New Information Commissioner takes a supportive stance on FOI

Newly appointed Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, says that she intends to oppose the government’s suggestion to introduce fees for FOI appeals to the Information Rights Tribunal.

“Introducing new fees could potentially lead to a chill in requesters making use of the appeal process. From a high-level principle stance, I think having no charge for applicants is positive for the entire system," she said in an interview with the BBC.

However, she is generally pleased with the Burns Commission finding that the FOI Act is working well.

"I was concerned that it might lead to recommendations where individuals' FOI rights might be diminished," she says. "I didn't want to come into the UK in an environment where there were recommendations to dilute the very good law in place. I'm very, very pleased that report really was positive about how well FOI is working in the UK and that it was striking the right balance."

Denham is mindful of people in organisations subject to the FOI Act using their private email addresses to communicate sensitive information in order to avoid any future disclosure due to a FOI request. "People shouldn't be using private email accounts to conduct government business. If they do, legally it's subject to FOI - however, it frustrates the purposes of FOI from a search perspective."

and PL&B UK Report, May 2016, p.1 on her pre-appointment interview at the House of Commons which included some of the above issues.