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.
Last modified: 28 Oct 2007 - © 2007 contributors
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