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Freedom of information trumps restriction of access

The constitutional affairs select committee has declared that the Governments plans to limit FOI requests (including bundling multiple requests from the same group / company together and regarding them as a single ‘request’, regardless of the information requested) has not got enough basis, and on that grounds, there is no support for changing the current charging and handling regime.

Quote from summary page:

“The Government has not shown that it adequately reviewed whether the existing charging regime balanced public access rights with the needs of public authorities to deliver services effectively, before deciding to restrict public access rights further;

• We have not received sufficient evidence to support the need to change access rights in the way proposed;

• The cost-benefit analysis prepared by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) to support the proposed regime is insufficient;

• We have not received any evidence to show that the new charging regime would be transparent and subject to adequate review, nor how such a review process would operate; the proposed regime could result in public authorities avoiding answers to embarrassing, contentious or high-profile cases as the number of internal consultees rises in proportion to the sensitivity of particular requests; and

• The Ministry of Justice should now focus on improving compliance with the existing provisions of the FOI Act and on reducing the delays encountered by requesters seeking information. Any future proposed changes to the charging regime must be supported by a firm evidence base and take proper account of the impact they would have on the benefits which the public derive from FOI.”

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