Ministers trying to ‘avoid scrutiny’ with recess document dump, says Labour

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The Government has been accused by Labour of being “desperate to avoid scrutiny”, after departments published a significant number of transparency documents just as Easter recess began for MPs.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has written to Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden over the matter, accusing ministers of dodging scrutiny.

The party tallied 150 “transparency disclosures” published by government departments and agencies on March 30 and 31.

“It means more such disclosures were made in the last 48 hours than in the previous 44 days and beats the previous record for the release of data at the start of a Parliamentary recess, set a year ago, when 120 disclosures were made in the 48 hours starting Thursday 31st March,” Ms Rayner wrote in the letter, first reported by The Guardian.

Ms Rayner said that this could not simply be due to Easter recess coinciding with the end of the financial year.

“In 2020 and 2021, when recess also began in the last week of March, there were – again, according to your own website – a total of just 92 ‘transparency’ releases over the two full weeks combined.”

She told the Cabinet minister: “If this flood of disclosures is in fact a function of anything, it is of a Government so desperate to avoid scrutiny of its record, its performance, and its spending, that it somehow believes all that can be avoided by deluging the email inboxes of Westminster with all of this data at once.

“But I can assure you that those of us responsible for that scrutiny are not so easily deterred. We have already seen many of the facts which the Government tried to bury in the last 48 hours exposed, from the vast sums of public money that continue to go up in smoke thanks to the incineration of unusable PPE, to the collapse in planning applications for urgently-needed new housing across England.

“And there will doubtless be more to come over the days ahead.”

Ms Rayner accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who came to office last year promising to deliver “integrity”, of being “too weak” to deliver on that promise.

“Otherwise he would not be instructing his ministers to rush out the evidence of their multiple failures and colossal waste at the start of the Easter break in the hope that no-one will notice,” she said.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “This Government is absolutely committed to transparency, which is why we routinely disclose information beyond what is legally required, so that journalists and members of the public can scrutinise our work.

“In line with the approach of successive governments, information is made publicly available on GOV.UK.

“The end of the financial year often means that a large number of annual publications, on top of regular monthly documents, need to be published.”

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