Government to consult on FOI restrictions “in near future”

The government has replied to a joint letter to the Prime Minister sent by 76 organisations, calling on the government not to proceed with proposals to restrict the FOI Act.  The letter, co-ordinated by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said the proposals would allow many requests of substantial public interest to be refused regardless of the benefits of disclosure.

In reply, the Justice Minister Lord McNally says the government is not committed to implementing all the proposals it has put forward but adds “It is however right that we should seek to ensure that the costs the FOIA imposes on public authorities are not excessive, especially in the current economic climate, and are proportionate to the many benefits that the FOIA brings.”

The minister says that the government’s aim “is not a widespread reduction in transparency but to focus on the small minority of requests which are disproportionately burdensome”. However,  the proposals are not targeted at particularly burdensome requests but would restrict access by all users, including those making occasional requests of modest scope.

The government is still considering the options, Lord McNally says, and will consult the public “in the near future” on those it decides take forward. It seems likely that further moves to restrict the Act are on the way.

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