I recently asked the Government Legal Service (GLS) – under the Freedom of Information Act – to disclose how many civil servants employed at the GLS at director level or above have classified themselves as other than white.
The GLS’s initial response was a point-blank refusal to disclose the information on the grounds that it was prohibited under the Data Protection Act. I received the same reaction from the BBC to a similar question regarding the ethnicity of its senior management.
Only after I pointed out to the GLS that the Data Protection Act did not in fact prohibit them from disclosing this information, and invited them to review the matter before an appeal to the commissioner, did they reply that ‘of the 25 people at that level, 20 have made a self-declaration on ethnicity and of them one person has declared themselves as non-white’.
The fact that the government’s internal lawyers should obfuscate in replying to awkward questions they are required to reply to under the Freedom of Information Act is as worrying as the indication that the GLS senior management seem – at least prima facie – to be maintaining a glass ceiling, contrary to the government’s policy.
Ashok Ghosh, Excello Law, London WC2