Evidence to the FOI Commission

FOIMan publishes his evidence to the FOI Commission.

Friday was the deadline for submissions in response to the FOI Commission’s call for evidence. If Twitter last week was any indication, then vast numbers contributed. However, it wasn’t just the volume of contributions that impressed. My hope is that the Commission is equally affected by the tremendous effort and scholarship that was on display.

Perhaps less impressive is my own contribution – the call for evidence happened at my busiest time, which I’m afraid limited what I was able to contribute. However, in the interests of transparency you can read it here.

In summary, my submission argues:

1. No new protection is required for internal deliberations.

2. Similarly no new protection is required for collective Cabinet discussion…

3. …or for assessment of risks, come to that.

4. In principle, I’m against the veto – but if the veto for a handful of cases is the price of preserving openness more generally, I can accept that price.

5. One of my biggest concerns would be any watering down of the existing enforcement and appeal mechanisms under FOI. Not only do I believe that it will slow down and possibly reverse moves towards transparency more generally, but I also think it would be like sending FOI Officers and others responsible for encouraging compliance out to bat with a bail.

6. As previously argued here, I believe that any burden that FOI places on public authorities needs to be considered in comparison to other expenditure, and needs to acknowledge its benefits. In particular I would be concerned if a standard charge was introduced for FOI requests due to its impact on accountability and accessibility.

We’ll have to wait and see what the Commission has to say about our evidence when it reports – possibly as soon as next month.

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