Has your MP signed the Parliamentary motion which expresses concern that the Government is considering changes to the charging arrangements under the Freedom of Information Act?
That this House welcomes the finding of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (HC991) that the Freedom of Information Act has `already brought about the release of significant new information and….this information is being used in a constructive and positive way’ and the committee’s conclusion that it sees `no need to change’ the Act’s charging arrangements; views with concern reports that the Government is considering changing these arrangements to permit an application fee to be charged for all requests or to allow authorities to refuse, on cost grounds, a significant proportion of requests which they currently must answer; and considers that such changes could undermine the Act’s benefits of increased openness, accountability and trust in the work of public authorities.
The motion (known as an “EDM”) which the Campaign has helped to co-ordinate, follows the publication in The Sunday Times of a leaked memo indicating that the Government is considering making it substantially easier for authorities to refuse requests on costs grounds and/or introducing new charges for information under the Act. The result would be either to deter significant numbers of requests under the Act or to allow authorities to refuse large numbers of requests which currently have to be answered.
The Constitutional Affairs Committee (HC991) recently described the Act’s first year of operation as a “significant success” reporting that it saw “no need” to change the charging arrangements.
The motion has been tabled by an all-party group of MPs made up of:
- Tony Wright (Lab)(Chair of the Public Administration select committee)
- Alan Beith (Lib Dem) (Chair of the Constitutional Affairs select committee)
- Dominic Grieve (Con) (Shadow Attorney General)
- Richard Shepherd (Con) (Parliamentary co-chair of the Campaign for Freedom of Information)
- Mark Fisher (Lab) (Sponsor of the 1992 Right to Know Bill)
- Simon Hughes (Lib Dem) (Spokesman on Constitutional Affairs)
The Campaign has written to all MPs encouraging them to sign the EDM and enclosing this briefing.