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Remove Secrecy Laws and Cultures of Secrecy from Government Organisations and State Agencies.

Comment 4th July 2010

Secrecy laws are, by definition, self-defining. They allow things to go wrong – in secret. And not to be put right – in secret. Secrecy laws give the State unfair advantage and can breed furtive behaviour. Secrecy laws undermine the right of the individual to challenge assumptions made about them by the State, and they can prevent access to liberty, justice and a fair trial for all.

Secrecy laws mean not knowing what laws there are to remove. And secrecy also means that we don't know that all of our Agencies are acting within the law, and cannot find out. Neither can we know, since decisions are made above our heads, the true costs of secrecy to us all, whether borne by individuals or in terms of the strength, growth and reputation of our country.

Secrecy laws undermine Democracy. How can we confront and then challenge who and what we are as a nation, when secrecy fears honest, open, healthy debate? The existance of a culture of hidden attitudes may make us question our competence in, for instance, the delivery of social justice and equality, where some other countries do it better. Who, exactly, or what, exactly, doesn't want this here, for us?

And how, in a culture of secrecy, can we view our Government? How does our Government look at us? All of our lives and viewpoints are bent by the secrets that shape Government decisions:- policies that can frame our national identity and character, that allow us a feeling of belonging and worth, or not. And that can determine our individual and collective sense of safety and well-being.

When we witness the devastating power of the cult of secrecy to isolate, block or break someone, we are reminded that untrammelled authority working in secret only bestows the lower forms of human behaviour onto any society – arrogance, nastiness, grubby deals, hypocricy, the cruelty of elite groups, self-interest, greed, dishonesty and unnaccountability.

I am frightened by secrecy. No-one benefits from Secrecy laws in the long run, including those who live by them.

Get rid of crippling Secrecy laws and allow us to soar.

Why does this matter?

The existence of secrecy laws and cultures of secrecy undermine the fabric of our democracy, by causing confusion, suspicion and fear. Allowing more and more secrecy means that before long we will not know what is being done in our name. The erosion of civil liberties serves only to cow us all. In this climate of unprecedented challenges (global warming, terrorism, banking crisis, global markets and swings in the movements of people, to name but a few) we need to be not lied to, so that we can fly! We need to know that our government trusts us and we need you to show us that we can trust in our government. We don't even have the confidence anymore to know with any certainty that we can say this or that, think this or that, or do this or that without fear of infringing some piece of legislation we barely know about and which could have us arrested and banged up, without charge and without anyone knowing where we are! The culture of fear that we now live in is stifling the unique creativity that we as Brit's demonstrate so well and are so proud of. We are born inventors, entrepreneurial, courageous in our thinking, inquisitive, tolerant and very reasonable. And we don't like to stand still. What has happened to us? Have we lost the belief in ourselves? How can we know even that, if we no longer know who we are and what we stand for? Do enough of us still share the same values to allow us to move forward as a cohesive group? Without the freedom to challenge the reasons for doing those things that are decided in secret, we will live in the "Democratic Republic" of the U.K. where the potential for cross-purpose is huge.

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