ARTICLE 19 welcomes the announcement of UK Government’s commitment not to revise the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), following the release of the report of the Commission on Freedom of Information.
The Commission, which has been the subject of considerable controversy since its inception in 2015, made 21 recommendations. The Cabinet Office responded to the report stating that it was not prepared to propose any new legislation revising the Act and instead committed to making some minor improvements concerning the publication of statistics, and senior executives’ pay and expenses, alongside improved guidance. However, it did not rule out future legislation in some areas.
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, commented “The Freedom of Information Act has been a leading force in holding the Government to account and a shining example of transparency for countries around the world. Now it is time for the government to focus on improving implementation so that the peoples’ right to information is effective so that the British public can make full use of their right to information”
The Commission’s 60 page report included a number of positive recommendations on improving proactive publication of information, limiting delays and extending the act to private sector contractors.
However, the report also includes many controversial recommendations of which ARTICLE 19 would urge against implementation, including enhancing the Government’s power to veto the release of information, eliminating the First Tier Tribunal which reviews decisions of the Information Commissioner, and expanding the exemptions that allow officials to deliberate in secret.
The Commission received over 30,000 responses to the consultation, mostly calling for extending the Act, rather than limiting it.