Campaign for Freedom of Information: FOI Act operates too slowly to contribute to the Brexit debate

The Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, has submitted a witness statement to the High Court supporting an attempt to use the common law and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) instead of the FOIA to obtain government studies on Brexit. The statement says the FOI process is too slow to obtain them in time to inform public debate before the Brexit deadline, in March 2019.

In a 2014 decision, the Supreme Court highlighted the fact that public authorities have a common law power to release information which does not depend on the FOIA and can be enforced by judicial review (Kennedy v Charity Commission [2014] UKSC 20).

The government ministers have refused to release studies on the economic impact of Brexit. Frankel’s witness statement documents the delays that frequently affect FOI requests.
A request on a contentious issue such as Brexit is certain to be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal and possibly beyond, the Campaign says. The average time from the date of the original request to the date of the FTT’s decision in the cases surveyed by the Campaign was 467 working days (approximately 1 year and 10 months).