UK Panel Holds Two Hearings on FOIA Reform

2 March 2012

A British parliamentary committee on Feb. 28 held a second public hearing on possible changes to the Freedom of Information Act.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information gave oral evidence at the first  Justice Select Committee’s  first evidence session along with WhatDoTheyKnow and Unlock Democracy.  Journalists predominated at the second session.

In another UK development, information commissioner Christopher Graham said that the education secretary must disclose the contents of  personal e-mail account under the name of “Mrs. Blurt” that he used to discuss official business. The secretary could appeal the decision. See Guardian account.

The commissioner said he had not ruled on whether the actions were deliberate. He also said: “We are not disclosing the detailed findings and recommendations on the grounds that this would undermine the effectiveness of the ICO’s open and honest engagement with the DfE and other public authorities.”

Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, has spoken out against reform proposals, The Guardian has reported.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information submitted written evidence.

The Campaign described “some areas where the FOI Act and Environmental Information Regulations are not working as well as they should.” It suggested more specific time limits for responding to requests and dealing with internal reviews and the lifting of some absolute exemptions. The submission also addressed the contracting out of public authority functions to bodies which are not subject to the Act. It responded to suggestions for amending the law to protect cabinet papers, introduce new fees or make it easier for public authorities to refuse requests on cost grounds.

Submissions made to the Justice Select Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of FOI are available in the “resources” section on the Save FOI website.

For an account of the hearing see FOI Man blog.

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