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Archives for cabinet papers

New FOI commission heralds “crackdown on the right to know”

A major attack on the public’s right to information is likely following the government’s announcement today of a new Commission to review the Freedom of Information Act, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The Commission has been asked to consider whether new measures are needed to protect the government’s internal discussions from disclosure and to reduce the ‘burden’ of the FOI Act.

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FOI and policy advice

The Campaign has published this briefing explaining how the Information Commissioner and Tribunal have protected the ‘safe space’ and genuinely frank discussions from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
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Post legislative scrutiny of the FOI Act

The Campaign has welcomed the Justice Committee’s report on post-legislative scrutiny of the FOI Act, which rejects charging for FOI requests or new restrictions on access to policy discussions in Whitehall. The Campaign made two written submissions to the Committee and gave oral evidence at the Committee’s first hearing on 21 February 2012. You can watch a recording of the session or read an uncorrected transcript of it.

Our initial submission described some areas where the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations are not working as well as they should and suggested a number of improvements such as the introduction of statutory time limits for public interest extensions and internal reviews and the lifting of some absolute exemptions. It also addressed 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. Finally, it responded to suggestions that changes to the right of access may be introduced to protect cabinet papers, introduce fees for making requests or to make it easier for public authorities to refuse requests on costs grounds. The Campaign made a supplementary submission to the Committee addressing 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. This supplementary submission also provided examples of excessive or wasteful spending revealed by FOI, which suggest the Act is likely to play an important role in exposing and deterring excessive spending, which is generally not taken into account when assessing the ‘costs’ of FOI.

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.

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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.

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FOI discussed at Lib Dem fringe meeting

The Campaign held a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool on 18 September 2010. The meeting was addressed by Lord McNally, the Ministry of Justice minister responsible for freedom of information, and Sir Alan Beith MP, the chair of the House of Commons Justice Committee.

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Welcome for decision to drop proposed cabinet papers exemption

The government’s announcement that it has dropped its proposal to exempt cabinet papers from the Freedom of Information Act, and that it will reduce the 30 year rule to 20 years, was welcomed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information today.

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Government uses veto again

The government has issued a second veto, preventing the disclosure of information under the FOI Act. This follows the veto in February 2009 of cabinet minutes relating to the war in Iraq. The present case involves a request to see the minutes of the 1997 meetings of the cabinet subcommittee on devolution in Scotland, Wales and the English regions. The committee had been chaired by Lord Irvine, the then Lord Chancellor.

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Concern over new freedom of information exemptions

The Campaign for Freedom of Information welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the Freedom of Information Act would be extended to additional bodies and that the 30 year period before old official papers are made public would be reduced to 20 years. This was a substantial step, the Campaign said, even if it did not go as far as the 15 year period recommended by the Dacre Review earlier this year.

However it expressed serious concern at Mr Brown’s announcement that new exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act would be introduced for Cabinet Papers and for information relating to the Royal Family.

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Iraq veto decision “extremely retrograde”

The government’s decision today to veto the release of the Iraq cabinet minutes was “an extremely retrograde step” according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

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