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.
Lib Dem MP Tom Brake has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act to remove the provisions permitting ministers to veto decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal; to limit the time allowed for public authorities to respond to requests involving consideration of the public interest test and to amend the definition of public authorities. A copy of the Bill, which the Campaign helped draft, is available here and a note explaining the Bill can be downloaded here.
The Campaign has submitted a formal response to the Department for Constitutional Affairs about the proposed changes to the fees regulations under the FOI Act. This sets out serious concerns about the damaging effects of the proposals and calls on the government to honour a ministerial commitment to carry out a proper public consultation before changing the regulations.
Has your MP signed the Parliamentary motion which expresses concern that the Government is considering changes to the charging arrangements under the Freedom of Information Act?
This article by the Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, appeared in Press Gazette on 13 January 2006
During more than 20 years of campaigning for a freedom of information act, two questions repeatedly nagged me. The obvious one: would Britain ever get an FOI Act? And the more troubling one: if we did, would it be worth having?
A version of this article by the Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, appeared in The Independent on 31 December 2005
The Freedom of Information Act has begun to open doors – but is yet to be fully tested against those the government is determined to keep locked.
A version of this article by the Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, appeared in The Guardian on 14 December 2004
On January 1 the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act finally comes into force. The Act gives the public important new rights to the information held by public authorities. Worried about possible changes to your local school or hospital? The Act should allow you to see the evidence for them. Want to know whether the police are doing enough about burglaries? Use the legislation to probe their response times and clear-up rates. Unhappy about a regulatory body that never seems to do anything when people complain? Ask for their internal guidance on handling complaints and see their staff are doing what they’re supposed to do.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information warmly welcomed the government’s proposals on freedom of information (FOI) published today (Your Right to Know, Cm 3818).