05/04/2012 Newsnight


An interview with Babar Ahmad, the British terrorism suspect held without trial for seven years, plus the Cabinet Office proposals which may limit Freedom of Information enquiries.

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Tonight, wanted on terror charges in the US, this British man has


spent eight years in a high security prison, fighting


extradition, we have an unprecedented interview from behind


bars, in which he asks the British Government to put him on trial here.


I would ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to please put me on


trial in this country, and to find out what has gone wrong in my case.


On Tuesday he will learn his fate. I will speak to the US legal


attache, about our controversial extradition laws, and will be


debating whether they need to be changed. Newsnight has learned that


Government is gearing up to charge for freedom of information


inquiries, which David Cameron has described as furring the arteries


of Government. The rigours of the Freedom of Information Act, that


called mallet, has shrunk the space in which politicians feel they can


talk freely, so much so that the back of a London taxi may actually


be the last place they feel they can have a conversation privately


and honestly. Last night the candidates for


London mayor challenged each other on Newsnight to reveal the tax they


pay. I'm happy to publish details of everything I have earned in the


last fuer four years, are you going to do the same? Of course I will.


Tonight we will tell you what we found out.


Good evening, this week the political debate has been around


secret courts, e-mail surveillance, and issues of justice, human rights,


and now extradition. We begin the programme with the case of Barbar


Ahmad, who has spent eight years in jail fighting extradition to the


United States on terror charges. Next Tuesday the European Court of


Human Rights will rule on his case and others. Following an


unprecedented High Court battle, the BBC won the right to interview


him in prison. He's the longest- serving British prisoner in jail


never convicted of a crime. The US authorities are fighting to


extradite him, claiming he ran extremist websites to support the


global Jihad. They were the authoritative source,


number one, for Jihad and mujahideen on the web. There was


no-one else that came close to them. Not even close.


In days he will find out his fate. In an exclusive interview from


prison, Barbar Ahmad tells Newsnight he has been denied


justice by the British authorities. I would urge the Director of Public


Prosecutions to please put me on trial in this country, and to find


out what has gone wrong in my case. There has been a serious and


unprecedented abuse of process that has gone on in my case.


For opponents of the extradition treaty with the US, this case


highlights how unfair that treaty A British citizen, banged up in a


high-security prison, in his eighth year, without trial, without charge,


that is a Kafka-esque situation here, happening on British soil. I


think this case shames us all. Barbar Ahmad is the man the


Government said we couldn't meet. But the BBC challenged ministers in


the High Court, and judges said it was in the public interest to hear


his story from Long Lartin Prison, in wore chesser. He has been held


on a special unit for half-a-dozen men, each of them is accused of


being among the most dangerous extremists in the world. In a few


days time the European Court of Human Rights will deliver one of


its most important judgments, can men like Barbar Ahmad be extradited


to the United States. When did they interview you?


first interview was the next day. He was first arrested in 2003, in a


Scotland Yard counter terrorism operation. Officers were briefed


that he was providing logistical and financial support to terrorists


abroad, through a website he had allegedly stet up. Days later he


was re-- set up. Days later he was released without charge, and


accused the police of assaulting him. That area is swollen, I had


bleeding in that ear. I was punched all over my body, I was sneeed,


handcuffs were placed on my wrists, and they were tightened until I was


screaming in agony. They took me in the van, and for 20 minutes there


was more abuse and more abuse of the handcuffs, until my throat


became dry from screaming. Last year four police officers were


prosecuted for support, and acquitted, it came after the Met


agreed the assault had happened, and paid Barbar Ahmad �60,000 in


damages. Months after he was released, he was re-arrested by


Scotland Yard's extradition unit, now he was wanted by the Americans.


At the heart of their case against him, a website they say he ran.


matter where they are hiding, be it a cave, be it in the ground, be it


in safe house, or the dark corners of cyberspace, law enforcement is


there as well. The website was called azzam.com, the Americans say


he used to raise funds and raise support for terrorism, first in


Chechnya and then Afghanistan. The site no longer exist, but the words


live on. Azzam Publicatinos has been set up to propagage the call


for Jihad, among the Muslims sitting down, the purpose of Azzam


publications ...This man is likely to be called for evidence if Barbar


Ahmad will be put on trial. He does his research in the United States.


It was not hard to come across him, it was the undisputed king of


Islamic Jihadi on the web. He shows me graphic footage filmed


in Chechnya. This scene became known globally, because of Azzam


Publications. You have here, foreign fighters dragging the


bodies of dead Russian soldiers out of this convoy they have just


ambushed. This is something nobody has ever seen before.


The leader of the group then machine guns to death, a wounded


Russian soldier. This video is going to appeal to


people who are so angry, and are so furious, and so mobilised, that


seeing people being murdered on camera, even soldiers, is something


that is inspiring. I asked Barbar Ahmad if he agreed


with the Americans, that this video had a sole purpose. They say that


material was used to recruit people for violent Jihad, and that's why


they want to put you on trial? there was anything on there that


broke any law of the United Kingdom, or if there was anything in there


that was wrong, I don't understand for the last 16 years where the


police and Crown Prosecution Service have been. It is just a


question of taste and decency as well? Something like that is a war


crime, obviously I don't support the wanton killing of captured


prisoners of war. Did you run the Azzam website, as the Americans


allege -- Azzam.com website as the Americans allege? I want all this


proved in a court of law, I call on the Crown Prosecution Service to


put my heart and everyone else's party at rest, and put me on trial


in this country. Barbar Ahmad is a British citizen, who grew up in a


middle-class family in south London. As a teenager he became sickened by


events in Bosnia. He revealed to Newsnight that he joined a


volunteer brigade of the Bosnian army and force against the Serbs.


Here were a defenceless people, to whom horrific things were happening,


and everyone was sitting, and international community were having


conferences and negotiations, and nobody was doing anything to stop


the slaughter of the innocents. Bosnia was a turning point for some


British Muslims, Al-Qaeda later tapped into the anger it caused.


But Barbar Ahmad denies he ever supported Osama Bin Laden's Jihad.


If by Jihad you mean defending yourself and your home and your


family, then, of course I support that, as every human being should


have the right to defend their home and their family and themselves. If


by that one means attacking innocent people, or blowing up


nightclubs or violence for political means, then I don't


support that. After 9/11, everything changed for


the man from Tooting in south London. MI5 installed a secret


listening device in his home, and the Americans were slowly building


their case. Investigators were alerted by a


tip-off from a company, tucked away in a quiet corner of Connecticut.


Days after 9/11, staff at this web hosting company contacted the


American authorities. They were concerned about allegedly extremist


material found on one of the websites hosted here. That website


was Azzam.com. UK investigator -- US investigators say the records


show the website was operated from Imperial College London, where


Barbar Ahmad worked. This is a serious allegation made against me,


I have never been questioned about this allegation or shown the


evidence against me. The alleged crimes were on computers in London,


but the website was based in America. It is this question over


where he should be tried that is at the heart of Barbar Ahmad's battle.


The Crown Prosecution Service decided in 2004 he couldn't face


trial. But the CPS has told Newsnight, that it only saw a small


number of documents seized by British police. Barbar Ahmad says


the rest of the evidence was sent directly to the US.


That allegation has led to questions in parliament, including


questions about the role played by the Metropolitan Police.


I would love to know exactly what happened to the evidence that they


collected, how much of that was given to the CPS, how much of it


went directly to the United States, why did it go directly to the


United States, who asked for that to happen? I think there is a whole


grey area here. It is very murky, we need to get to the bottom of it,


which is why I called for a public inquiry.


The Metropolitan Police say they Barbar Ahmad is appealing for an


11th hour review of his files. His lawyers have compiled a dossier of


evidence that could be used against him in Britain, they say other men


have been prosecuted for similar crimes, including having material


that began life on Azzam. If they charge you with fundraising for


terrorism? I would happily stand trial for anything that the Crown


Prosecution Service decided to charge me with. Because I wish to


clear my name, I wish to get my life back.


Although Barbar Ahmad alleges he has been the victim of an abusive


process, the US says everything was above board, and cases like these


are what the extradition treaty with the UK is designed for. Here


we have an example of transnational terrorism, that, in our minds,


continues to go to the top of the list, so to speak. The example of


having him extradited to the United States to stand trial for what did,


as a violation of US law, is the rightness of the issue, from our


side. The US case goes wider than the


website and terrorist fundraising. Prosecutors say Barbar Ahmad was


sent classified material from a US sailor on board this battleship.


Information about the ship's movements, that allegedly could


have been used to mount a terrorist attack. Barbar Ahmad denies this.


If he's extradited he will probably end up before a judge at this court


in Connecticut, he wouldn't face the death penalty. He would have


the opportunity to assert all the arguments that any other defendant


would get to assert. He would be accorded all of the right, the many,


many rights that are guaranteed to criminal defendants under the


United States constitution, which is a very, very generous document,


to criminal defendants. If convicted, he faces life in this


maximum security prison in Colorado. His lawyers say conditions there


are inhumane, this is the core issue that the European Court of


Human Rights will rule on next week. If judges say he can't be


extradited, the British authorities face a dilemma about what to do


with him. I just try to take each day as it comes. Either way, for


Barbar Ahmad the clock is ticking. I'm fighting for my life, and I'm


running out of time. In a way, this interview is my last


chance to try to convince the authorities here to end my


nightmare by putting me on trial in this country.


Barbar Ahmad is not the only extradition to the US that has been


controversial in recent times. The called NatWest Three or Enron Three,


the alleged computer hacking, Gary McKinnon, the Richard O'Dwyer, the


student accused of copyright offences, and the businessman,


Christopher Tapping, have all had public campaigns. To discuss


extradition as the US embassy's legal attache, a former adviser to


the former general attorney. I know you won't discuss any particular


case, but there is disquiet in the US, and in a sense, the kind of


crimes we are talking about, on- line, cyberterrorism, are very much


20th century crimes, which is hard to decide where the site of the


crime actually took place? You are right, I think there is public,


there is some more difficulties in those kinds of cases in


understanding where the crime took place. No-one has any difficulty


when I talk about someone who is in London, picking up the phone to


order a hit on someone they want to be murdered in Florida. And then if


that hit takes place, that crime took place in Florida, even though


the person who was on the telephone may have never left London. When it


comes to things like computers, and on-line crimes, and even banking,


banking is a global issue now, it is very hard to establish, and that


is we're not talking about a specific case, but for a number of


cases, it is hard to establish where the scene of the crime was?


Computers make it thatch easier to commit crimes all over the world, -


- that much easier to commit crimes all over the world, that is why it


is increasingly important to detect them, because crime increasingly


crosses boundaries, that is why the treaty is so important. One of the


suggestions is there is an independent forum, to decide to


judge where the scene of the crime took place. To decide between


Britain and the United States where this crime should be prosecuted, if


indeed it is a crime, an alleged crime. What do you say to the idea


of an independent forum? Many people don't understand the system


that presently exists for determining where a case should be


tried. What happens is fairly early on in an investigation, prosecutors


in the United States and in the United Kingdom, if there is


jurisdiction in both place, will confer with someone another and


discuss the case, and talk about the factors in the case, not only


where the accused is located, but where the harm was insecured, where


any loss was insecured, where any victims were located, and also


where the witnesses are, where the investigation was conducted. There


are quite a few factors that the prosecutors consider. The


prosecutors are those who know best what the evidence is. Often the


investigation itself may not even be public yet. But there is an


imbalance, there is an unevenness between the United Kingdom and the


US, for an extradition to take place from the US to the United


Kingdom. Not only has the judge to decide if there is evidence there,


the defendant is also enjoyed, it is not the case for the UK to the


US, it is simply a judge deciding whether there is a quality of case,


the defendant is not involved at all, so it is imbalanced? Many


people think that is true, but the system you have just described is


actually a myth, it does not work that way. People in the United


Kingdom and in the United States have the ruent to challenge their


extradition, in fact -- right to challenge their extradition. Many


people in the UK have done that successfully. Many requests have


been denied by the courts. People in the United States have a similar


opportunity, yet nobody has successfully challenged their


extradition from the US to the UK under the treaty. It is interesting


but not correct. Isn't it absolutely right to say


that in the US, for a UK extradition to the US, the judge


doesn't have to decide if there is a prima as ifia case? That's


correct. It is the same in the United States, if you are in the


United States the United States don't have to present prima facia


evidence, the standards are the same. Does it frustrate you that


the idea of the treaty was to speed up the process, and actually, the


process, in many cases, is elongateed beyond anything anyone


could have imagined? It is frustrating, I don't think the long


delays in these cases serve anybody's interests.


One of the problems of extradition from the UK to the US, as some


defendants see it, is the conditions in US prisons,


particularly, but not only the supermax prisons, that actually,


that conflicts with human rights, like that one we saw in Colorado?


There are a lot of myths about prison conditions, our systems are


very similar in so many ways. Our trial systems are as alike, I don't


think there is another system in the world that is as much like the


system in the UK as the system in the US. Our prison conditions are


very similar as well. We have been talking in the United Kingdom about


the question of secret courts, and the reluctance of the CIA to hand


over evidence, which they then say would be used in open court, which


would be counter to their modus op Peter Mandelson die, there is talk


in -- modus operandi, there has been talk about secret courts here?


We want a system to protect classified information here in the


UK. The proposals under consideration are not for us to


judge, because it is not our system. But it is important for our


intelligence community that information be projected.


Amy Jeffress thank you very much indeed.


To debate Britain's extradition treaty with the US, is David


Bermingham, one of the called NatWest Three, whose book The Price


To Pay has been published, Mike O'Brien QC, solicitor general in


the last Government, and Tory MP, Dominic Raab, who has campaigned


for reform. Do you think, Dominic Raab, at the


moment, it is dangerous now to talk about crimes committed without


borders. Because, indeed, crimes committed without borders is very


hard to decide where prosecution can take place? That is an abstract


academic question. At the moment there are two fundamental problems,


first of all, British citizens in this country, will not have the


evidence against them locked at by a judge in the same way as it


happens in the US. That is crystal clear. What about Barbar Ahmad, he


has been eight years in a high- security prison, without charge in


the UK, does that speak to justice? Absolutely not, it is reprehensible.


The other issue, the idea of anyone held in pre-charge detention, for


seven or eight years, is wrong in principle. If they are guilty they


should be prosecuted, if they are not, they should be let free. The


other problem is forum, where you have the cross-border cases, which


is the bouyant you are making. The -- point you are making. This the


US offers this foreign arrangement to other countries for protection


for their citizens. When you have a cross-border case, that shouldn't


be hagled by prosecutors behind closed doors, but under criteria


set by the UK Government. Let's talk about Barbar Ahmad before we


talk about the forum, is it justifiable to have a man in the UK,


in jail, for eight years, without charge? No, that's much too long,


and the system needs to operate much more effectively. I do think


there needs to be some changes in it. Should there be a forum for


deciding an, an independent forum for deciding where the alleged


crime took place? I think that's a much more complicated issue, of


course there is legislation in 2006, which tried to insert into the law


an issue of forum, as they call it, where the case should be tried,


with the idea that defendants should be able to be tried in the


UK, if that's where the most significant part of the offence


occurred. That is, of course, what some people want. However, the


problem is, that is not where the witnesses may be, it is not where


the victims may be, it is not where the investigation probably took


place. Why did they not bring it into force. Therefore, it is the


case that, I think forum needs to be looked at, I think there is an


argument for a change on it, however it is not the change in the


2006 act not brought into law. Actually a man or woman's chance of


freedom or conviction, that should be the primary reason for having


the trial, where it should be most he have Kayious? What we are


looking at with extradition is an issue of arrest, what is the cry


tear yum of which you should arrest someone, not the criteria of where


you should convict someone. were part of the system. It should


seem as if it works, you were tried, you were guilty and you did your


time and you came back? extradition worked and we we were


there. You pleaded guilty? We did what 80% of people did in the


country, we took the plea bargain and we came home. Particularly with


this case, it has striking parallels, not only with our case,


but with a terrifying case of someone called Mr Riases, there is


no ability for a judge to take a reasoned look at all the


circumstances and say, hang on a minute, depifrpb all the


circumstances of the case, this is -- differences of all the


circumstances of the case, this ought more properly to be heard


here. In terms of conditions, and we have heard Barbar Ahmad, the


whole the point of going to the European Court of Human Rights,


means the inhumane conditions would mean he wouldn't have his human


rights, you were not in a super-max prison? I think the mere fact that


the European Court of Human Rights has taken so long to look at these,


suggests a real issue. There is no doubt, it is not a secret, in


supermax in Colorado are in solitary confinement for up to 20


years, they never see another human being. Some say the system works


perfectly well, David Cameron and Barack Obama talked about it, an


independent inquiry, is it worth upsetting the relationship with the


United States when the point about terrorism is one that is very well


made all over the world, and is a global issue? The extradition


arrangements for terrorist offences and serious crime are vitally


important, which is precisely why you don't want the relationship


soured by lots of these relationships becoming a thorn in


our side, because there is no fairness to us. I find Mike


O'Brien's position untenable. They brought in a lousy deal, and in


2006 they partly corrected it, by enacted in law this forum test, now


he's opposing bringing it into force. I can't understand it.


you think the Tory Government will change it? I hope so, the House of


Commons has unanimously called for the US and EU regulations for


extradition to be reformed. What would that mean, you heard the


ambassador here saying this works well, there is no need to change


it? With the greatest of respect, the principle position of the


United States Government is that they are more than happy to support


their request for extradition with evidence. They have 130 treaties


worldwide, there is only three where they don't produce evidence.


France who don't extradite to the US, Ireland who will not extradite


if the crime is deemed to be committed in Ireland, and us, that


is it. There is no issue with the US saying they won't give evidence,


they happily will. We gave it up, the Labour Government in 2003.


Dominic has misrepresented my position, my position is we need


change. There is a political crisis in relation to this legislation,


rather than a legal one. The problem is, not only that we have


Barbar Ahmad on detention, also the McKinnon case, which has raised


serious concerns, but also the Government has come in and said


this legislation is imbalanced. you agree with that? I think that


is arguable, what we have now got is Dominic Grieve, no mean lawyer,


saying it is not imbalanced any more, we listened to Scott Baker's


report and we think it is not imbalanced. I think there is a


crisis of confidence in this legislation, that must be addressed


by the Government. Whether that is by trying to renegotiate the treaty


with the US, that will be difficult, and EU partners, there is much of


the same legislation in place. That is a big problem they have got.


crisis of confidence is not enough for the legislation to be changed


in itself, surely it is about imbalance? I'm not convinced that


the argument that Grieve puts that there is an equality there is right.


I think the argument that Dominic puts is there is a big difference.


Will the treaty be be here in three times? We extradite five citizens


to one of those that comes in, we need balance and a fair system.


You idiot, you niave, irresponsible nincompoop, that is how Tony Blair


describes his own actions in bringing in the Freedom of


Information Act in 2007, which David Cameron says is furring up


the arteries of Government. It is thought to have cost the Government


almost �8 million, some say it is money well spent, others say it is


a waste of precious Government time and tax-payers' money. Newsnight


has heard there are moves afoot to reform.


Looking back at bringing in the Freedom of Information Act, Tony


Blair said it was a pretty imbecileic position. For political


leaders he said it is like saying to hitting you over -- someone


hitting you over the head with a stick to give them mallet. The


Prime Minister's text messages letters and e-mails are going in.


The rigours of the Freedom of Information Act, that called mallet,


means that politicians feel the space where they can talk openly


has been shrunk massively, the back of a London taxi may be the last


few places they can talk to each other privately. A senior official


is on the verge of putting out guidance saying no personal e-mails


can be used for Government business. They want to put ministers in the


position of being able to say all Government business is on the


record. The aim of the civil servant,


Whitehall head, is to draw a line under the issue, to protect the


primal text messages. If everyone signs up to the new regime,


personal correspondence of the past might be unknown.


In an unnoticed case, the Information Commissioner has


recently ruled that if you were once in Government, and when you


are in Government you used your personal e-mail account for


Government business, even after you have left the job, it could still


be searchable. For the people in this office, Labour headquarters,


that could be quite a lot of searches, they were in power for 13


years. But all of this is house keeping,


compared to some of the really big freedom of information requests.


Today the Government is facing new calls to release the risk register


on the health bill. You are used to seeing the front of Downing Street,


this is the back of Downing Street, the inner workings of the office,


it is freedom of information requests that allow us to get


closer in and see how they make their decisions. If you actually


work inside the building, it doesn't have quite such a benign


effect, at a recent meeting of senior civil servants, they


discussed the FOI act, and the "effects" it was having across


Government, according toe one official, it is simply paralysing.


Someone who has been in Government and managed freedom of information


requests, says it wasn't difficult. FOI requests, people could be loose


about talking about things, it didn't mean they were better at it,


FOI could make people more professional in the way they put


things, it couldn't stop people having discussions, but they had to


think about it being on the front of a newspaper. If you are positive


enough about your policy decisions, you should have no problem


defending the policy in public if it is released to. You have to look


at people's loosely-worded e-mails that are personal about people,


that is unprofessional, what is the problem. The Prime Minister has a


different view? In my two years of experience with the Freedom of


Information Act and all the rest of it. It seems to me the real freedom


of information is the money that goes in and the result that is come


out. Making Government more transparent is a positive thing. We


spend an age of dealing with FOI requests that are all about


processes. What the public, country and parliament needs to know, is


what are you spending, how much are you spending and what are the


results. The solution being discussed, no doubt on official


Government phones and computers, is to make freedom of information


applicable to more organisations in the name of transparency, but to


put down on the frifous requests, the Government is gearing up to --


friflous questions, the Government is gearing up for a change of tack.


If there is a slight tweaking of the Freedom of Information Act, to


deal with a few of the slight oddities coming out, that will be


fine. If there is any sense of what we are seeing is a reduction in the


access of information about what is going on in Government, I and the


Liberal Democrats would be concerned about that and do our


best to stop it. This will be a fight to define


transparency s the Government believe it is about a barrage of


data relosed from these departments, others believe it is about the


public's right -- released from these departments, other believe it


is the public's right to see what is going on The journalist Heather


Brooke is a freedom of information specialist, and Steve Bomford of


the first division association, -- and the first division association


head. David Cameron said at first it was a disinfectant, what changed


his mind? He will have to explain his change of mind. It is about the


change of balance, there has to be a degree of transparency, we are in


a an age where a great deal of information is available. Ministers


have encouraged that. But there has to be a private space in which


ministers and civil servants can discuss key policy issues. There no


benefit to the public, indeed it will lead to worse quality


Government f you try to make too much of that public as debate and


dialogue takes place. Heather Brooke, you do agree, surely, that


civil servants and ministers should be able to have private


conversation about blue sky thinking, about some extraordinary


things, that you don't need to know everything do you? Let's go back to


why he has changed his mind, that is because he has been in power


nearly two years. What always happens with transparency laws is


politicians like them when they are in opposition, as soon as they are


in power. That is true isn't it. They suddenly lose all appetite for


them. That is true isn't it? There is truth, that is because Tony


Blair and David Cameron had not held office before, once you hold


office you realise how complex the issue is. You then realise what a


pain it is to have the public asking you questions. I think


that's what is lost is this idea that the citizen has a right to ask,


and why should they have to justify being able to access information


which was actually collected in their name by public servants, such


as yourself, who are paid for by the public. The public, by and


large, are smart enough to realise that there must be a conversation


between civil servants and ministers, that might not lead


anywhere, that might be misconstrued, and is aren't in some


way sinister? I understand that, people have a real misunderstanding


if they think it is a simple process to get information under


the Freedom of Information Act. In my case I thought I was looking for


basic information, how MPs spend money in the course of their public


duties, that took five years and a trip to the High Court. That is not


acceptable. You are by nature secretive? I think Heather ran an


excellent campaign with MPs, and did the country a great service in


bringing issues like that into the public domain, it has improved the


quality, I think, of politics. We are seeing that in the Civil


Service, a lot more information available, including about salaries


for people at senior levels, which people have signed up to. I am


concerned around the issue of policy determination. I do take the


Prime Minister's point in that clip you ran, that a lot of the requests


are trivial and about process. That doesn't add anything. I think it is


this question of getting a balance. I think what's happening at the


moment is the Government is sitting back and reflecting on what will


allow considerable transparency and a lot more data that people can use


as they wish, but still protecting the quality of debate within


Government. We will end up with a technocratic Government, rather


than a Government that makes radical policy? We are in danger of


not reading the law. The law has an exemption for policy making.


Ministers do have a veto over this sex section of the -- section of


the Freedom of Information Act. They are protected in that sphere.


It is a straw man argument to say we need to reduce our access.


do you feel about, this is going to be a kind of minefield in itself,


that there will be possible charging for different kinds of


FOIs? I want to go back, when the act was first in place, in 2005,


charl low Faulkner, if you remember, was the minutes -- Charley Faulkner,


if you remember was the minister of justice, this is like history


repeating, we had exactly the same conversation. The same arguments


were put forward about frifl rouse requests. There are a lot? I made a


freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice, I want to


know how many of those requests are frivilrous, there were two. Civil


Service resources are very stretched and every part of


Government will have to be scrutinised in terms of value for


money. It is for the Government to make the case about a particular


fee structure, what I am concerned about, and we saw that today for


example with the arguments about the NHS risk register, which I know


we haven't touched on and which is technical and complicated. What


that decision has done is threaten the quality of advice that comes in


future. There is not only the danger of moving towards


technocratic Government, because Governments are there to make


ideolgical decisions and other decisions, that is appropriate, but


about civil servants becoming politic sized, if they believe too


much of what they say flows into the public domain.


In America candidates for President regularly publish their tax returns


and other financial statements. Will that soon become normal here.


Last night on our debate for London mayor, all four candidates in the


studio made a pledge to publish their tax returns.


I'm just wondering why we don't end this by everybody just publishing


what they earn, and what they have paid in tax, why not bring it out


into the open. Then there is no more arguments, we can talk about


some of the issues we all have in our manifestos. You will all do


that? I will publish my accounts for the last four years and let the


public see who is paying tax and who is not. I will put out my


accounts, and I would love to see the former mayor's. You will


publish your's? I will publish details of everything I have


concerned in the last four years. Are you going to do the same?


course I will. Allegra Stratton has been casting


her eye over what happened the morning after the night before.


What went on? This morning Boris has published what he earns, which


is over �400,000, which is a lot of money. He has also published what


he pays in tax, which is over �200,000, which is also a huge


amount of money. He did campaign to reduce the 50p tax rate? We now


know fully why. Brian Paddick has published his salary, and what we


have learned from that is a large part of it is a generous police


pension. What then happened was Ken Livingstone was also forth coming


with some details. What he did was more technical, he published the


dividends he gets from a company, his own company, what he didn't


fully make clear is exactly what else is in that company. The man


who campaigned on absolute clarity about tax issues will be dogged by


more questions in the next few weeks. Here to work out the


difficulty maths our tax experts. What do you make of this? I think


two things, one that people like Ken Livingstone, who at their peak,


were very astute politicians, should not have let this single


story run for weeks and weeks, and add fuel to it himself at times,


like in your debate last night. How brilliant to remember all those


figures, but the issues should be, the tax thing is relevant, but it


shouldn't be quite so central one you are discussing things. He was


selected in September 2010 by Labour, you would think they would


have got their ducks in a row in the last two years? The trouble for


Ken Livingstone is he's guilty of such hypocrisy, having made such an


issue of it, having said all this stuff that he thought nobody should


be allowed to vote if they are evading tax, he made it an issue,


having done so, just as in many ways in the 1980s he has changed


British politics again. This will now become part and parcel of


British politics. People will have to and be forced to reveal issues


like this, we will see more and more mud thrown. I completely agree


with Ian, it is a central issue and deeply damaging one for Ken


Livingstone. Whether, as a result, we should be determining the


outcome of elections on what people earn, it will get ridiculous.


at Boris Johnson, we know now he earns a huge amount of money, on


which he pays tax, that might play a different way for him? It might


be one more reason we have a chasam in the vast sums some people are


earning. We live in a transparent age and we need to get used to it.


There is nothing wrong with him earning vastly different sums of


money with people in London, and there is nothing wrong with Ken


Livingstone having a company through which he pays himself?


has to explain why he does that. And he has done many times, perhaps


not convincingly. People lol know Boris Johnson earns this money as a


columnist, I note it with jealousy, as others note it. It is not the


decisive issue. There is an interesting issue about transport


and fares, and how the heck repay to renovate what is a rundown


transport system. For selfish reasons, surely, we should make a


judgment on who can deliver all of that, it is a tough call this time


round. Isn't that, in the end, more important, that -- than what they


earn. After the budget, George Osborne was asked what his taxman


will be, it comes along with your CV as a candidate for community


council, local elections, parliamentary elections, Europe,


that will be one of the bottom lines? Steve is doing a noble job


pretending this is an election where policy matters, the reality


is it is about personality. Boris and Ken are cartoon characters and


character is a big part of the question people are voting on. The


reality is this is an important part, if people make an issue of


tax, it is inevitable it becomes part of the test of character.


Presumably true in times of austerity, these things have


greater significance than in the boom years? Tax evasion and high


earning and tax has become big issues. They are big issues today,


and that is why we have seen other people caught recently. It would


have been the same fascination bust or boom, they are fascinated by


what people earn. In a political contest it becomes more highly


charged. I'm not as ernest about people, I'm fascinated by what


people earn. Interestingly if this debate had happened the first time


round, we wouldn't have got the Congestion Charge, which has


changed all our lives, those in London and outside. What in the end


what decides elections is not the money. Do we ask Ed Milliband and


David Cameron. If we move to a situation like the


American presidential candidates, who have to be transparent about


what they earn and what assets they have as well. Maybe we should go to


the Norwegian system, whereby every single person has to put their tax


returns in public, maybe we will end up there. We are going to a


situation whereby politicians are, like it or not, rightly or wrong


low, there will be questions asked on these sorts of issues. Likely


there will be more mud thrown and putting a lot more people off


plilgts. If in the end people make a decision on what people earn, and


the individual flaws of candidates, rather than the policies that


affect their lives, they will be the ones that suffer. You can't


appreciate a great artist because he was a Nazi, you can still


appreciate the art. We are not accusing any candidates of being


Nazis, or great artists, if only they were. In the end you have to


look at the art in this case, which is the policies here.


He was the man behind the ants who were in turn behind the greatest


names in rock. Born in Southall in London, and called the father of


loud, Jim marshall died today at the age of 88. We will leave you


with ringing in your years curtesy of Jimi Hendrix and Mr Marshall.


Hello there, we have a frost tonight across the southern half of


the UK, it could be down to minus four in some rural areas. The frost


lifting in the morning. Cloud continuing to stream down from the


north. A scattering of showers for England and Wales, but patchy rain


for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Not much rain through the Midlands,


not much sunshine either, or the cloud through the afternoon. As you


move into southern counties of England, so we see more sunshine.


Less windy than it was today. Temperatures higher, 12, 13, a big


improvement on today. It should feel a little bit warmer as well.


As you move further north back into Wales, we move into more cloud


again, some brighter skies across the south of the country, more


likely to catch showery bursts of rain in the north of Wales. For


Northern Ireland not much sunshine here. Clouds getting into double


figures, a little bit of light rain or drizzle. Most of the rain in


Scotland will be across the northern half of the mainland, cold


in the Northern Isles, double figures through the central


lowlands. As you look through Saturday, there is cloudy skies in


most areas, not a great deal of rain. Similar story across the


south, always brighter on Friday across southern parts of England


and Wales, again cloudy skies, generally dry on Saturday. It


An exclusive interview with Babar Ahmad, the British terrorism suspect held without trial for a record seven years. And political editor Allegra Stratton has seen Cabinet Office proposals which could limit Freedom of Information enquiries.

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