The Commission reviewing the Freedom of Information Act is worried about its public perception. 

The five-person panel has concerns that it may not be being seen as an objective and independent review in the eyes of the public, minutes from the committee’s meetings show.

More than six months after it was formed the Independent Panel on Freedom of Information has decided to publish the minutes of its meetings.

In the most recent meeting, held at the beginning of November, the group said it needed a more aggressive press strategy to counter claims it was not looking the developments of the FOI Act fairly.

“General discussion followed about engagement to date with key stakeholders, and the Commission acknowledged that more could be done to assure interested parties that the Commission is taking a fair and evidence based approach to its task,” the minutes from the meeting said.

The minutes also showed that the Cabinet Office’s head of communications Poli Stuart-Lacey is providing “independent” public relations for the Commission.

In the same meeting — the fourth gathering of the Commission — the members decided that the minutes should be published, as well as minutes from the meetings of the review’s chair Lord Burns’.

Since the Commission was launched in July it has been heavily criticised by campaign groups and members of the press.

140 campaigning groups sent an open letter to the Commission saying it should include members who have a track record of promoting transparency and openness.

Members of the Commission, including Jack Straw, have previously said that the FOI Act is not fit for purpose and should be watered down to better protect the decisions of ministers.

No minutes have been published since the call for evidence closed and received 30,000 submissions.  

The full minutes and published documents of the Commission can be found here. 

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.