The Stage 1 debate on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill will take place this afternoon in the Scottish Parliament, shortly after 2.30 pm. You can watch the debate live at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/30912.aspx.
Although the coalition government is committed to extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, the process is turning out to be excruciatingly slow.
Before the 2010 election the Conservatives promised to extend the FOI Act to additional bodies “within weeks of the General Election”. A consultation was announced by the Ministry of Justice on 7 January 2011, but two and a half years after the election, a decision on the outcome is still not close.
The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee has today published its Stage 1 report on the Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. The report asks the Scottish Government to remove the Royal exemption provision from the Bill, which would mirror the absolute exemption for information relating to communications with the monarch, heir and second in line to throne that was controversially introduced to the UK FOI Act by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.
The following guidance has recently been published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
In a speech at the Labour Party conference on 3 October, the Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan MP, said:
And it’s also time to address a blind spot in our Freedom of Information laws I’m proud Labour introduced FoI, however awkward it can be. Not only will the next Labour Government protect FoI, but we will seek to extend it. For the first time, FoI will cover the delivery of public services by private companies. This includes our prisons, our schools and our health service. Public private or voluntary, subjected to the same disinfecting transparency of FoI
The Justice Committee will publish its First Report of Session 2012–13, Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, at 00.01 hrs on Thursday 26 July 2012 as HC 96-I and II.
Embargoed electronic copies will be made available to witnesses and members of the press from 11.00 am on Monday 23 July 2012.
Copies of published reports may be obtained from the Parliamentary Bookshop and the Stationery Office (details below) and the text will be available via the Committee’s website, www.parliament.uk/justicecom upon publication.
This article by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland on the Scottish Government’s Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill was published by The Scotsman on 7 June 2012.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information has made a supplementary submission to the Justice Committee’s inquiry on post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act.
The submission addresses some of the points about the Act’s exemption for policy advice made by Lord O’Donnell and Jack Straw in their evidence to the Committee. It also provides further details of excessive or wasteful spending revealed by FOI which is generally not taken into account when assessing the Act’s ‘costs’.
No enforcement action will be taken against the Cabinet Office or the Ministry of Defence following an extended period of monitoring, as both departments have improved their FOI response times, the ICO has announced:
The Campaign for Freedom of Information has submitted written evidence to the Justice Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act. The submission is divided into three parts. The first describes some areas where the FOI Act and Environmental Information Regulations are not working as well as they should. It suggests a number of improvements such as the introduction of more specific time limits for responding to requests and dealing with internal reviews and the lifting os some absolute exemptions. The second deals with the contracting out of public authority functions to bodies which are not subject to the Act. Recent measures to encourage this process are likely to substantially undermine the public’s rights to information. The third responds to suggestions that changes to the right of access may be introduced to protect cabinet papers, to introduce fees for FOI requests or make it easier for public authorities to refuse requests on cost grounds.
The Campaign also gave oral evidence at the Committee’s first evidence session yesterday along with WhatDoTheyKnow and Unlock Democracy. You can watch a recording of the session here.