Articles

London councils’ FOI performance assessed

A new report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information reveals that some London councils are failing to comply with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act’s time limits in as many as 40% of the requests they receive, causing long delays before information is released. On the other hand some are close to answering 100% of requests on time. The Information Commissioner (IC), who enforces the FOI Act, expects authorities to answer at least 90% of requests on time. The report finds that 25 out of 34 London councils surveyed fell short of this target in 2017/18. The scale of this problem had previously been obscured by the fact that many of the underperforming councils publish no statistics on their handling of requests.
Read More

Landmark ruling on Article 10

In a landmark decision, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the case of Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Hungary that there is a right to information from public authorities under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK’s Supreme Court had previously found that the Strasbourg court’s case law had not established this – but the new decision clearly does so.
Read More

MP’s policy correspondence protected on privacy grounds

In a remarkable decision the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that an MP’s letter to a local council about its parking policy should be withheld to protect the MP’s privacy – though there is no suggestion that the letter contained anything about the MP’s personal circumstances (ICO Decision Notice FS50530093).
Read More

No strength in numbers

FOI requesters should not encourage others to apply for the same information in order to put pressure on the authority to release it. The tactic is likely to backfire leading to the request being refused as vexatious, as a recent tribunal case shows (Michael Sivier v Information Commissioner, EA/2013/0277).

Read More

Does Article 10 create a right to information?

The Supreme Court is currently considering whether Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights incorporates a right to freedom of information. The Campaign has joined with the Media Legal Defence Initiative in intervening in this important case and are represented by Richard Clayton QC and Christopher Knight.

The case has been brought by Dominic Kennedy, a Times journalist, who was refused information by the Charity Commission under a blanket FOI exemption which applies regardless of the harm or benefit of disclosure. He argues that the refusal breached his rights under Article 10.
Read More

No limits on freedom of information? What about the 13 pages of exemptions

This letter by the Campaign was published by The Guardian on 18 July 2012, in response to an article by the commentator Simon Jenkins.

Simon Jenkins takes a hefty swing at the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that its “total disclosure” damages good government. (For the digital revolution, this is the Robespierre moment, 10 July). But there is no “total disclosure” under FOI as anyone who has grappled with the act’s 13 pages of exemptions knows.

Read More

Freedom of Information and rejected honours

Letter to The Times responding to an article by Matthew Parris arguing that “the advance of Freedom of Information should be reversed.”

Read More

No need for more cabinet secrecy

Letter to The Times responding to comments made by Sir Gus O’Donnell, the outgoing Cabinet Secretary, that the Freedom of Information Act should be amended to provide greater protection for cabinet papers.

Read More

The Blair Memoirs and FOI

That Tony Blair regrets introducing the Freedom of Information Act has been known for some time. But the force with which he reproaches himself in his new autobiography for doing so is truly remarkable: Read More

Time limit for prosecution of offences under section 77 of the FOI Act

The Information Commissioner’s office statement that the university at the centre of the ‘climategate’ email scandal did not deal with FOI requests as it should have done under the legislation has received a lot of media attention. Section 77 of the Act makes it an offence for any person to deliberately destroy, alter or conceal a record after it has been requested with the intention of preventing its disclosure. The offence is triable only in the magistrate’s court. However, under section 127(1) of the Magistrates Court Act 1980, proceedings for all such offences must be brought within 6 months of the offence occurring.

Read More