Even less freedom of information

This morning I wrote that I have been getting some of my better information on the state of our finances from official published Bank of England sources.

I am grateful to those who blogged in to point out that the government wants to use the Banking Bill to stop us finding out how much inflation or deflation the authorities are putting into the system on a week by week basis . Apparently they are trying to stop the weekly publication of the figures. Well, there’s a surprise!

What possible good reason could they have for that?


  1. Blank Xavier
    December 6, 2008

    Short selling was banned for the same reason. All it does is make price discovery more rapid (e.g. permits the real value of a company to be known). Since short selling is widely misunderstood, it was politically possible to ban it and politically desireable to do so since it helped to hide the real state of a number of companies (which is to say, it help deceive those who owned or would own their shares, to the benefit of those who owned those companies and to the benefit of those in power who bear significant responsibility for failing to deal with the issues we face today).

    Where sunlight falleth not, corruption rots.

  2. jean baker
    December 6, 2008


    Presumably, the proposed Banking Bill be subject to full and open Parliamentary debate and ‘democratic all party’ approval.

    Those proposing it seem to have forgotten they are paid to serve the electorate openly, NOT prohibit freedom of information.

  3. oldtimer
    December 6, 2008

    You have drawn attention to the way that the government speaks to the banks with a forked tongue. One hypothesis is that this just reflects their buungling incompetence – left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to, not knowing whether they are sitting on arse or elbow. This, it seems to me, is an entirely plausible hypothesis.

    There is a second hypothesis – devious intent. This hypothesis maintains that it is all intentional, mapped out on the Brown grid, to get control of the financial system. The cover is “it all started in the USA” and, per Darling from the safety of the Outer Hebrides, “this is the worst financial crisis for 60 years”. THE FSA intervention, accurately likened to a “drive by shooting” by one victim, the capital injections at rapacious terms, the irreconcilable demands placed on the banks, the current “blame the banks” narrative, the proposed suppression of Bank of England data, the mushroom management option, they all fit this hypothesis. It is also compatible with the first hypothesis of bungling incompetence because the interventions are not solving the real problems.

    In my opinion, the personal attacks on George Osborne and Damian Green also fit a pattern. Expect more to come.

  4. The Wilted Rose
    December 6, 2008

    I would have thought that transparency is an essential component of democracy. But clearly not for our Labour overlords!

    1. not an economist
      December 6, 2008

      It seems ironic to me that a labour party that, in opposition, championed freedom of information and when elected passed a freedom of information act now goes around doing things like this – i.e., suppressing information originally made availlable under a statute enacted in 1844.

      I dare say if pushed on this issue the Govt would fall back on a “security of the realm” type defence: e.g., the economy is teetering on the precipice of a depression and so extraordinary measure are necessary to avoid the nation falling down into it. The fact that those measures it is proposing/implementing will serve only to push it over the edge is irrelevant ofcourse.

      I keep saying this wherever I post and I think people just dismiss me as a grade A pratt but I say it again: Given the way the govt flippantly waves its anti-terrorist legislation around, how much longer will it be before it becomes an offence to criticise the govt’s handling of the economy on spurious grounds like national security or threatening the national interest? Remember, these people hate the Tories. They think back to the recession of the 1980’s and the then govt’s free market responses to it and they see that Conservative Govt as little more than an assault on “their” people. Hence our objections to this Govt’s policies are dismissed as irrelevant. In this regard you only have to look at the response of people like Livingstone to the Damian Green affair which seemed to amount to little more than “we’re getting our own back for Ponting/Tisdall”. I base this as much as anything on message boards I occasionally frequent where to be a Tory is to be the lowest form of life imaginable. A bit upsetting really.

  5. Johnny Norfolk
    December 6, 2008

    What concerns me John is that if the Tories were in government and were trying to do a tenth of what Labour is doing there would be outrage in the media led by the BBC.

    We hear nothing like we should from the BBC on this kind of thing.

    I just hope the new Tory government will sort out the BBC once and for all.

    1. not an economist
      December 6, 2008

      This is what bugs me. I have absolutely no objection to John, Cameron, Osborne or Hague getting a pasting on Today, Newsnight or PM. They are fair game.

      But then along trots Gord, Ally or Mandy and the same degree of rigour seems to fly out the window. What follows is a series of what look like planted questions designed not to tax the govt front bench too much. Granted Harman got a good going over on Newsnight the other day but thats the exception rather than the rule. The other day Blears was on PM talking about the Damian Green affair and Caroline Quinn asked her if she thought the whole affair was a waste of parliamentary time. I couldn’t believe it. And of-course Blears took to the question like a duck to water saying yes ofcourse its a waste of time discussing the arrest of an MP and that MP’s should instead be talking about the govt’s marvellous stimulus package and that we shouldn’t forget what Norman Lamont said in 1992 (?) about recessions and what a damn good larf they are and that the Tories are the do nothing party. Some people, in my view, are just crying out for a good hard slap …

      I know many are equally critical of Sky but I find them a lot more even handed than the BBC are on these matters.

    2. adam
      December 7, 2008

      if a tory had done what labour have to the NHS and post office etc.
      there would have been rioting.

  6. R.Rowan
    December 6, 2008

    It wouldn’t be because the treasury do not want it known how much money their printing or any further gold sales would it?

  7. Terry
    December 6, 2008

    I may be being a bit cynical here, but I suspect this is a prelude to turning on the printing presses. Zimbabwe here we come!

  8. Lola
    December 6, 2008

    Why? Because they are (hon gents unintentinally misleading us – Parly version of what was written!)? (I realise that you may not publish this – but I am rapidly losing all sense of perspective when it comes to this government and its desperate machinations to stop us all discovering just how useless they are).

  9. not an economist
    December 6, 2008

    R Rowan and Terry above are spot on. The govt is about to let the floodgates open, drowning the economy with money in the hope that this will increase aggregate demand and so spur economic growth. This, they think, will lift us out of recession. It won’t. Growth comes from savings. Savings provide a source of funds that can be used by companies to invest in their productive processes and so expand production. Unfunded increases in demand – e.g., by increasing the money supply alone – will simply result in malinvesment and inflation, wasting what savings exist in the economy in the process. With a saving ratio of c. 2% there is not that much to waste!

    Furthermore, I half expect that Mandelson & Brown think that by hiding money supply figures they may be able to control expectations and by controlling expectations they may perhaps think that the inevitable inflation and collapse of sterling which is implicit in their strategy will not happen. This is naive. Expectations do play a role in an economy, but where they are at variance with underlying realities then events will take their course regardless of pre-existing expectations, which will inturn be modified accordingly.

    Furthermore, suppressing information like this will itself worsen market confidence. Potential purchasers of govt debt are not stupid. They will be alarmed by this move to suppress information and likely fear the worst – i.e., that the govt intends to inflate its way out of the debt mountain it is creating for itself or, even worse, default. As a result we can expect the yield on long term govt bonds to increase as potential lenders demand some protection against the inflation they expect to arise plus an extra risk preimum on loans to what they increasingly regard as an un-creditworthy government. This is already happening in the USA. How this fits with the British Govt’s declared policy of keeping interest rates low is beyond me. As clever as Mandelson thinks he is he cannot rewrite the laws of economics.

  10. Bazman
    December 6, 2008

    It outrages me that the British political system should ever be compared with Zimbabwe. (Is that what you want) The truth speaks for itself. Got that idiots?

    1. David morris
      December 7, 2008

      Don’t blame the messenger.

  11. adam
    December 7, 2008

    i have stopped spending but on this news i think ill start again

  12. Johnny Norfolk
    December 7, 2008

    Even though Labour enacted ‘The Freedom of Information’ bill, it has just been another Labour con.

    This Labour government manipulates information and is more secretive then any previous government we have had since the war.

    Never believe what Labour say, only what they do, as they are never the same.

  13. Dr Dan H.
    December 8, 2008

    Unfortunately, all that is happening now is standard Old Labour behaviour. The problem with Labour is that they have a fundamental misapprehension about how the world works: they believe that a planned economy works better than an unplanned free market. So, what they start off by doing is trying to constrain how the formerly regulated but mostly free market can operate.

    At the same time as this, they also start trying to help people, by trying to share out wealth as equitably as possible; a dollop here to sort one problem, a dollop there to sort another problem, always working on the assumption that people view this assistance as just that, assistance whilst they get back to work.

    Over time, the assistance becomes a way of life for a lot of people and a Labour government tends not to look ahead very much; they become so tied up in running the minutae of their planned economy that they become lost in the now and the details, and lose sight of the big picture, and what is going to happen. As this goes on, too, they revert to their roots and start trying to get the rich to pay for the huge costs of their schemes, forgetting that most rich people didn’t get rich by being stupid and are well-placed to dodge taxes.

    At this point, we are well into the familiar Labour Death Spiral. Government costs rise, regulation increases exponentially, and taxes on pretty much everyone rise (the rich also get huge increases levied upon them, which they almost universally dodge), and slowly the economy stutters and slows down. We are lucky in this country in having regular elections, since this enables us to get shut of the morons for a while, whilst the Tories perform a rapid resuscitation of the economy; were it not for this, a fate such as befell the former Communist states would occur.

    Until we impose voting reforms such as a modified Pauper’s Oath (if you’re living off the state, you don’t get a vote) and/or basic intelligence tests, history will repeat its self over and over again.

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