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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Claims and counterclaims

Summary

There is a broader context to the subject of information and government. How does government operate alongside the duties to disclose information under the laws we have examined? How does government manage to conceal its operations and activities from public scrutiny? What other provisions are there that place duties on government or others operating under close association with government to disclose their activities to the public, or to bodies operating on behalf of the public interest (PI)?

Principled government

Crisis prompts inquiry. There are numerous sensational events which have provided an insight into contemporary governmental practice and one systemic development which concerns government structure. Previous editions of this book have examined the stormy events surrounding Michael Heseltine's resignation as Defence Secretary from Mrs Thatcher's Government in January 1986 over the Westland helicopter saga – an episode which raised dramatic illustrations of government manoeuverings, internal inquiries as well as select committee inquiries, and leaks in high places. Mr Heseltine felt he was a victim of a conspiracy to end constitutional government because he took his ministerial responsibility seriously in seeking to promote the British defence industry and declared pointedly ‘that the case against him was being put by “unidentified sources”’. ‘We have no documents, no statements, no piece of paper that we can examine, we have just whispers on the telephone. Now, that is the way British Government is to be conducted...’

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Harrison, A and Gretton, J. (eds.), Health Care UK (CIPFA, 1985)