The government apparently advised public bodies how to evade Freedom of Information (FoI) questions relating to preparations for a no-deal Brexit, according to a leaked document. It said bodies should “neither confirm nor deny” having plans in place, because one organisation giving information could undermine government negotiations.
Note: there are “qualified exemptions” to the FoI act that mean information may not have to be released. This will be on a case-by-case judgment and if appealed, the Information Commissioner may or may not agree.
What sort of stories get uncovered using the Freedom of Information law? Helpfully, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus wrote a story about the stories it covered using FoI, as part of its review of the year. Read it here.
The requirement to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act has been extended to the Housing Ombudsman, the Surveillance Camera Commission and several other bodies. See the full list of new entries here (scroll down a short way).
For information about all types of organisation subject to the act, click on the FoI wiki.
A reporter’s battle to see the diary of former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley went all the way to the Court of Appeal – which ordered the government to reveal nearly all of it. It covered the period when the minister was working on a major shake-up of the NHS. The case highlights several reasons why Freedom of Information is considered important to journalism and the public interest. Read more
The government promised to make no changes to Freedom of Information law after a review found it was working well. Journalists mounted a campaign against feared restrictions; top universities and local government complained that it was too big a burden. Read more
Talk of reining-in Britain’s Freedom of Information laws has met with a fierce reaction. Critics say they encourage lazy journalism but the counter argument is that they allow the media to uncover information that deserves to be in the public domain. Local authorities complain about the cost. Some key links:
The Audit Commission Act was used to uncover massive council spending to try to fend of a BBC investigation. The act requires councils to open their finances for public examination for four weeks per year (Press Gazette, September 2014). Read more