Leading article: Freedom of information has its limits

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The Independent Online

Ordinarily, this newspaper would oppose any attempt by the Government to keep information under wraps. And when the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, fights tooth and nail to prevent particular documents seeing the light of day, it is natural to ask what he has to hide. When you then learn that the documents contain risk-assessments positing downsides to the proposed NHS shake-up, the answer would seem to be clear.

The point is, though, that risk-registers, by their very nature, paint the bleakest picture. Publication might well seem to validate wild and unlikely eventualities. That could not only distort the debate, but – worse – discourage civil servants in future from envisaging negative scenarios or offering frank advice. The case against Mr Lansley's proposals is being well aired by professionals of all stripes. This may be one occasion when the public interest is best served by preserving confidentiality.