Selection secrecy for FOI users group

The members of the Government’s FOI Users Group has only one independent representative of users, according to a document released to me under Freedom of Information.

I filed the request after the government department in charge of the FOI law (the Department for Constitutional Affairs) refused previous requests for the membership or selection procedure. The DCA’s ‘tap on the shoulder’ approach goes directly against stated commitments for more open and accountable government. There is something deeply suspicious about an FOI group whose members are handpicked by the very people the law is designed to monitor.

It also casts a shadow on the members. Firstly, there is only one representative of the public: Maurice Frankel made the list, but one suspects the Government knew that any shreds of credibility the group had would be lost in his exclusion. I also have concern about the press member. There are several national journalists who make great use of the FOI Act. None of these people were asked to join, instead the head of the Westminster press lobby was chosen. Unfortunately lobby journalists are too often dependent on the grace and favour of politicians and unlikely to upset the status quo.

To be chosen in secret for secretive reasons greatly diminishes this group’s legitimacy.

INFORMATION RIGHTS USER GROUP MEMBERSHIP

Chair
Baroness Ashton of Upholland – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Police sector
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Readhead – Hampshire Constabulary

MPs and Peers
Peter Bottomley MP – Member of the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee 2003-2005

Health sector
Adrian Pollitt – Head of the Office of Strategic Health Authorities

Local Government
Paul Bettison – Leader, Bracknell Forest Council

National Media
John Hipwood – Chairman of the Press Lobby

Academics
Professor Robert Hazell – UCL Constitution Unit

Information Law
Rosemary Jay – Pinsent Masons

Campaign groups
Maurice Frankel – Campaign for Freedom of Information

Business
Anthony Kenny – Intellect U.K

Enivornmental Information Regulations
Judith Cullen – DEFRA

Information Commissioner (as an observer)
Richard Thomas – Information Commissioner

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