IT was the Financial Times, not the Labour Party, which requested sight of the Treasury's Black Wednesday documents under the new Freedom of Information Act. Yet it is the Labour Party and the Labour government who are being accused of dirty tricks in the way they are trying to use the information for political advantage. It is inevitable in the early days of the new Act's existence that there will be disputes about the appropriateness of requests made for hitherto secret documents and about the use made of them if they are released. It is asking too much of any political party to refrain from commenting on evidence of a previous government's serious mistakes when it becomes available, especially, as in this case, when the issue is what exactly happened on the worst day in the eighteen years of Conservative rule in the 1980s and 90s. In an interview of BBC radio's Today programme yesterday morning, John Major made no complaint about the release of the Black Wednesday papers but said that he thought the Freedom of Information Act was not working as intended since documents from past governments were being released but not those from the present government.
He has a point since, for instance, Downing Street has refused to respond to a request for the Attorney- General's full advice to the Cabinet on the legality of the Iraq war.
No doubt these early difficulties and inconsistencies in the operation of the Act will come out in the wash.
In the meantime we are left to wonder at the economic incompetence of a Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer who managed to lose the country 3.3 billion pounds in a single day on September 16 1992.
No wonder Gordon Brown has seemed prudent in comparison.