London Mayor Ken Livingstone had admitted to a "shredding week" of sensitive documents prior to the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act at the beginning of this year. Or more properly, if our reading of the Sunday Times report is correct, he's been boasting about it. During his term of office Livingstone hasn't exactly co-operated with attempts by the London Assembly to extract information from him (notably over Capita's contract to run the Congestion Charge), but his claim that nothing interesting is supposed to be minuted, and if it was he's destroyed it, is something of a record.
Responding to questions from LibDem member Sally Hamwee, Livingstone said that FOIA requests would have to be more precise if there is "anything particularly juicy you want to get your hands on", adding that "we never minute anything interesting. If there was, it was lost during shredding week just before January 1, 2005."
Regular readers may recall Livingstone happily boasting of sharing Congestion Charge data with police, apparently oblivious to the Transport for London not being covered for this in its Data Protection Act registration. Transport for London is currently looking for private sector partners in order to turn its Oyster Card ticketing system into a form of electronic cash, but it is surely advisable that prospective partners take Livingstone's weirdly casual attitudes to data, disclosure and freedom of information on board before they jump. With leadership like this, they could face a disaster of Olympic proportions.
Sally Hamwee has made something of a specialisation of FOIA-related questions to Livingstone. His response to the latest has prompted a complaint to Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, who is looking into it. ®