Proposed FOI restrictions face opposition

According to the Campaign for Freedom of Information, the government is still considering a series of proposals to make it easier for public authorities to refuse FOI requests on cost grounds. While requests can be refused if the cost of responding exceeds certain limits, the government says that the changes are intended to address the “disproportionate burdens” caused by requesters who make “industrial use” of the FOI Act. The government is also proposing to reduce the cost limits from £600/£450 to some lower figures. The Campaign says that this cannot be regarded as a measure to deal with disproportionately burdensome requests. The cost limit is an absolute bar to disclosure based solely on the number of hours of work involved, and takes no account of the public interest in disclosure, however compelling.

76 campaign groups, charities and press bodies have now written to the prime minister urging him to drop these proposals. They say that the proposals are not compatible with the prime minister’s stated aim of making the UK “the most open and transparent government in the world”, and that “the proposals would restrict access by all users, including those making occasional requests of modest scope.”

An international summit is being held in London on 31 October and 1 November 2013 on Open Government Partnership, involving governments and civil society organisations from over 60 countries.

Read more about the FOI proposals