18 July 2015

FOI Commission in UK

A Hawke Review on steroids?

The UK Government has announced a Commission on Freedom of Information to review the FOI regime.

The statement to parliament indicates
We fully support the Freedom of Information Act but after more than a decade in operation it is time that the process is reviewed, to make sure it’s working effectively. The government has therefore today established an independent, cross-party Commission on Freedom of Information.
The Commission’s terms of reference are as follows:
The Commission will review the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’) to consider whether there is an appropriate public interest balance between transparency, accountability and the need for sensitive information to have robust protection, and whether the operation of the Act adequately recognises the need for a ‘safe space’ for policy development and implementation and frank advice.
The Commission may also consider the balance between the need to maintain public access to information, and the burden of the Act on public authorities, and whether change is needed to moderate that while maintaining public access to information.
The Commission will be chaired by Lord Burns, and will comprise the Rt Hon Jack Straw, Lord Howard of Lympne, Lord Carlile of Berriew and Dame Patricia Hodgson.
The Commission will report to the Minister for the Cabinet Office and will publish its findings by the end of November.
The statement features the usual rhetoric, with the Government claiming "We are committed to being the most transparent government in the world".
Our next Open Government National Action Plan will develop an offer on transparency that further strengthens this government’s commitment to open government. Our aim is to be as open as possible on the substance, consistent with ensuring that a private space is protected for frank advice. To that end as a government we must maintain the best environment for policy-makers to think freely and offer frank advice to decision-makers. The most effective system is when policy makers can freely give advice, whilst citizens can shine a light into government.