For some time, the Campaign has been calling on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to use its power to issue enforcement notices against authorities which repeatedly breach the Freedom of Information Act’s time limits. An enforcement notice could require an authority to reply to all outstanding FOI requests by a specified deadline – unlike a decision notice, which can only deal with an individual request. The ICO has only issued 4 enforcement notices since the FOI Act came into force in 2005 and only 2 of these relate to compliance with time limits.
Now, in response to an FOI request, the ICO has revealed that before the pandemic, it was moving towards using enforcement notices in this way – a welcome development.
In an article published on the 6th April we discussed the Information Commissioner’s announcement that it would not penalise public authorities for failing to meet FOI deadlines during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ICO’s response to a complaint submitted on 6 March 2020 provides an insight into how it is dealing with complaints about delay during the crisis.
The Information Commissioner should clamp down on authorities which make requesters wait months before replying to their freedom of information (FOI) requests, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.
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 Campaign has responded to a request from the UK Statistics Authority for its views on the adequacy of the Ministry of Justice’s freedom of information statistics. The response sets out a number of concerns about the quality of the statistics describing the delays by central government bodies in dealing with FOI requests.
Long delays by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in investigating Freedom of Information complaints are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act, according to a new report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information.
This short briefing on delays in investigating FOI complaints by the Information Commissioner’s Office was circulated to MPs in advance of a debate in the House of Commons on 24 November 2008. You can read the debate in Hansard.
The Campaign submitted written evidence to the Constitutional Affairs Committee’s inquiry Freedom of Information: one year on. A transcript of the Campaign’s oral evidence on 28 March 2006 is available here.
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.