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Lobby legend Moncrieff slams ‘arrogant’ Grayling over FoI

FOIA minister who said journalists were “misusing” Freedom of Information laws to “create stories” has been accused of talking “arrant tosh” by a veteran political commentator.

Former Press Association political editor Chris Moncrieff hit out at Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling in his column in the Western Morning News published yesterday

Mr Grayling sparked industry outrage last week after telling MPs that the FoI Act is “on occasions misused by those who use it effectively as a research tool to generate stories for the media.”

His remarks were condemned as “worrying” by the Society of Editors, which is running a “Hands Off FoI” campaign in conjunction with HoldtheFrontPage and Press Gazette.

Chris wrote: “Chris Grayling, the abrasive Leader of the House of Commons, says it is wrong for journalists to use this legislation to create news stories. What arrant and arrogant tosh.

“The newspapers in particular, and the media in general, have done more than any Opposition party in the Commons to unearth scandals, wrong-doing, greed and even corruption among our so-called ruling classes. And that, in part at any rate, has been helped along by the Freedom of Information Act – although not entirely.

“Whitehall mandarins claim the existence of the Act actually inhibits ministers from going about their legitimate business. That, too, is absolute nonsense.

“What have they to hide? And if Members of Parliament, ministers or not, are up to some skullduggery – as has been clearly evidenced in the past – then we, who actually pay their wages (they are our servants, after all) have a total right as employers to know what they are up to.”

He added: “The Act has helped to unearth so much political scandal that politicians are running scared they will be caught out again.

“MPs have been calling for years for “transparency” in political affairs, but when they get it, they don’t like it. They are behaving like cowards.”

Mr Grayling’s comments came in response to a Commons question from Birmingham Erdington MP Jack Dromey after his local paper, the Birmingham Post and Mail, voiced concerns about the threat to FoI.

He responded:  “The Freedom of Information Act is something this government is committed to but we want to make sure it works well and fairly. It cannot be abused. It cannot be misused. It is on occasions misused by those who use it effectively as a research tool to generate stories for the media. That isn’t acceptable.”