Call this freedom of information?

Today’s Independent assesses how the government has answered, or more accurately refused, a slew of FOI requests.

02 February 2005
Is this freedom of information?
One month into the Government’s ‘new era of openness’, outrage grows at a catalogue of obfuscation and evasion in answer to requests for disclosure.

Leader: You may ask questions – but the Government still has the freedom not to answer them
The worst fears about the effectiveness of the Government’s Freedom of Information Act have been confirmed.

Government attacked for ‘hypocritical’ attitude to Freedom of Information Act
By Robert Verkaik and Marie Woolf

Ministers’ promises to usher in a new age of freedom of information have failed to materialise, with scores of requests to open the Government to public scrutiny being rejected.

About 4,000 requests have been received across central government since the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act on 1 January. But MPs and journalists expressed frustration at the lack of positive responses to their requests amid claims that the Government has breached its own legislation by failing to meet the Freedom of Information Act’s statutory deadline.

Scores of requests have been refused and some departments have been using stock replies to deny access to information, issuing refusal letters to different people using identical wording.

Of the 70 inquiries made by The Independent only 10 have been successful. Almost half were turned down flat; the remainder are still awaiting reply.

In two of the replies the Government conceded that it had breached its own legislation by failing to meet the deadline of 20 working days that expired yesterday. Ministers also admitted they had no idea how many of the 362 requests made on the first day the legislation came into force had been answered. Yet, in 2000, Labour postponed the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act by four years to give government departments and 100,000 public bodies more time to prepare for the new right of access.

Read the rest of the article here.

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