The value of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is highlighted by a new report summarising more than 1,000 press stories based on FOI disclosures during 2006 and 2007.
The 250 page report, by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, is based on disclosures made under the UK and Scottish FOI laws, which both came into force in January 2005.
The press stories demonstrate the enormous range of information being released under FOI. They include significant disclosures about the Iraq conflict, the possible cause of gulf war syndrome, assaults on public service staff, the state of civil service morale, compensation paid to victims of medical accidents, schools’ efforts to inflate their exam results, hospital techniques for deflating waiting lists, the universities teetering on the edge of financial collapse, police officers with criminal records, government efforts to encourage gambling, lobbying by multinational oil, pharmaceutical and food companies, nuclear safety and other hazards, crimes committed by offenders on parole, unpublicised prison escapes, the expansion of the national DNA database and innumerable reports about high expenses claims and dubious public spending.
The Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, said: “These disclosures throw new light on the government’s approach to many issues, identify shortcomings in public service delivery, highlight other problems which have not been addressed and show where policies have succeeded. They reveal the substantial contribution to accountability made by the FOI Act.”
In 2006, the government proposed to restrict the UK FOI Act, partly because of what it said was the excessive use of the Act being made by journalists. The Campaign says this report shows how valuable the press’s use of FOI has been – and how misguided the proposals were. The proposals were dropped by Gordon Brown after he became prime minister in 2007.
The report is published to mark International Right to Know Day, on September 28th. It is available online at: www.cfoi.org.uk/pdf/FOIStories2006-07.pdf
Maurice Frankel or Katherine Gundersen 020 7490 3958