Update: The FOI Commission has gone back on its decision to use anonymous sources in its final report.

Lord Burns, the chairman of the Commission, wrote a letter, in full here, which said: 

But having considered your letter, we have concluded that the sentence is unnecessary and we will remove it. The Commission intends to publish the evidence it receives, except where the contributor asks for anonymity and it is appropriate in the circumstances to grant it.

I hope this provides the reassurance you are seeking. I am happy for this reply to be published, if you wish to do so.

The Independent Commission on Freedom of Information has added another clip to its showreel of deleted scenes from Yes Minister.

The Commission’s latest #nottheonion moment has come with the admission that it might quote anonymous sources in its final report.

That’s anonymous sources, in a report about government transparency.

It’s consultation – which closes on 20 November – says: “Contributions to the consultation will be anonymised if they are quoted”.

It’s highly likely that individuals submitting evidence to the Commission would be keen to have their views published, if they were asked.

However, the Campaign for Freedom of Information has said that anonymous sources would allow public authorities who oppose the transparency the Act gives to hide their views.

“If the Commission cannot recognise the need for openness in its own report there is little chance of it appreciating the value of the FOI Act in promoting greater openness elsewhere,” said the Campaign’s Maurice Frankel, who has to the Committee’s chair Lord Burns asking him to reconsider.

It’s not the first time that the Commission has looked like a satirical creation either.

Shortly after its establishment ministers rushed to clarify that the panel looking at how Freedom of Information works would not be subject to Freedom of Information.

It was followed by an anonymous spokesperson for the Commission refusing to be named while saying that the review would be as open as possible.

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.