The Campaign for Freedom of Information have announced action to combat the Government’s proposals to change and limit the FOI act.
At a briefing in central London attended by campaigners, journalists and FOI professionals yesterday it was announced there would be multiple steps to lobby the government on their proposed changes to the act.
The proposals announced by the Government last year include various attempts to reduce the “burdens” of the FOI act and its overall cost to public authorities who are bound by the act. These include reducing the amount of requests “industrial” users make, as well as including “thinking time” in the responses to requests.
Maurice Frankel from the Campaign announced that it would be doing all it could to protect the FOI act from changes. He said that if any one of the proposals were implemented it would have a detrimental impact of those requesting information. If more than one proposal were to be implemented then the act could be seriously damaged.
He said the proposals were more limiting and severe than those made by the previous Blair government.
In response to the plans Frankel announced the following steps to challenge their implementation:
- An online petition to show the opposition to the changes.
- MPs creating an Early Day Motion (EDM) to Parliament.
- Writing to MPs for their support
- Supporters lobby MPs as well as raising awareness of the proposed changes and their damaging potential.
Justice Minister Helen Grant, who spoke on behalf of the Government at a recent debate into the proposals, said they will try to implant the proposals without delay. However, it is hoped consultations will be held into the changes giving supporters the chance to have their say.
Frankel warned that without putting a definitive timescale on the introducing the proposals the Government may want to rush them through as soon as possible and are unlikely to drop the plans since they have made a large deal out of publicising them.
More than 30 people from various national organisations attended the briefing to hear what the Campaign had to say.
Other important blogs to read on the Campaign’s briefing:
- Paul Gibbons, @FOIManUK, has succinctly blogged on the finer points of the proposed policy changes and how recent decisions on vexatious requests could be as effective as introducing changes to the Act.
- David Higgerson has blogged on how the proposed changes would incentivise inefficiency in responding to Freedom of Information requests.