Campaigns

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.
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FOI implications of the Justice Committee’s report on Courts and Tribunals Fees

The Justice Committee’s report on Courts and Tribunal Fees has endorsed the proposal, made by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information that the right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) under the Freedom of Information Act should be abolished. The Committee does not appear to have examined the case for this change itself. It simply reported that it saw no reason to disagree with the Commission’s view. The Campaign believes that if the proposal went ahead, it would significantly undermine the operation of the Act.
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FOI Commission’s rejection of new restrictions welcomed

Today’s report from the Commission on Freedom of Information does not call for the severe restrictions that had initially seemed likely, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The report sets out a mixture of proposals, many of which would enhance the FOI Act. However the Campaign says a proposal to remove the right of appeal against the Information Commissioner’s (IC’s) decisions to a specialist tribunal would undermine the Act’s enforcement system.

A statement issued last night by the Cabinet Office minister responsible for FOI, Matt Hancock, said the government “will not make any legal changes” to the FOI Act. The Campaign said this suggested that the Act would not be weakened.

The Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said: “The Commission has stepped back from the one sided agenda which the government initially appeared to set for it, of restricting access to internal policy discussions, introducing charges for requests and making it easier for authorities to refuse requests. Instead it has also looked at the case for improving the legislation. The government itself has clearly been scalded by the criticism it has received from the press and public and made it clear it’s not prepared to take its initial agenda forward. We now need to ensure that the Act is extended to contractors providing public services and bodies like the National Crime Agency which have been deliberately excluded.”
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FOI should apply to prisons and parking tickets, even if contractors hold the information, says Campaign

Information about prison attacks, penalty fares on London Overground, whistleblowing policies in the NHS and parking tickets has all been withheld under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act because this information was held by public authority contractors and not by the authorities themselves.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information is calling for the FOI Act to be extended to such information. It cites 10 examples of information about public services which has been withheld because of a loophole in the Act.
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All-party briefing on the Commission on FOI

Briefing

The Commission on Freedom of Information

and the future of the FOI Act

 

2.30 pm Monday 30 November 2015

House of Commons, Committee Room 9

 

Speakers

Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition

The Rt Hon David Davis MP, Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

Lord Tyler, Lib Dem, Constitutional & Political Reform Spokesperson

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Briefing – FOI Commission consultation

21 Oct, 2 pm, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London  EC1R 3GA 

The Campaign for Freedom of Information and ARTICLE 19 are holding a briefing meeting for NGOs and media organisations on the consultation paper published by the Commission on Freedom of Information. The consultation suggests the Commission is considering sweeping changes to restrict the FOI Act, including:

  • imposing charges for requests
  • making it easier to refuse requests on cost grounds
  • making it more difficult to obtain public authorities’ internal discussions, or excluding some from access altogether
  • strengthening ministers’ powers to veto disclosures
  • changing the way the Act is enforced

The meeting is to brief organisations that are proposing to respond to the consultation. We strongly encourage you to do so drawing on your own experience of the value of the FOI Act. 

If you would like to attend the meeting, please rsvp to admin@cfoi.demon.co.uk

The deadline for responding to the consultation is 20 November 2015. The consultation paper is available from –

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/independent-commission-on-freedom-of-information-call-for-evidence 

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140 press and campaign bodies urge PM not to weaken FOI Act

140 media bodies, campaign groups and others [1] have written to the Prime Minister expressing ‘serious concern’ at the government’s approach to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

The organisations are particularly concerned at the Commission on Freedom of Information, announced on July 17th this year. They say its terms of reference make clear that ‘its purpose is to consider new restrictions to the Act’ [2] and that there is no indication that it is expected to consider how the right of access might need to be improved.
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Response FOI Tribunal fees consultation

The Campaign has responded to a Ministry of Justice consultation proposing the introduction of fees for appeals against decisions of the Information Commissioner to the First-tier Tribunal.

We do not support the proposal. We think the proposed fees, of £100 for a case determined on the papers and £600 for an appeal involving an oral hearing, will deter many requesters from pursuing potentially successful appeals under the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations. It will be the public, and in particular, the public interest in the accountability of public authorities, that will be damaged.

 

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Fees for FOI appeals

The Ministry of Justice is consulting on proposals that fees should be introduced for appeals to the Tribunal against Information Commissioner FOI decisions. The proposals would have serious implications for individual FOI requesters and the general public. However, figuring out precisely where these proposals can be found is a little tricky.
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MPs debate amendment to bring contractors’ information under FOI Act

On 17th November, MPs debated John Hemming’s Transparency and Accountability Bill, which contains measures drafted by the Campaign to strengthen the public’s right to know about public services which have been contracted out.
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