” nationalisation through parliament. Apparently the legislation states that “Article 18 deems Northern Rock not to be a publicly-owned company for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”

Broon defended the decision at PMQs today, saying that “The only reason that the Freedom of Information Act comes into this is that it would be unfair on Northern Rock if other companies knew everything about its business plan”. [Read a full transcript of the exchange here] However, FOI advocate Maurice Frankel, quoted in the Torygraph article above, reckons there are plenty of other mechanisms in place to stop the breach of commercial confidentiality, without resorting to such measures.

So, what’s the beef? With tax payers set to be saddled with somewhere in the region of £110 bn of liabilities they didn’t ask for, is there yet more bad news on the horizon? This apparent effort to restrict the flow of information from the stricken company would suggest we might not yet know everything.

However, beyond the minutiae of this particular case, isn’t it reassuring to know that important legislation that makes public bodies more accountable can be bypassed with a quick flick of the legislator’s pen?! Selective application of the law doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence in the system.

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