By RAY FLEMING GORDON Brown has had a torrid two weeks and there are worrying signs that his back-up team, which worked so effectively during his time at the Treasury, is not functioning as well as it should at No 10. There have been two or three cases where Mr Brown has made statements in good faith that turned out later not to be the whole story.

However, he made a strong come-back yesterday with his important announcements on civil liberties, promising to open a “new chapter” on individual freedoms. Particularly welcome was his decision to scrap government plans to charge for information provided under the Freedom of Information Act; this was widely seen as a move to block access to sensitive information by making the cost of obtaining it prohibitive. Another step forward was the review of the 30-year rule whereby Cabinet documents are not available to the public for thirty years; the three-man team carrying out this review will include Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, an interesting inclusion of the Fourth Estate in Mr Brown's big tent.

Potentially the most radical change mentioned by the prime minister could result from the public consultation on whether certain private businesses and organisations should come within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act which currently applies only to public bodies. This would bring companies such as BAE Systems and others with big government contracts within the scope of the Act.