Householders have been warned to ‘stay indoors and keep away from the internet’ by government experts worried about the dangers of information. Considerable amounts of information have escaped since the Freedom of Information Act came into law and much of it is potentially hazardous to the general public.
‘It isn’t always safe to let information roam free,’ said a Home Office spokesman. ‘The British people haven’t really developed much of an immune system where government information is concerned. This sort of thing may work in America, which has been governed by oiks for centuries, but the British have always shown proper deference.’
Under the Act, government departments have only 20 days to fail to answer questions from taxpayers or to ‘misunderstand’ the question and answer a different one instead. If they fail to meet the deadline they can be asked to look into their processes and – in extreme cases – apologise.
‘The first casualty of the truth is me,’ said Health Minister Jeremy Hunt. ‘Suppose I’ve opened a new hospital somewhere and on the same day my department has made a monumental balls-up of something. Which story do you think we’ll be asked about? Now factor in a requirement to tell people the truth. Ordinary people can’t handle the truth, they’d spontaneously combust. We’re talking about the audience of Strictly and X Factor, you might as well speak truth to a chimp.’
Information, Hunt added, is rather like the grey squirrel. All too many people thought they were cute until they started replacing British red squirrels by giving them a deadly virus. ‘The British way of life is a precious red squirrel, the Freedom of Information Act is a virus, or possibly a grey squirrel, and secrecy is a fence between the squirrels. We need to keep the fence intact.’
Why, Hunt asked, do government departments have mottos in Latin? ‘Because nobody speaks Latin any more. Likwise in Ancient Rome, they used Greek. The Greeks presumably used something even older and less comprehensible – Welsh, probably. Once ordinary people start questioning us about the mundane stuff it won’t be long before our extraterrestrial lizard overlords are common knowledge and then . . . oh, bugger. ’