Minister for Open Government busted in another secret meeting

Clare Curran has been busted in another secret meeting, this time with a lobbyist for Google at a swanky Wellington club: Quote:

At least two Cabinet ministers attended a dinner at an exclusive club hosted by Google’s top lawyer under secretive “Chatham House” rules, but made no notes of what was discussed.

National open government spokesman Nick Smith blasted their attendance, accusing Labour of hypocrisy.?

Google’s chief counsel, Kent Walker, hosted the dinner at the capital’s swanky Wellington Club for invited guests who included Justice Minister Andrew Little, Open Government Minister Clare Curran and top public servants and lawyers.

[…]? ?
Walker’s visit came at a time when the world’s fifth largest company faces the possibility of additional regulation in the areas of tax, privacy and competition policy.

Little said in a letter sent in response to an Official Information Act request that he didn’t generate any notes or memos from the event. A spokeswoman for Curran said she hadn’t either. End quote.

They’ve been asked about information, not what they wrote down.

No Right Turn blogger Malcolm Harbrow points out that what they have done is breaking the law… again: Quote:

?The Ministers attended in an official capacity, so any information that resulted is official information. And that includes information in Ministers’ heads. Their failure or refusal to take notes does not protect them from requests, only from poorly-worded ones (though arguably, that would violate the?duty of assistance). As for the “Chatham House rule”, the government can not contract out of the OIA. It may be able to withhold information?provided?to them under such an express obligation of confidence, if the interest in receiving such information in future is not outweighed by the public interest. But they cannot withhold information they provided to others simply by declaring it “confidential”. The problem is that refusal to record gives deniability, so even if Smith successfully appeals this atrocity to the Ombudsman, Curran will be able to smile and say she remembers nothing – while providing Google with whatever secret backhanders it wants.

And that’s why refusal to keep records is bad: because it enables the government to lie to us, and it enables them to behave corruptly. Ministers who deliberately do so (and Curran is a serial offender) need to be held to account. End quote.

He’s right, and it is bizarre that the minister responsible for open government seems to have an uncanny knack of attending secret meetings.

Clare Curran is doing her best to make Nick Smith look good. Having made Melissa Lee look good she is now moving on to tougher targets.