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Move to restrict use of FOI by campaigners criticised

A survey of local councils, aimed at gathering information to push for restrictions to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, has been criticised by the Campaign for Freedom of Information. A body representing local authority lawyers has appealed to councils on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA)  saying the LGA is thinking of calling for changes to the Act and asking them to supply details of “problems” caused by it. [*] Read More

Two consultations on FOI this year

Justice minister, Simon Hughes, today confirmed there would be two significant consultations on the Freedom of Information Act this year:
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76 organisations call on government to drop proposed FOI restrictions

76 campaign groups, charities and press bodies have written to the prime minister urging him to drop proposals to restrict the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. They say the proposals are not compatible with the prime minister’s stated aim of making the UK “the most open and transparent government in the world”.
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New approach to ‘vexatious’ requests demolishes government case for FOI restrictions

More freedom of information (FOI) requests are likely to be refused as vexatious, following official guidance issued last week. But the change removes the government’s case for introducing more fundamental and damaging restrictions to the FOI Act, says the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The Campaign is calling on the government to drop the proposals.
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New government proposals would block complex FOI requests

Government plans to amend the Freedom of Information Act would make it harder for requesters to obtain answers to new, complex or contentious FOI requests, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

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Welcome for select committee’s rejection of FOI charges and restrictions on release of policy discussions

A major review of the Freedom of Information Act which rejects charging for FOI requests or new restrictions on access to policy discussions in Whitehall has been warmly welcomed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information which said the report “would preserve and strengthen the important advances made by the FOI 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.

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

Welcome for positive moves on FOI

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has welcomed the government’s decision, announced today, to drop proposals to restrict the Freedom of Information Act. Instead the government has announced that it will consult on extending the scope of the Act to certain kinds of private bodies and on changing the 30 year rule.

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Welcome for freedom of information rethink

The Campaign for Freedom of Information welcomed today’s announcement which suggests that the government are no longer committed to introducing major restrictions to the Freedom of Information Act. Instead it has announced a further consultation, asking whether changes to the Act are needed at all.

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