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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

“Deeply disappointing” information bill “weaker than Conservatives’ openness code”

The Campaign for Freedom of Information said it was deeply disappointed by the government’s draft Freedom of Information (FoI) bill published today. [1]  “This is not just a major retreat from the government’s own white paper. In key areas the bill is weaker than the openness code introduced by the Conservatives” it said.

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1996 Freedom of Information Awards

People who have fought to overcome official secrecy are recognised by the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s annual Awards, presented on the evening of February 12. This year’s Awards are presented by the former Transport Minister Steven Norris MP, who before becoming a minister was a co-chairman of the Campaign.

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“Unacceptable commercial exploitation” of Hansard and Statutes denies the public Internet access

The public is being denied access to Hansard and to Britain’s laws on the Internet because of HMSO’s policy of commercially exploiting Crown and Parliamentary copyright, says the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The Campaign wants HMSO to waive this “unacceptable” restriction and permit free on-line access to these essential materials And it warns that the proposed privatisation of HMSO is likely to increase the commercialisation of official information.

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1993 Freedom of Information Awards

The contributions of people who have fought for greater openness are recognised by the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s annual Awards, on January 20. This year’s Awards are presented by Michael Grade, Chief Executive of Channel Four Television.

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