Abolition of right of appeal to First-tier Tribunal

The Government has just stated that it is “carefully considering” a recommendation made by the Commission on Freedom of Information in March 2016 that the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) against the Information Commissioner’s decisions should be abolished. When the Commission’s report was published the Government gave an assurance there would be “no legal changes” to the FOI Act. Abolishing the FTT would require such legislative changes. The FTT is a vital safeguard against poor decisions from the Information Commissioner. In 2014, some 20% of requester appeals to the FTT were wholly or partly successful. The Campaign believes that depriving requesters of this right of appeal would seriously weaken the public’s right to know.


The background to this proposal is complex:

[1] The Commission on Freedom of Information chaired by Lord Burns recommended: “That the government legislates to remove the right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against decisions of the IC made in respect of the Act.” (Recommendation 17).

[2] The House of Commons Justice Committee in its report on ‘Court and Tribunals Fees’ endorsed the Commission’s recommendation. The Committee does not appear to have examined the case for this change itself. It simply stated: “We see no reason to disagree with the Commission’s views.” (paragraph 28)

[3] On 9 November 2016 the Government published its response to the Justice Committee’s report saying “this is one of a number of recommendations made by the Independent Commission that are being carefully considered.” (Note to anyone reading the Government’s response: the paragraph in bold at the top of page 4 is the Justice Committee’s recommendation. The two following paragraphs are the Government’s response to that recommendation.)

[4] The Campaign produced a briefing on this issue for a debate in the House of Commons on the the Justice Committee’s report in July 2016.

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