Knowledge is power

<strong>Your Right to Know</strong>

Heather Brooke <em>Pluto Press, 304pp, £13.99</em>


Since the Freedom of Information Act came into effect in 2005, many important facts have been uncovered. Black Wednesday cost taxpayers billions, according to Treasury documents. Thousands more UK soldiers were injured in Iraq than the government estimated. And Hampshire's constabulary has 266 single men between 35 and 49, 201 of whom wear uniform.

Whatever your question – hopefully one that doesn't waste government time and taxpayers' money – Heather Brooke tells you how to get an answer. The initial chapters detail the legal provisions governing access to information and how they work in practice. She dedicates subsequent sections to specific areas, such as the environment, defence and local government, accompanied by a handy list of contacts and template for letters.

Brooke contends that, far from being meddling busybodies, as taxpayers we have a right to know the ins and outs of government operations. In the wake of a bill pushed through the Commons a fortnight ago, exempting parliament from the Freedom of Information Act’s provisions, this book is a timely and accessible guide to how citizens can begin to challenge the political establishment.

This article first appeared in the 12 February 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni v Shia