An online petition I signed against restricting the FOI Act has just received a formal response from Government. You can see details of the petition and the response here:
Freeinformation - epetition reply
28 February 2007
We received a petition asking:
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Reject the restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act proposed by the Department of Constitutional Affairs."
Details of petition:
"The proposed changes will restrict the number of requests individuals and organisations can make, and allow Government Department to include 'reading time' in fees calculations, greatly increasing the scope for obstruction of legitimate requests. As the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee concluded, there is no need to change the existing fees regime. Indeed, the cost of the Freedom of Information Act is less than was originally projected by the Government, and the transparency provided by the Act can only benefit efficient government."
The Government's response
The Government recognises the importance of public participation and understanding of the functions of Government. The intention of the changes proposed is not to hinder legitimate requests for information or to reduce the effectiveness of the Act. An independent review commissioned by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs to look at the impact of the Freedom of Information Act showed that a small minority of requests and a small minority of requestors account for disproportionate amounts of the cost of answering FOI requests. The proposals are designed to address this issue and to ensure public authorities can balance access to information for all with the delivery of other public services.
On 14 December 2006 the Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, opened a public consultation on the draft fee regulations. The Government is keen to engage as many stakeholders aspossible in this consultation. The consultation paper is available at: http://www.dca.gov.uk/consult/dpr2007/cp2806.htm. Responses should be sent by 8 March 2007 to: Department for Constitutional Affairs, Information Rights Division, 6.16 Selborne House, 54-60 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QW email:mailto:email@example.com