A major attack on the public’s right to information is likely following the government’s announcement today of a new Commission to review the Freedom of Information Act, according to the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The Commission has been asked to consider whether new measures are needed to protect the government’s internal discussions from disclosure and to reduce the ‘burden’ of the FOI Act.
The Campaign has published this briefing explaining how the Information Commissioner and Tribunal have protected the ‘safe space’ and genuinely frank discussions from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information welcomed today’s Court of Appeal ruling overturning the government’s veto of an Upper Tribunal decision ordering the release of Prince Charles’ correspondence with ministers. The Guardian had applied for the correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act. The Upper Tribunal, which deals with high level FOI appeals, had ordered disclosure, but the Attorney General had vetoed the tribunal’s decision.
A short submission to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) on an aspect of the FOI Act’s public interest test. The submission argues that the public interest test can include the potential benefit from disclosure to the public in countries other than the UK and is not limited to the benefits to the UK public only, as the Information Commissioner has argued.
A version of this article by the Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, appeared in Press Gazette on 2 May 2008.
In the past, officials’ advice to ministers, and the discussions leading to it, have been confidential. You could see it after 30 years, but not before. The Freedom of Information Act has shattered that convention.
Response to the review of the 30 year rule that was set up by the Prime Minister. The response summarises the 7 Information Tribunal decisions to date dealing with advice or internal discussion and points out that in almost every case the Tribunal has held that disclosure should have taken place at the time of the request, a few years or months after the decision. It says that this material should now be proactively released after 15 years, though if necessary, the reduction could be brought in in two stages, starting with 20 years initially. This change would also mean that these exemptions could no longer be used to withhold information under the FOI Act once it was 15 (or 20) years old.
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.
A version of this article by Maurice Frankel appeared in Press Gazette on 17 December 2004
After a four year delay to allow public authorities to prepare, the Freedom of Information Act finally comes into force on January 1st. It should provide journalists with a valuable tool for looking behind the gloss and spin at the actual documents in authorities’ files. Some authorities accept that they will have to adopt a more open stance and are likely to respond positively to press requests for information. Others will carry on as before, until forced to do otherwise.
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).