Labour asks ‘What has Mrs May got to hide?’ as reports suggest the government is burying the evidence

Sophia Akram

Research by The Times has revealed that Theresa May’s government is holding back key papers on its spending that should be available for public scrutiny, breaking a key Tory promise. Now, some people want to know what the Tories are hiding.

Buried

Government departments have to publish details on their spending. But The Times revealed [paywall] that they have not published 92 out of the 202 papers they should have.

This includes lists of civil service staff who may be moving to business appointments. Nine out of 22 departments have failed to publish these lists. These are a requirement to help control the “revolving door” between Whitehall and business. In 2015, for instance, a number of former ministers were found to have accepted roles with companies and charities they met while in government. And in July 2017, the National Audit Office raised concerns about public servants using their roles to secure private sector jobs.

In addition, only three departments reported on the gender pay gap between male and female officials; and 19 out of 22 departments were late to publish lists of civil servants in “off-payroll arrangements”.

The Times also revealed [paywall] that the two worst offenders were the government’s business and trade departments.

‘Open government’

As The Times states [paywall], former Tory PM David Cameron pledged the “most transparent government ever”. He said back in 2010:

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since doing this job, it’s how all the information about government… so much of it is locked away in a vault marked sort of ‘private for the eyes of ministers and officials only’…

I think this is ridiculous. It’s your money, your government, you should know what’s going on.

And in a letter to departments shortly afterwards, Cameron outlined a raft of new reporting requirements.

What is she hiding?

Now, Labour’s Jon Trickett (the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office) has argued that May has broken the Tories’ promise. He also said this risked breaching public trust:

The government is doing all it can to hide their actions from the public. The question which people will naturally ask themselves is ‘What has Mrs May got to hide?’

A government spokesman, meanwhile, said [paywall]:

We are releasing more information than ever before. The World Wide Web Foundation recently ranked the UK government first on its global Open Data Barometer, putting the UK at the forefront of open government.

However, with the Tories’ reputation for mixing business with politics, the PM will need time to find her way back into the public’s trust.

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