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Tell Parliament about Freedom of Information obstruction


Official portrait of Michael Gove, the government Minister responsible for the Clearing House

THE UK Parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into the "Clearing House" processing of Freedom of Information requests. It will focus on how the Cabinet Office body handles requests, the measures used to do so, and whether this complies with the Freedom of Information Act. It will not be investigating the Act itself.

As this House of Commons Select Committee's secretariat points out, a court judgment in April demanded that the government release of information on the Clearing House, citing a "profound lack of transparency about the operation". OpenDemocracy, which brought the case, accused the body of obstructing access to information that people are entitled to seek under the Freedom of Information (FoI) rules. During previous questioning by the Committee, Cabinet Secrerary Michael Gove defended the Clearing House, stating that it is there to ensure consistency across Government in complying with the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Act, anyone can request information from a public authority. It also includes clauses that allow those authorities to refuse to release information where the cost of complying is above a pre-set threshold.

The Committee is calling for anyone with information on the issue to submit their evidence to the inquiry by Thursday 30 September 2021 at 5pm.

Committee Chair William Wragg says: "The perceived opacity of how the FoI Clearing House operates has the potential to damage trust in governance and transparency legislation. As a matter of trust, we felt it is something that must be addressed at the earliest opportunity."

Terms of Reference

The Committee will be taking written submissions on its inquiry site until Thursday 30 September 2021, addressing the following issues:

  • The Cabinet Office’s compliance with and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2020; and
  • the rôle and operation of the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House including:
    • Its handling of the cases that come to it; and
    • Its role in advising on and coordination of the handling of Freedom of Information cases across Government.

See the link below to submit your experiences of FoI and the Clearing House and do please copy us in on your submission.