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Court of Appeal ruling strengthens FOI Act

The Campaign for Freedom of Information welcomed today’s Court of Appeal ruling overturning the government’s veto of an Upper Tribunal decision ordering the release of Prince Charles’ correspondence with ministers.  The Guardian had applied for the correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act. The Upper Tribunal, which deals with high level FOI appeals, had ordered disclosure, but the Attorney General had vetoed the tribunal’s decision.

The Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said “the FOI Act has an elaborate appeal process, which the government could have used to challenge a decision it believed was wrong. Instead it has attempted to squash the decision, bypassing the need to argue its case, by use of a veto. The court’s ruling will make it much harder for government to override a well argued tribunal case in future. Disagreeing with the decision will not be enough, it will have to show why the decision is flawed or that circumstances have changed since it was reached. That is a major improvement to the public’s right to know.”

The Court of Appeal has also ruled that the veto cannot apply to environmental information at all. “This fundamentally strengthens the public’s rights to know what public authorities are doing about environmental issues”, Mr Frankel said.

But the Campaign said that although these letters may now have to be disclosed, subject to any appeal, Prince Charles’s subsequent correspondence will remain confidential as the FOI Act has since been amended to exclude it from access.

Note:
The Court of Appeal’s judgment is available here.

Further information:
Maurice Frankel or Katherine Gundersen 020 7490 3958

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