The FOI Act is at risk!
Briefing, 2 pm Monday 18 February 2013
The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA (map)
The government is planning to amend the Freedom of Information Act to make it easier for authorities to refuse requests on cost grounds. The changes could have serious implications for requesters.
At the moment, authorities can refuse requests if they estimate that the cost of finding and extracting the information exceeds certain limits, currently £600 for government departments or £450 for other authorities. The government wants to allow them to also include the cost of considering the request and deleting exempt information. New or complex issues, which are always likely to require significant consideration time, may be refused on cost grounds in the future, without the substantive issue ever being addressed.
The government is also proposing to allow unrelated requests from one person
or group of people to the same authority to be refused if their number is overly
burdensome. This may involve resuscitating the Blair government's proposal
to allow unrelated requests to be refused if their combined cost exceeded the
limit for a single request. Local newspapers, which cover a range of different
issues involving the same authority, could be among the first casualties of
this proposal. The government is also considering reducing the cost limit itself.
Ministers are also considering introducing charges for appealing to the Information Rights Tribunal - a measure likely to discourage many appeals from being made.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information is holding a briefing meeting on Monday 18 February 2013 to discuss the proposals and what can be done about them.
If you would like to attend please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org or @CampaignFOI on Twitter. Please circulate details of the meeting to any friends or colleagues you think would be interested.