Information Commissioner’s views on fees proposals

The Information Commissioner Richard Thomas gave evidence to the Constitutional Affairs Committee about the likely impact of the government’s fees proposals on his office and public authorities. The evidence session was broadcast on Parliament Live and an archive is available to watch. The Commissioner’s comments have been covered by The Independent and Guardian:

Plans to curb access to freedom of information would be ‘unworkable’ – Independent

“The Government’s proposals to reduce access to Britain’s freedom of information laws will be unworkable and add to the bureaucracy of Whitehall, the legislation’s independent watchdog has warned. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, says he has “grave doubts” over measures aimed at curbing the right of MPs, campaign groups and the media to use the powers. In response to Labour’s rethink on freedom of information, Mr Thomas also predicted that the proposed change to the rules would lead to a “surge” of difficult complaints to his office.”

MPs warned over curbs on freedom of information – Guardian

“Plans to curb people’s ability to ask for data from the state under the Freedom of Information Act will “significantly reduce” the number of disclosures in the public interest, MPs were warned yesterday. Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, in effect called on the government to drop the plans, telling the constitutional affairs committee that the proposed curbs “will introduce new layers of procedural and bureaucratic complexity”.”

Today’s papers also contain extracts of a speech Lord Falconer will give this evening at The Lord Williams of Mostyn Memorial Lecture:

‘Freedom of information for the public’ – Daily Mail

“Freedom of information is mainly for the public and not the press, the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer is due to say. “People not the press must be the priority. There is a right to know, not a right to tell,” he is set to say. In delivering the Lord Williams of Mostyn memorial lecture, Lord Falconer also insists the Government is fully committed to openness.”

‘Openness is ‘for public, not press’ – Metro

“Whitehall has been opened up ‘in ways unimagined, unattempted and unrealised by any previous Government’, Lord Falconer will say when he delivers the Lord Williams of Mostyn memorial lecture…’We need to strike the right balance, whether it is in the courts over data or in relation to FoI requests.'”

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  1. Interestingly, the Tories, not hitherto known for their keeness on FOI, have just made the comments reported below.
    Dr David Lowry

    PRESS: Falconer wrong on Press access to FoI, say Tories

    Lord Chancellor lord Falconer’s remarks that the Freedom of Information Act is for the people not the Press have been criticised by the Conservatives.

    Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Oliver Heald, said, ” Lord Falconer’s comments that the press are not a priority for the Freedom of Information Act shows how out of touch he is with the realities of how the public obtain information.

    ” It is vital to our democracy that the press should be able to report on what is happening and there is a ‘right to tell’. It is at the core of our freedom of speech. We should always be suspicious of a Government
    that tries to crack down on accountability.

    ” In the light of recent comments from former senior civil servants you have to wonder whether these restrictions come from the Lord Chancellor or the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    ” The changes to Freedom of Information are very ill-thought through and will lead to thousands of extra appeals at a huge cost to the Government.”


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