Sunday, August 24, 2008


Many years ago when I was called upon to perform some trivial service for Her Majesty’s government, I was made to sign a register, much as was Gary Glitter. In my case, it was the Official Secrets Act, a document that Eliza Doolittle might well have described as ‘words, words, words’ and which certainly did nothing to inhibit Kim Philby and a few others from spilling the beans.
In my case, as a confirmed coward, it had the salutary effect of sealing my lips on reading that the penalty for breaching the confidentiality would ensure that I was shot at dawn for three mornings running.
Even now, when some fumbling judge would undoubtedly reduce the penalty to an ASBO, the government can rest assured that their secrets are safe with me. Doubly so, since I can no longer remember what the secrets were.
It seems to me that the difference between spilling the beans and losing them is one of semantics, as is the difference between official secrets and personal data vouchsafed to a government.
As I am certain that ministers are signatories to the Official Secrets Act, surely it is time to invoke the act in this case, preferably with the original penalties in place.
Ministers like to refer to themselves as ‘honourable’ and so, alternatively,
could do the honourable thing and fall on their sword.
But I’m sure that they can quote a Health and Safety regulation that will deprive the British voter of even that minor pleasure.


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