Longer online version; see re-sub-edited PDF

New Information Commissioner in post

THE NEW Information Commissioner John Edwards flew in from New Zealand to take up his post as the UK's new Information Commissioner in January. He was previously Privacy Commissioner of that country.

Statements made by Edwards in his pre-appointment hearing before a Parliamentary Committee caused concern. He referred to the "extraordinary administrative burden" of some Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and felt it was "legitimate to ask a requester to meet the cost of some of that administration".

His enthusiasm for expanding FOIA to cover more organisations seemed lacking. On the subject of the many private bodies that provide contract services to UK Government he has told Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: "I suppose extending FOI to cover these organisations would be one option."

Edwards may have been referencing his experiences in New Zealand, whose Freedom of Information Act allows much broader questions than the UK's. His record as Privacy Commissioner in New Zealand has generally been considered good. Back in 2011 he appeared to argue for the disclosure of policy advice - which is exempt from FOIA requests in UK law.

See here for the NUJ's Freedom of Information campaign on the Cabinet Office's Clearing House, which advises government Departments on how to respond the FOIA requests, apparently including advising on how to obstruct or ignore these.