Freedom of Information : This page has been downloaded from the Campaign for Freedom of Information "http://www.cfoi.org.uk/opengov.html"
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This page is divided into five sections:
     
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Freedom of Information
     
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Issues Papers
     
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The Open Government initiative
     
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The 1993 Right to Know Bill
     
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Other publications

 

 

Freedom of Information

 

This section contains the Campaign's publications on the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the stages which preceded it, from Tony Blair's speech to the Campaign in 1996 setting out his personal commitment to FOI, to Labour's May 1997 election commitment, the publication in December 1997 of the white paper, the draft bill issued for consultation in May 1999 and finally the bill that was introduced to Parliament in December 1999.

The Campaign has produced a version of the full text of the FOI Act that can be downloaded here as a single file in either Acrobat or Rich Text Format.

 

 
   The FOI Act
   
-> New approach to 'vexatious' request demolishes government case for FOI restrictions
  More FOI requests are likely to be refused as vexatious following official guidance issued last week. But the change removes the government's case for introducing more fundamental and damaging restrictions, says the Campaign. Added 21 May 2013
   
-> Letter to Lord McNally on the government's proposed FOI restrictions
  Letter to Justice minister Lord McNally urging the government to drop its proposals to make it easier for public authorities to refuse FOI requests on cost grounds. Added 17 May 2013.
   
-> Parliamentary motion on government's proposed FOI restrictions
  The Campaign has written to all MPs asking them to sign a Parliamentary motion calling on the government not to proceed with its proposals to make it easier for public authorities to refuse FOI requests on cost grounds. A list of MPs that have signed the motion is here. The Campaign is encouraging supporters to write to their own MPs if they have not yet signed. Added 17 May 2013.
   
-> Information Commissioner should clamp down on excessive FOI delays
  Press release calling on the Information Commissioner to clamp down on authorities which make requesters wait months before replying to their Freedom of Information requests. Added 25 April 2013.
   
-> Response to the consultation on the draft code of practice on datasets
 

The Campaign has responded to the Cabinet Office's consultation on the draft code of practice on datasets. The response highlights the inappropriate use of copyright restrictions on information disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. Updated 17 January 2013.

   
-> Government's FOI reforms would block difficult FOI requests
 

Commentary on the reforms proposed by the Government in its response to the Justice Committee's report on Post Legislative Scrutiny of the FOI Act. Updated 18 December 2012.

   
-> Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act
 

The Campaign has welcomed the Justice Committee's report on post-legislative scrutiny of the FOI Act, which rejects charging for FOI requests or new restrictions on access to policy discussions in Whitehall. The Campaign made two written submissions to the Committee and also gave oral evidence at the Committee's first hearing on 21 February 2012. You can watch a recording of the session here or read an uncorrected transcript of it here.

Our initial written submission described some areas where the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations are not working as well as they should and suggested a number of improvements such as the introduction of statutory time limits for public interest extensions and internal reviews and the lifting of some absolute exemptions. It also addressed the contracting out of public authority functions to bodies which are not subject to the Act. Recent measures to encourage this process are likely to substantially undermine the public's rights to information. Finally, it responded to suggestions that changes to the right of access may be introduced to protect cabinet papers, introduce fees for making requests or to make it easier for public authorities to refuse requests on costs grounds. The Campaign made a supplementary submission to the Committee addressing some of the points about the Act's exemption for policy advice made by Lord O'Donnell and Jack Straw in their evidence to the Committee. This supplementary submission also provided examples of excessive or wasteful spending revealed by FOI, which suggest the Act is likely to play an important role in exposing and deterring excessive spending, which is generally not taken into account when assessing the 'costs' of FOI. Updated 26 July 2012

   
-> Total disclosure has no place in good government - as the FOI Act recognises
  The Guardian has published a response by the Campaign to an attack on the Freedom of Information Act by the commentator Simon Jenkins. Added 19 July 2012
   
-> Using the FOI Act! Training for FOI requesters
  Do you want to learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act? Are you already using the Act but want to know more about how the Information Commissioner and Tribunal are interpreting its key provisions? The Campaign is running a training course for FOI requesters in London on 24th October 2012. The course is divided into two parts. The morning session provides an introduction to the legislation for those who are new to it, covering both the FOI Act and the parallel Environmental Information Regulations. The afternoon session is more advanced and examines some of the key decisions made under the two regimes and explains how they can help you obtain information. We think most people will benefit from attending the whole day, but experienced requesters may prefer to attend just the afternoon. Further information and booking form here. Added 17 July 2012
   
-> Ombudsman prohibition does not apply to other authorities
  The Tribunal has agreed with a submission from the Campaign that the Information Commissioner was wrong to find that NHS bodies are prohibited from releasing information which they have supplied to the Health Service Ombudsman. The Tribunal allowed the Campaign to take part in an appeal on this issue, despite the Information Commissioner's objections. It accepted the Campaign's arguments that a statutory bar on disclosure applied only to the Ombudsman and not to those supplying information to the Ombudsman. The Tribunal's decision is available here. Added 3 July 2012
   
-> Decision on private emails prevents "industrial scale evasion of FOI"
  Press release welcoming the Information Commissioner's decision that the FOI Act applies to emails dealing with government business sent from ministers' or officials' private email accounts. The decision followed an FOI request by the Financial Times for details of emails between the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and his special advisers dealing with departmental business sent using private email accounts. Added 2 March 2012
   
-> Freedom of Information at risk podcast
  The Campaign for Freedom of Information talks to Nicholas Jones about new threats to the FOI Act and its fear that the review of the Act by the House of Commons Justice Committee could lead to new restrictions. Added 31 January 2012
   
-> Freedom of Information and rejected honours
  Letter to The Times responding to an article by Matthew Parris in which he expressed concern about the disclosure of the names of those who had refused honours under the FOI Act. The letter was published in The Times on 31 January 2012. Added 31 January 2012
   
-> No need for more cabinet secrecy
  Letter to The Times responding to comments made by Sir Gus O'Donnell, the outgoing cabinet secretary, that the FOI Act should be amended to provide greater protection for cabinet discussions. An edited version of the letter was published in The Times on 20 December 2011. Added 20 December 2011
   
-> Guidance on private email accounts welcomed
  Press release welcoming guidance published by the Information Commissioner confirming that emails dealing with public authority business sent using officials' private email accounts are subject to the FOI Act. The guidance points out that the same is true regardless of where information dealing with official business is held. This is because if the Act applies not only to information held by a public authority but also to information held by "another person on behalf of the authority". Added 15 December 2011
   
-> Response to 'Making Open Data Real' consultation
  Response to the Cabinet Office's 'Making Open Data Real' consultation. The response emphasises the extent to which the government's vision of improvements to accountability, service quality, efficiency, choice and citizen empowerment depend on the FOI Act, since (a) although data may highlight discrepancies in performance, the broader right of access provided by the FOI Act is needed to understand what is behind them and (b) the 'right to data' proposals are being implemented for public authorities by amendments to the FOI Act iself. It also points out that both the FOI Act and open data proposals will be undermined by the contracting out provisions of the Health and Social Care Bill and the Localism Bill. Finally, it argues that the abuse of copyright restrictions, which the government's amendments address, is not restricted to datasets but applies to ordinary disclosures under the FOI Act. Added 2 December 2011
   
-> Letter to Andrew Lansley about the effect of the NHS reforms on the public's FOI rights
  Letter to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, expressing concern that the public's FOI are likely to be "significantly curtailed" by the NHS reforms. The Health Minister, Lord Howe, replied to the letter. Added 4 October 2011
   
-> Powers to deal with email shredding should be strengthened
  Press release calling for the Information Commissioner's powers to prosecute authorities or officials who destroy information to prevent its release under the FOI Act to be strengthened. Added 15 December 2011
   
-> Welcome for greater online disclosure - but concern that contracting out will encourage secrecy
  Press release welcoming government plans to publish more information online about the quality of public services, but expressing concern that some government policies risked undermining openness. Added 4 August 2011
   
-> Evidence to the Protection of Freedoms Bill Committee
  The Campaign made two written submissions to the Protection of Freedoms Bill Committee. The first was a brief note setting out the Campaign's views on the Bill. The second was a more detailed submission on the Bill's provisions on "datasets". This expressed concern that the measures to remove copyright restrictions on datasets could be easily circumvented and called for copyright to be removed from all information released under the FOI Act, not just datasets, where the public authority is the copyright holder and the information is not being commercially exploited by the authority. The Campaign also gave oral evidence to the Committee on 24 March 2011. You can watch a recording of the session here (starts at 10.05:20 am) or read a transcript of it here. Added 24 March 2011
   
-> Does the public interest test include the benefit to the public overseas?
  A short submission to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) on an aspect of the FOI Act's public interest test. The submission argues that the public interest test can include the potential benefit from disclosure to the public in countries other than the UK and is not limited to the benefits to the UK public only, as the Information Commissioner has argued. Added 14 February 2011
   
-> Welcome for Freedom Bill's FOI changes
  Press release welcoming the FOI changes in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, but calling for them to be extended. Added 11 February 2011
   
-> Response to the Ministry of Justice's Call for Evidence on the Current Data Protection Legislative Framework
  This response comments on the Ministry of Justice's Call for Evidence on the Current Data Protection Legislative Framework. It highlights the substantial discrepancies between the rights of individuals to see their own personal data under the Data Protection Act and the rights of any member of the public to obtain official information under the Freedom of Information Act. It also deals with an apparent obstacle to the release under the FOI Act of anonymised statistics derived from personal data. Added December 2010
   
-> FOI discussed at Lib Dem fringe meeting
  The Campaign held a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool on 18 September 2010. The meeting was addressed by Lord McNally, the Ministry of Justice minister responsible for freedom of information and data protection, and Sir Alan Beith, the chair of the House of Commons Justice Committee. This report is a brief summary of what they said. Added 6 October 2010
   
-> The Blair Memoirs and FOI
  This article discusses Tony Blair's criticism of freedom of information in his memoirs. Although Mr Blair says his views are based on experience of FOI in practice, the Campaign says it is clear that his hostility began well before the legislation was passed. It points out that Mr Blair himself links his criticism of FOI to his realisation that it could help expose Labour's own "scandals". Added 6 September 2010
   
-> Welcome for decision to drop proposed cabinet papers exemption
  Press release welcoming the government's announcement that it has dropped its proposal to exempt cabinet papers from the Freedom of Information Act, and that it will reduce the 30 year rule to 20 years. Added 25 February 2010
   
-> Ministry of Justice's freedom of information statistics
  The Campaign has responded to a request from the UK Statistics Authority for its views on the adequacy of the Ministry of Justice's freedom of information statistics. Added 5 February 2010.
   
-> Time limit for prosecution of offences under section 77 of the FOI Act
  The Information Commissioner's Office has commented on the University of East Anglia's handling of FOI requests for climate data, pointing out that, although the deliberate destruction of requested records is an offence, no prosecution could be considered as there is a 6 month limit for doing so. In July 2009, the Campaign promoted an amendment to the FOI Act to extend this 6 month limit, but the government rejected it. This note explains the background. Added 29 January 2010.
   
-> Chapter on the passage of the FOI Act
  This chapter by Katherine Gundersen describes the passage of the FOI Act and early experience of its operation. It first appeared as part of as part of Unlocking Democracy: 20 years of Charter 88, published by Politico's in December 2008. Added 17 December 2009
   
-> Back issues of Secrets newspaper
  To mark the 25th anniversary of the Campaign (it was launched in January 1984), the Campaign has published back issues of its Secrets newspaper which appeared between 1984 and 1993. The newspapers, which may be of interest to people studying the history of freedom of information in the UK, start by describing the position of the party leaders at the time - Neil Kinnock, David Steel, David Owen and the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. They document the secrecy problems that prompted demands for a FOI Act, the progress of various private members bills promoted by the Campaign, the causes celebre of the time including the Pointing and Tisdall official secrets prosecutions and the Freedom of Information Awards given to public authorities which voluntarily opened their files to the public without being forced to do so. Added 17 December 2009
   
-> Government uses FOI veto again
  The government has used its veto to block disclosure for the second time. The case involves a request for 1997 minutes of the cabinet committee dealing with devolution. Remarkably the government was in the process of appealing to the Information Tribunal against the Commissioner's decision, but has dropped the appeal and vetoed the decision instead. Added 11 December 2009
   
-> Government plans to extend FOI Act "disappointingly modest"
  Press release saying the government's plans to extend the Freedom of Information Act to just 4 bodies or classes of organisation is "a useful but disappointingly modest result". Added 16 July 2009
   
-> "Severe delays" in investigating freedom of information complaints "undermining" FOI Act
  Long delays by the Information Commissioner's Office in investigating freedom of information complaints are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act, according to a report by the Campaign. The report analyses nearly 500 formal decision notices issued by the ICO in the 18 months to 31 March 2009. It finds that on average it took 19.7 months from the date of a complaint to the ICO to the date on which the ICO's decision was issued. It also shows that 46% of cases took between 1 and 2 years from complaint to decision notice and 30% took more than 2 years to a decision. The report also found that on average the ICO's investigation into a complaint did not begin until 8 months after the complaint had been received. In 28% of cases, there was a delay of more than a year before the investigation began. The report is published in two parts: a report, plus a table providing data on all 493 decision notices considered in the study. An accompanying press release is here. Added 3 July 2009
   
-> Commons' publication conceals abuses
  Press release saying the information on MPs' allowances published by the House of Commons would have made it impossible to detect the most serious abuses revealed by the Daily Telegraph over recent weeks. Added 18 June 2009
   
-> Concern over new freedom of information exemptions
  Press release welcoming the Prime Minister's announcement that the Freedom of Information Act would be extended to additional bodies and that the 30 year period before old official papers are made public would be reduced to 20 years. However, it expressed serious concern at Mr Brown's announcement that new exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act would be introduced for Cabinet Papers and for information relating to the Royal Family. Added 10 June 2009
   
-> Iraq veto decision "extremely retrograde"
  Press release saying the government's decision to veto the release of the Iraq cabinet minutes is "an extremely retrograde step". The Campaign said the government should have abided by the Information Tribunal's decision on the release of the cabinet minutes - or appealed against it, but not overruled it. The Campaign also expressed serious concern at the statement of Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, that the government was actively considering widening some of the Freedom of Information Act's exemptions, to make it easier to withhold official information. Added 24 February 2009
   
-> Government should 'live with' Tribunal's decision on disclosure of Iraq cabinet minutes Added 27 January 2009
  Press release stating that the government should accept the Information Tribunal's decision, published on 27 January 2009, and release the two sets of cabinet minutes from 2003 discussing the decision to go to war in Iraq. The Tribunal's decision, made under the Freedom of Information Act, found that the balance of public interest favoured releasing the minutes.
   
-> New bid to exempt MPs' expenses from the FoI Act! Updated 23 January 2009
  The government had been proposing to rush through an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act to exclude information about MPs' and Peers' expenses from the Act's scope. However, it has been forced to withdraw the proposal - at least for now. This page contains background information about the proposal and what's been said about it by the Campaign and others.
   
-> Access to MPs' expenses move criticised Added 15 January 2009
  Press release criticising the Government's proposals, announced on 15 January 2009, to prevent FOI requests being made for MPs' individual expenses. Instead of allowing requests for spending on individual items, the government is proposing that annual totals should continue to be published, though broken down into more categories than in the past.  
   
-> Delays in investigating FOI complaints Added 1 December 2008
  This short briefing on delays in investigating FOI complaints by the Information Commissioner's Office was circulated to MPs in advance of a debate in the House of Commons on 24 November 2008.
   
-> 1,000 FOI Stories from 2006 and 2007
  A new report by the Campaign summarises more than 1,000 press stories based on disclosures under the UK and Scottish FOI acts in 2006 and 2007. The stories demonstrate the enormous range of information being released under FOI and reveal the substantial contribution to accountability made by the acts. In 2006, the government proposed to restrict the UK FOI Act, partly because of what it said was excessive use of the Act being made by journalists. The report shows how valuable the press's use FOI has been. The proposals were dropped by Gordon Brown after he became prime minister in 2007. (Note: the report is 250 pages and may take a little while to download). Read the press release that accompanied publication of the report. Added 30 September 2008
   
-> Policy advice released after months not decades
  This article, published in Press Gazette on 2 May 2008, reviews the Information Tribunal's recent decisions on access to policy advice showing that it has required disclosure only a short time after the relevant government decision has been taken. Despite two High Court challenges, the government has failed to overturn the Tribunal's approach. Added 2 May 2008
   
-> Submission to the 30 year rule review
  Response to the review of the 30 year rule that was set up by the Prime Minister. The response summarises the 7 Information Tribunal decisions to date dealing with advice or internal discussion and points out that in almost every case the Tribunal has held that disclosure should have taken place at the time of the request, a few years or months after the decision. It says that this material should now be proactively released after 15 years, though if necessary, the reduction could be brought in in two stages, starting with 20 years initially. This change would also mean that these exemptions could no longer be used to withhold information under the FOI Act once it was 15 (or 20) years old. Added 25 April 2008
   
-> Should policy advice be kept under wraps?
  This article by Maurice Frankel about two recent High Court cases on access to policy advice under the FOI Act, appeared in The Independent on 28 March 2008.
   
-> High Court upholds Information Tribunal EIR decision
  The High Court has dismissed the government's appeal against the Information Tribunal in the first case of its kind under the Environmental Information Regulations. Added 17 March 2008
   
-> Press release 14 March 2008
  Contractors "should be subject to Information Act"
   
-> Response to the consultation on extending the FOI Act
  Response to the Ministry of Justice 'Freedom of Information Act 2000: Designation of additional public authorities' consultation paper. Added 14 March 2008
   
-> Press release 26 February 2008
  Welcome for Iraq cabinet minutes decision
   
-> Press release 21 February 2008
  Welcome for Northern Rock freedom of information vote
   
-> Press release 25 October 2007
  Welcome for positive moves on FOI
   
-> Press release 10 May 2007
  Straw criticised for "totally unjustified attack" on Information Commissioner
   
-> Freedom of Information (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill
  Lib Dem MP Tom Brake has introduced a Private Members' Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act to remove the provisions permitting ministers to veto decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal; to limit the time allowed for public authorities to respond to requests involving consideration of the public interest test and to amend the definition of public authorities. A copy of the Bill, which the Campaign helped draft, is available here and a note explaining the Bill can be downloaded here.
   
-> Parliament should not exempt itself from the FOI Act!
  A new section of this website covers the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill introduced by David Maclean MP. Read what the Campaign, the media and others have had to say about the bill.
   
-> Proposed restrictions to the FOI Act
  A new section of this website covers the government's proposals to restrict the Freedom of Information Act. Read what the Campaign, the media and others have had to say about the proposals.
   
-> Response to the government's proposals to restrict the FOI Act
  The Campaign has submitted a formal response to the Department for Constitutional Affairs about the proposed changes to the FOI Act. This highlights its serious concerns about the damaging effects of the proposals and calls on the government to honour a ministerial commitment to carry out a proper public consultation before changing the FOI rules. 27 November 2006
   
-> Challenge to secrecy over FOI costs survey
  The Campaign has challenged the Department for Constitutional Affairs' refusal to disclose the results of a survey to monitor the costs of responding to FOI requests. The survey underpins the Government's recently announced decision to introduce new restrictions on FOI requests. 27 October 2006
   
-> Freedom of Information laws are under attack
 

In this article published by the Daily Telegraph online, Maurice Frankel argues that use of the Freedom of Information Act could be drastically reduced as a result of sweeping restrictions proposed by ministers. 24 October 2006

   
-> Press release 16 October 2006
  The Campaign has responded to the Government's announcement that it is minded to allow (a) the time spent considering FOI requests to count towards calculating the cost limit and (b) authorities to aggregate FOI requests from the same person or organisation and refuse them all if the total exceeds the cost limit.
   
-> Fees for FOI requests
  The Campaign has written to all MPs asking them to sign a Parliamentary motion expressing concern that the Government is considering changes to the charging arrangements under the Freedom of Information Act. You can read the Campaign's briefing to MPs and the list of MPs that have signed the motion here. The Campaign is encouraging supporters to write to their own MPs if they have not yet signed. 10 October 2006
   
-> Press release 31 July 2006
  New information charging rules would "reverse openness trend".
   
-> 500 Stories from the FOI Act's First Year 1.9Mb
  The Campaign has published summaries of 500 press stories based on disclosures during the first year of the Freedom of Information Act. They include disclosures under the UK and Scottish FOI laws, both of which came fully into force on 1 January 2005. The stories have been categorised by subject, newspaper and public authority and illustrate the wide range of information which has been released. 21 July 2006
   
-> Constitutional Affairs Select Committee evidence 872 kb
  The Campaign submitted written evidence to inquiry into the FOI Act by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee. A transcript of the Campaign's oral evidence on 28 March 2006 is available here.
   
-> FOI - the first year
  "During more than 20 years of campaigning for a freedom of information act, two questions repeatedly nagged me. The obvious one: would Britain ever get an FOI Act? And the more troubling one: if we did, would it be worth having? " This article by Maurice Frankel appeared in Press Gazette on 13 January 2006.
   
-> Its Britain, some doors are locked
  "The Freedom of Information Act has begun to open doors – but is yet to be fully tested against those the government is determined to keep locked." A version of this article by Maurice Frankel appeared in The Independent on 31 December 2005.
   
-> Information Tribunal's early decisions lead to greater openness 932 kb
  The Campaign has published an article highlighting the significance of the Information Tribunal's first three decisions under the UK Freedom of Information Act. 20 December 2005
   
-> Government statistics highlight "unacceptable" FOI delays
  Press release commenting on the first official FOI statistics which highlight unacceptable delays in responding to requests by some government departments. 23 June 2005
   
-> Short guide to the FOI Act and other access rights 504 kb
  The Campaign has produced a users' guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Environmental Information Regulations and new rights to see personal information about you held by public authorities. The guide covers both the UK and Scottish legislation. 28 January 2005
   
-> Press release 31 December 2004
  'The Right to Know: five new rights come into force'.
   
-> Articles on the new rights to information from 1 January 2005
  Three articles by Maurice Frankel were published in December. 'Your new rights to information' appeared in The Guardian, 'FOI for journalists' appeared in Press Gazette and 'Don't be afraid: open the files' appeared in The Times.
   
-> Letter to Lord Falconer on the new edition of the FOI code of practice 324 kb
  The Campaign has expressed concern at a new edition of the code of practice issued by the government under section 45 of the FOI Act, which it says contravenes two ministerial commitments to Parliament. These deal with  the time limits for responding to requests and the circumstances in which authorities should accept information in confidence. The Campaign has written to Lord Falconer, the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, asking him to amend the code so that it complies with these commitments. 29 November 2004
   
-> Publication Schemes Report    537 kb   
  This paper examines central government publication schemes and highlights some examples of good practice. February 2004
   
-> Amending the bar on safety disclosure   325 kb
  The Campaign has responded to a preliminary HSC/E consultation on proposals to amend the statutory prohibition on disclosure in section 28 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. 9 December 2003 
   
-> FOI: 'to deter malpractice'
  This article by Maurice Frankel appeared in the March-April 2004 edition of Free Press, published by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.
   
-> Inside Information
  This article by Maurice Frankel appeared in the February 2004 edition of Public Service  Magazine, published by the First Division Association.
   
-> "Abolish the information veto" proposal backed
  Press release welcoming the Phillis Report's recommendation that ministers should renounce the use the of the ministerial veto under the Freedom of Information Act and strengthen its key provisions.
   
-> Progress magazine article
  This article by Maurice Frankel appeared in the January/February 2004 edition of 'Progress', a Labour magazine.
   
-> FOI Act will have teeth only if it is seen as a symbol of honesty
  This letter to the Financial Times followed an article on the Hutton Inquiry. The letter argues that ministers, who will be looking at ways of restoring credibility, should commit themselves to the FOI Act, and start by renouncing the veto.
   
-> 'A window on the mind of No 10'
 

This article, which appeared in the Guardian on 29 August 2003, comments on the implications of the Hutton Inquiry for open government. It argues that any serious attempt by the Government to restore trust must be based on a policy of openness, regardless of whether the facts are inconvenient or embarrassing.

   
-> Information Commissioner's Office reply on publication schemes    572 kb
  Reply from the Information Commissioner's Office to the Campaign's letter on publication schemes (see below). It agrees with the Campaign that the Commissioner has the power under the FOI Act to prescribe the contents of publication schemes, but says it has decided not to be prescriptive at present. 14 October 2002
  
-> Letter to the Information Commissioner   172 kb
  The Campaign has written to the Information Commissioner challenging the view that the Commissioner does not have the legal power under the FOI Act to require authorities to include particular classes of information in their publication schemes. It says that the Act itself, and ministers' comments made during its passage, make it clear that the Commissioner does have this power and believes that the failure to acknowledge and use it will weaken the legislation. It says authorities should be required to publish the internal guidance used by officials in their dealings with the public. 13 September 2002
  
-> Progress article
  This article by Maurice Frankel on the FOI Act appeared in the October/November 2002 edition of 'Progress' magazine.
  
-> Secondary legislation under the FOI Act
  The Campaign has written to Michael Wills MP, minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department, and to officials in Department, urging the government to bring into force a provision which makes it an offence to destroy a record in order to prevent its disclosure under the Data Protection Act.
  
-> Further comments on the draft 'good practice' code    184 kb
  Since the Campaign's original response to the draft code of practice to be issued under section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act, a more recent version has become available. These further comments address the changes that have been made in the revised version. 11 March 2002
  
-> 'Moving the ministerial mindset'
  This article by Maurice Frankel on implementation of the FOI Act first appeared in Public Service Magazine in March 2002.
  
-> Comments on the draft 'good practice' code 268 kb
  The Campaign's response to the draft code of practice to be issued by the Lord Chancellor under section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act. The code is intended to set out "desirable" practice under the Act. One of the Commissioner's duties will be to promote compliance with it. 14 February 2002
  
-> Delayed implementation of the Freedom of Information Act  232 kb
  Briefing for a debate on 5 December 2001 in the House of Lords on a motion calling for earlier implementation of the FOI Act's right of access for central government.
  
-> Double blow to freedom of information
  Press release criticising the government for delivering a double blow to freedom of information. The Lord Chancellor has announced a 4 year delay in implementing the FOI Act, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman has published a report on ministers' decision to refuse to comply with an open government ruling.
  
-> Delaying rights will "severely damage" anti-secrecy law
  Press release expressing concern at the damage that would be done by delaying implementation of the FOI Act for a further 3 years.
  
-> Government to abandon FOI timetable?  208 kb
  Following The Guardian's recent reports that implementation of the Freedom of Information Act may be significantly delayed, the Campaign has produced a briefing describing the damaging consequences of this. The delay would contradict what MPs were told as the Act went through Parliament and would defer the new rights of access beyond the point that anyone imagined possible. It would also be the least practicable of all available solutions, likely to magnify the potential difficulties of implementation both for public authorities and the Information Commissioner. 2 November 2001
  
-> Publications Schemes response  80 kb
  The Campaign has responded to the Information Commissioner's consultation paper on publication schemes. The FOI Act requires every public authority to produce such a scheme describing information it publishes. The Campaign says publication schemes should not be approved by the Commissioner unless they make substantial progress in releasing previously unpublished information, and should require authorities to provide 'access tools' to help applicants understand what information they hold.
  
-> FOI: No right of access till 2005?
  The Campaign has written to MPs asking them to sign an EDM urging the Government to implement the FOI Act on time. The Government had planned to start bringing the right of access into force by summer 2002. However it now seems possible that this date could be set back by several years. If your MP is not on the list please write to him or her and ask them to sign EDM 296.
  
-> The Freedom of Information Act 2000
  The Campaign has produced a version of the full text of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which can be downloaded in a single Acrobat PDF or Rich Text Format file. The Act is also available on the Stationery Office website, but there it is published in a format which requires readers to view more than 30 separate web pages.
  

   The FOI Bill

  
-> Queen's Speech briefing
  This briefing on the government's revised FOI bill was published on 23 November 1999.
  
-> What's wrong with the Bill
  Short article which first appeared in the House Magazine 6 December 1999
  
-> Briefing for Second Reading Debate on FOI Bill   116 kb
  This briefing for MPs and the media was prepared for the second reading of the Freedom of Information Bill in the House of Commons on 7 December 1999.
  
-> FOI Bill Committee Stage : Collected Briefings   688 kb
  Complete set of briefing papers (1-10) on amendments tabled to the Freedom of Information Bill during its Committee Stage. Produced 9 February 2000
  
-> 16 things you would not believe possible under a FOI Act
  Press release highlighting the extraordinary failings of the Freedom of Information Bill
  
-> FOI Bill: Briefing for Lords second reading   192 kb
  Briefing for Peers for the second reading of the Freedom of Information in the House of Lords on 20 April.
  
-> Notes on Government amendments for Lords committee stage
  The government's amendments for the Lords committee stage of the FOI Bill appeared on the internet on July 31. No date has yet been set for the committee stage to begin.
  
-> FOI Bill: Guide to amendments for Lords committee stage   104 kb
  Guide to amendments tabled for the Lords committee stage of the Freedom of Information Bill, the first day of which will take place on 17 October.
  
-> Lords committee stage: Collected briefings on FOI Bill   424 kb
  Complete set of detailed briefing papers for the Lords committee stage of the Freedom of Information Bill, which ended on 25 October 2000. For a short summary of the key issues see pages 1-5 of the first briefing paper.
  
-> BSE and Secrecy: Implications for the FOI Bill   76 kb
  Briefing paper setting out some of the BSE Inquiry's findings about secrecy and the implications for the Freedom of Information Bill.
  
-> FOI Bill: Report Stage Briefing   52 kb
  Briefing for the Lords Report Stage of the Freedom of Information Bill on 14th and 15th November explaining why the Campaign is deeply disappointed at the agreement reached between the Liberal Democrats and the government. It also describes some of the key amendments.
  
-> FOI Bill: Lords Third Reading Briefing   76 kb
  Briefing for the Lords Third Reading Stage of the Freedom of Information Bill on 22nd November, containing notes on selected amendments which the Campaign supported. It also explains in more detail why the Campaign does not accept the claim made by the Liberal Democrat peers that their amendments to clause 2 effectively transform the bill's class exemptions into 'prejudice' exemptions.
  

   The draft bill

  
-> The government's draft FoI Bill
  Read the government's consultation document and draft Freedom of Information bill published in May 1999 on the Lord Chancellor's Department website.
   
-> Campaign's press response to the FoI draft bill
  The Campaign has said that the government's Freedom of Information bill is "Deeply disappointing" and "weaker than the Conservatives' openness code"
  
-> Abysmal handiwork
  This article, which appeared in the Guardian on 25 May 1999, gives the Campaign's initial reaction to the draft Bill, asking why the government has retreated so far from its own white paper and the objectives outlined in opposition by Tony Blair.
  
-> Home Secretary's speech to the Freedom of Information Awards
  Speech by Jack Straw MP to the Campaign's annual Awards on 7 June 1999, with a question and answer session at the end.
  
-> Speech by the Campaign's Co-Chairman at the Freedom of Information Awards
  Speech by James Cornford, Co-Chairman of the Campaign, presenting a critique of the draft FOI bill.
  
-> Evidence on the draft Bill to the Public Administration Committee    312 kb
  The Campaign's response to the draft FoI Bill, which deals in detail with our main concerns. These include exemptions without harm tests, no public interest override to enable the Commissioner to order disclosure, and giving authorities the right to pry into an applicant's reasons for asking for the information. There are two submissions to the select committee, dated 22 June and 23 July 1999, combined into this one document.
  
-> Backtrack, Jack. You've got it wrong.
  This article, which appeared in the Guardian on 25 June 1999, comments on Jack Straw's initial appearance before the Public Administration Select Committee. The Home Secretary appeared to make some helpful, but minor, concessions on the contents of some parts of the draft Bill. However, they fall far short of the fundamental revision of the Bill needed to make it acceptable.
  
-> Just a beginning
  This article, which appeared in the Guardian on 11 October 1999, comments on reported concessions on the draft FoI Bill contained in a leaked Cabinet document.
  
-> Write to your MP!    570 kb
  Crucial improvements need to be made to the draft FOI bill. This leaflet describes the most important changes needed to guarantee even a basic 'right to know'. Please contact your MP about the Bill, and encourage others to do the same. Feel free to reproduce and circulate this leaflet.
  

   Between the white paper and the draft bill

  
-> No more secrets, please
  This article, which appeared in the Independent on Sunday on 26 July 1998, outlines the Campaign's fears that the government will not introduce a freedom of information bill in the next Parliamentary session and that the white paper proposals will be watered down.
  
-> Secrets and lies
  This article, which appeared in the Guardian on 18 August 1998, discusses the implications of the government's provisional decision to drop freedom of information from next year's legislative programme, and argues that this will seriously damage its credibility - particularly if it also proceeds with the Official Secrets Act prosecution of the ex-MI5 man David Shayler.
  
-> Delay in introducing FOI legislation
  This November 1998 letter to the Prime Minister from the Campaign and forty-six other organisations expresses our concern at the delay in bringing forward FOI legislation. It asks the Prime Minister to give an explicit commitment that a bill will be introduced in the 1999/2000 parliamentary session.
  
-> The Prime Minister replies to the Campaign
  The Prime Minister's reply to the November 1998 letter from the Campaign and forty-six other organisations expressing our concern at the delay in bringing forward FOI legislation (see above).
  
-> A draft Freedom of Information Bill - repeatedly delayed
  The government has been promising to publish a draft FoI Bill for consultation since June 1997. These quotes show how the timetable has repeatedly slipped.
  
-> Briefing on the Macpherson Report and FOI    128 kb
  This briefing was produced for a House of Commons debate held on 30 March 1999. MPs were debating the government's response to the Macpherson Report on the death of Stephen Lawrence. The government has rejected key elements of the report's recommendations on Freedom of Information which will allow information that would not harm the work of the police - and would improve accountability - to be unnecessarily withheld.
  

   The white paper

  
-> The government's white paper
  Read the government's proposals published in December 1997 on the Stationery Office website.
  
-> Article on the white paper
  A short article by the Campaign, which appeared in the Guardian on 16 December 1997, commenting on the white paper.
  
-> Conference on the FoI white paper   364 kb
  A transcript of the Campaign's conference on the FoI white paper held in February 1998. Speakers: Dr David Clark MP, the minister then responsible for Freedom of Information; Elizabeth France, Data Protection Commissioner; Kevin Murphy, Information Commissioner of Ireland; Michael Tankersley, Senior Attorney, Public Citizen Litigation Group; Sheila McKechnie, Director, Consumers' Association; Charles Ramsden, then Head of the FOI Unit in the Cabinet Office; John Wadham, Director, Liberty; Jonathan Baume, General Secretary, Association of First Division Civil Servants; Richard Thomas, Director, Public Policy Group, Clifford Chance; and Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information.
  
-> Response to the Government's FoI Proposals    228 kb
  The Campaign's response, published in March 1998, to the government's white paper on FoI. This detailed paper also incorporates the Campaign's evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee in January 1998.
  
-> Lord Chancellor's Speech to Freedom of Information Awards
  Speech of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, at the Campaign for Freedom of Information 1997 Awards, 28 April 1998.
  
-> Briefing for House of Commons Debate on Freedom of Information
  This briefing was produced for a debate on Freedom of Information held in the House of Commons on 6 July 1998. The Campaign warmly welcomed the white paper, though with a number of concerns about recent developments.
  

   From the general election to the white paper

  
-> Tony Blair's speech to the Campaign's annual Awards
  Given in March 1996 when Leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair told the Campaign that, "A Freedom of Information Act is not just important in itself. It is part of bringing our politics up to date, of letting politics catch up with the aspirations of people and delivering not just more open but more effective and efficient government for the future."
  
-> Labour Party commitments to FOI over the years
  A commitment to introduce Freedom of Information legislation has featured in every general election manifesto since 1974. This page records those pledges together with statements from prominent Labour politicians.
  
-> A Freedom of Information Bill
  The Campaign's May 1997 draft of a Freedom of Information Bill, revised from its earlier proposals in time for the 1997 General Election.
  
-> Proposals for a Freedom of Information Act
  The Campaign's May 1997 proposals for a Freedom of Information Act are set out in the form of Instructions to Parliamentary Counsel (the government lawyer who drafts legislation) describing what the Act should contain.
  
-> Consulting about FOI
  June 1997. Letter from the Campaign to Dr David Clark MP suggesting that the Government's proposals should be developed with the maximum openness.
  
-> Enforcement of FOI
  July 1997. Letter from the Campaign to Dr David Clark MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, about the enforcement of Freedom of Information
  

 


 

Issues Papers

 

This section contains papers dealing with issues in freedom of information policy, rather than in response to specific events.

-> Key Issues    111 kb
  This paper discusses a number of issues including access to civil service policy advice, a public interest override for exemptions, and charges for information. It was published in December 1997, before the white paper appeared.
  
-> FOI Checklist    56 kb
  This Checklist was also published in December 1997, before the white paper appeared, and suggests key points to look for in the government's proposals.
  
-> Publication of papers of previous administrations
  October 1997. Letter to Jeff Rooker MP, Food Safety Minister, about the restriction which prevents ministers seeing the papers of a previous administration. Mr Rooker had been denied access to a report on abattoir safety standards which he therefore could not make public.
  
-> Access to policy advice under a FoI - discussion paper    152 kb
  A 1997 discussion paper on how access to policy advice is approached in Australia, New Zealand and under the UK code of practice.
  
-> Is public access to civil service policy advice possible?    204 kb
  A transcript of the Campaign's March 1996 seminar which examined the extent to which civil service advice could be available under a Freedom of Information Act. Speakers were: The Rt Hon Roger Freeman MP, then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; Derek Lewis, formerly Director General of the Prison Service; Graham Mather MEP; Peter Mandelson MP; Robert Maclennan MP; Peter Riddell, of The Times; and Maurice Frankel, Director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information. Also includes a supplemental paper on access to policy advice by Maurice Frankel.
  
-> Freedom of Information and Universities
  Paper given in June 1998 on the implications of freedom of information legislation for universities given at a conference organised by the Society for Research into Higher Education.
  
-> History of the Issue
  An updated history of official secrecy and attempts to secure a Freedom of Information Act in this country
  
-> Countries with Freedom of Information Acts
  A list of those countries which have enacted FoI laws.
  

 


 

The Open Government Initiative

This section relates to the Open Government codes of practice introduced by the Conservative government in 1994 & 1995. The codes remain in force and can be used by people seeking information from central government and the NHS.

-> Code of Practice on Access to Government Information -
Guidance on Interpretation
  600 kb
  The Campaign has produced an electronic version of the Government's Guidance on Interpretation of the open government code. This has not been available on the Internet before and has been reproduced with the permission of the Department for Constitutional Affairs (formerly the Lord Chancellor's Department).
   
-> Health Department challenged over "absurd"  hospital consultant secrecy
  The Department of Health has agreed that the Data Protection Act does not prevent it from releasing the precise numbers of consultants working in hospital departments.
  
-> Broken commitments on access to health records
  Updated June 2003. The Department of Health has begun publishing the previously secret papers of a group advising ministers about the fees charged for access to health records and related data protection issues, following a challenge by the Campaign. It has also revised its guidance on access to health records, after the Campaign pointed out that it broke ministerial promises that patients would be able to have their own views about a disputed matter added to their records, and NHS bodies would be urged to deal with requests within 21 days, instead of the 40 day limit set by the Data Protection Act.
  
-> Challenge to secrecy over private sector staff in Whitehall
  Updated June 2003. Code of Practice requests and correspondence with government departments over revealing the identities of private sector staff working on secondment in government departments. Government departments initially refused to identify seconded staff, claiming that the Data Protection Act prohibited them from doing so unless the individuals themselves agreed to be identified. The Campaign argued that the DPA permitted disclosure even where the individuals had refused consent. After three years of correspondence the government finally accepted that the Campaign's view was correct.
  
-> Testing the Open Government Code of Practice
  The 'Code of Practice on Access to Government Information' came into force on April 4, 1994. The government promises to release information on request unless it is covered by one of 15 broad exemptions. Dissatisfied applicants can complain, via an MP, to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. A separate code applying to the NHS came into force in June 1995. The Codes are not legally binding and fall short of a Freedom of Information Act but should provide opportunities for access to some previously withheld information. This briefing by the Campaign is designed to encourage people to test the Code - both to benefit from any improvements, and to reveal its shortcomings.
  
-> The Campaign's views on the operation of the Code
  March 1995. Evidence to the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman). This details the Campaign's experiences of using the Code of Practice in the first year of its operation.
  
-> Information that even the Ombudsman could not see
  March 1995. Further evidence by the Campaign to the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman), concerning a request made to the Lord Chancellor's department for information.
  
-> Press Release on Code of Practice charges
  Some departments reserve the right to make high charges for information released under the Open Government Code of Practice. This press release dated 9 November 1994 details the charges.
  
-> The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information
  The full text of the Code.
  
-> The Code of Practice on Openness in the NHS
  The full text of the NHS Code.
  
-> Government leaflet on the Code of Practice
  A brief guide to the Code produced by the Government, including a list of 'Open Government' contacts in Whitehall departments.
  
-> List of bodies subject to the Code of Practice
  A non-exhaustive list of bodies subject to the central government Code.
  
-> Government Information on the Internet
  October 1995. Letter from the Campaign to Roger Freeman MP, the minister for 'open government', about the lack of access to Hansard and statutes on the Internet and suggestions for further information that the Government should make available on the Internet.
  
-> Access to Personal Files and Health & Safety Information
  July 1995. Letter to Roger Freeman MP about the government's failure to introduce promised legislation on access to personal files held by government departments and to health and safety information.

 


 

The 1993 Right to Know Bill

The Right to Know Bill was a freedom of information bill drafted by the Campaign and introduced by Mark Fisher MP in 1993.  The bill also proposed to reform the Official Secrets Act.  The bill completed its committee stage but was then blocked by the Government at its report stage in July 1993 after a total of 21 hours debate in the Commons and in committee.

-> Questions & Answers about the Right to Know Bill
  This booklet was published by the Campaign in 1993 at the time the Right to Know Bill was before Parliament.
  
-> Guide to the Right to Know Bill
  A detailed guide to the provisions of the Bill.
  
-> Articles from Secretson the Right to Know Bill
  A series of articles from the August 1993 issue of Secretson the Right to Know Bill and the debates on it in Parliament.
  
-> Why Britain needs a Freedom of Information Act

 


 

Other publications

  
-> A Freedom of Information Bill
  The full text of a Freedom of Information Bill drafted by the Campaign, and introduced into Parliament by Andrew Mackinlay MP with cross-party support, as a 10-minute rule Bill on 18 November 1998. The same bill, with minor amendments, was introduced in the House of Lords by the Conservative peer, Lord Lucas of Crudwell, and received a second reading in February 1999 (see above).
  
-> Briefing on Lord Lucas' Freedom of Information Bill    196 kb
  This briefing gives a clause by clause explanation of the private peer's FOI bill, introduced by the Conservative peer Lord Lucas, which received a second reading in the House of Lords on 10 February 1999. The bill, which was drafted by the Campaign, is largely the same as the 10-minute rule bill introduced by Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay in November 1998. The Bill itself can be read on the Stationery Office website.
  
-> Addicted to Secrecy, Lies and Distortion
  This article, by the Campaign's director, Maurice Frankel, appeared in the 'Observer' supplement on Censorship, March 1994.

 


 

 

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