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
Justice minister, Simon Hughes, today confirmed there would be two significant consultations on the Freedom of Information Act this year:
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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 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.