Freedom of Information to stay - or grow
FREEDOM of Information legislation will not be crippled by
charges and restrictions on queries, the UK government's Ministry of Justice
announced on 25 October.
This was the outcome of a "supplementary consultation" on the
proposals, held after the drafters of the initial consultation forgot to
ask whether restrictions were needed at all. The "supplementary
consultation" received 324 responses, 118 of them from public bodies.
Unsurprisingly, 69 of those from public bodies were in favour of curbs - and
only 2 of the 206 from media; lobbies (including the NUJ); and individuals supported restrictions.
The Ministry on the same day announced another consultation, on whether
to extend the application of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
to cover "organisations that carry out functions of a public nature and...
contractors who provide services which are a function of that public authority".
That could include Public Finance Initiative (PFI) contractors and other organs
of privatisation of public services such as prisons - and also to charities,
inasmuch as they carry out "functions of a public nature".
The new consultation asks for opinions on options ranging from a voluntary
code of practice for such bodies to the Minister adding them to Schedule 5 of
the 2000 Act (which is currently an empty list). It asks for nominations
for particular bodies that should be covered.
- The Maclean Bill to exempt Parliament from Freedom of Information appears certain to have died, with no member of the House of Lords sponsoring it for a debate there before the end of the Parliamentary term.