UK diplomats face lifetime gag

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Blogg, Oct 11, 2007.

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  1. When politicians attempt to gag valid and worthwhile comment by the most informed, (even years after the event where there is no real danger other to their own image) that becomes a slippery and very dangerous path for any society to follow.

    Now who might be considered next in line for such shabby treatment?

    UK diplomats 'face lifetime gag'
    By Hugh Miles

    The Foreign Office has been accused of trying to gag diplomats for life after regulations were issued stopping them from commenting on international issues even after retirement.

    Serving officials have always been required to seek permission before giving media interviews, writing public letters, publishing books or taking part in conferences. This restriction applies if any of these activities would "draw upon experience gained during the course of official duties".

    But a letter from the Foreign Office director of human resources, circulated to ambassadors and senior staff, effectively makes this a lifetime obligation. In a passage underlined for emphasis, the letter states that "your obligations of confidentiality continue after you have left the service".

    All serving diplomats are asked to show they agree to the requirement. They are asked to note that their "particular attention" has been drawn to the regulations covering the "use of official information or experience" in "publications, contacts with the media, lectures, speeches and conferences".

    A former ambassador said this amounted to a lifetime gag. "The Government attempt to gag diplomats is regrettable not only because it makes their assertions that they want more freedom of speech appear hypocritical, but also because it is ineffective," he said.

    "Experience shows that the courts will not support arbitrary action by government, and that juries will not convict on laws they believe to be unjust."

    Many retired diplomats have become keen bloggers on international affairs. Without Foreign Office clearance, their successors would be unable to do the same.

    Retired senior officials have repeatedly embarrassed the Government by speaking out against what they have seen as major policy failures. Three years ago, 52 former ambassadors, high commissioners and other senior figures wrote a public letter to Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, criticising his Middle East policies.

    In 2005, Sir Christopher Meyer, the former ambassador to Washington, published memoirs which were deeply critical of some ministers. Critics believe that the latest regulations are designed to stop any repeat.

    "Former ambassadors have a strong sense of loyalty to their country and a unique stock of experience and knowledge.

    It is in the national interest that they should be able to take part in the national debate on foreign policy," said the retired ambassador.

    "An individual may sometimes go too far, some of us think Christopher Meyer did, although he had Cabinet Office clearance for his book.

    But no real harm was done."

    Last year, Sir Peter Ricketts, the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, halted the tradition of ambassadors writing farewell despatches after a missive from Sir Ivor Roberts, the retiring envoy in Rome, was leaked.

    Sir Ivor, now president of Trinity College, Oxford, criticised what he saw as the Foreign Office's obsessions with management at the expense of policy advice.

    Some rules and regulations governing diplomats' conduct have legal force while others do not. Testing the latest requirements in court may show they are illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression.
  2. This shows how worried this Government is about people having freedom of speech.

    What is it that the Government have done for them to be this fearful about Diplomats being able to speak about it.
  3. ah, the state wishes to quiet those who may dissent, especially if there voice would carry weight in the public's perceptions.

    the descent into dark times continues?

  4. Surprised that certain officials are not contesting this stupid ruling - it would be disastrous for historians if such a ruling was passed.
  5. msr

    msr LE

    Welcome to the British Army, no, er wait...
  6. Le_addeur_noir

    Le_addeur_noir On ROPs

    This edict shows neu liarbore up in it's true colours,I.E obsessed with secrecy,out to supress anything and anyone at variance to government policy.

    Forget freedom of information,this government is a nasent stalinist dicatatorship.

    Within 10 years(assuming this mob are still in power),potentially people will be getting the 2 AM knock on the door,then a quick one way trip to a interogation centre and an extended stay(without trial) courtesy of HM(assuming liarbore haven't deposed the Queen by then).

    Think it can't or won't happen?,don't bet on it.

    30 years ago around two thirds of the present government were admirers of the Soviet Union,with all that entails.
  7. diplomat

    diplomat War Hero Book Reviewer

    They won't gag me!!
  8. This gag will fold at the first Court case, only a seriously incompetant crew would even think it could work.

    diplomat - open the flood gates!
  9. Does anyone think that a non-labour govt would reverse it? No, they're all cnuts with their snouts in the trough.
  10. Yawn..... you and Gordon Brown against a cruel World eh?
  11. Sadly AJ, Poison is right. I cannot recall ANY law being repealed when a party is replaced by the opposition whether it be taxation, criminal or human rights law.

    No political party has the balls to stand up in the house of commons or lords and say "We believe this law is wrong".

  12. Noooooo Nooooo Nooooo surely New Labours repeal of all of those anti Union laws composed by Eton Toffs as part of the endless war against the working class passed into law by the Arch Demon Thatcher, proves you wrong....

    oh, mmmm I see maybe he is right
  13. Diplomats facing a lifetime gag pre-supposes they have something interesting to say. I endorse the gag and would hang draw and quarter them to boot.....ner ner ner ner ner. :lol:
  14. so you never read anything about Craig Murray's experiences in Uzbekistan then? British ambassadors have a unique insight into the political circles of the countries they serve in and if they want to protest at human rights abuse they should be allowed to do so
  15. diplomat

    diplomat War Hero Book Reviewer

    That's fighting type talk. Grrrrrrr