Government’s FOI charging plans scrapped

The Government announced today that it will not push through its proposed changes to the FOI charging regulations. The Constitutional Affairs Committee sent out a press release this afternoon:

GOVERNMENT’S CLIMB-DOWN ON FOI FEES IS THE ONLY RIGHT MOVE, SAYS COMMITTEE

The Government today at 1230pm publishes its response to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee report on proposed changes to the fees charged to people and organizations seeking information under Freedom of Information legislation. The response is being published to coincide with a Government announcement on a “change in culture to make Government more open”.

Commenting on the Government’s response, Chairman of the Committee Rt Hon Alan Beith MP said: “Obviously we greatly welcome the fact that the Government has seen sense and accepted our position – and that of the many people and organisations who have made good use of freer access to information – and not changed the charging regime as they had planned. To go ahead with their proposed changes would have been a great mistake – as the expression goes; it wasn’t broke, don’t fix it.

“We are however disappointed that they have largely ignored our point about independently funding the Office of the Information Commissioner – can it be appropriate for the Ministry of Justice to set the funding levels for the independent regulator and thereby directly influence its capacity to investigate complaints? The Commissioner would be in a far stronger position if he became an Officer of Parliament, like the Ombudsman. I am sure that Parliament will want to return to the issue of independence.”

The Government’s response is published as a command paper that is part of a new consultation to make government more open (I’ll believe it when I see it). The policy paper is available on the Ministry of Justice website.
You can download the Committee’s first and follow-up reports on FOI .

2 Responses to “Government’s FOI charging plans scrapped”

  1. Veed says:

    Yes, but the matter doesn’t end there.
    If anything, the gov has found a way around. check this out http://www.newstatesman.com/200711010018

  2. REG HARGRAVE says:

    As you know I have an FoI hearing next week. Having got this far I am at a loss to understand why the appeal procedure is so clumsy and unwieldy especially for the layman such as myself. Why does the IC have to be involved in the procedure? The whole thing should be scrapped and replaced by a simple appeal mechanism whereby a dissatisfied person would be enabled to go directly to a tribunal with his/her appeal. There should be an entirely separate appeals procedure available for fat cats such as the Beeb which should be cost-effective. I have had to prepare my case without any financial help whilst the other parties – all three of them – are using legal services paid for out of the public purse. Is that equitable? Also, the idea of including the IC as a “respondent” is a total nonsense and disadvatages the lay appellant who is forced to deal with not one but two respondents. Why, I ask? Keep up the good work
    Reg

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