FOIMan highlights the arrival of freedom of information to the Isle of Man.
Monday, 1 February, is a big day for a small country in the British Isles. The Isle of Man’s Freedom of Information Act received Royal Assent last year and the first requests under it will be made on Monday. At first only the Cabinet Office and the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) will have a duty to respond to them, but by January 2018 all public bodies on the Island will have to do so.
Unless you are one of the 85,000 or so who live on the Island you won’t be able to make requests – one of the mechanisms designed to prevent FOI disrupting the provision of services by a relatively small public service. But Islanders will for the first time have a statutory right to information, and existing openness provisions, including the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which was introduced in 1996, will remain in place.
Despite the fact that most of us won’t directly benefit from this new right of access, any new piece of FOI legislation is a cause for celebration, and the Isle of Man’s law contains some interesting innovations which I’ll be examining in a forthcoming article. Whilst the FOI Commission continues to scrutinise the UK Act, it is interesting to look at how other jurisdictions tackle the concerns (however reasonable or otherwise we may consider them) that the Government here has raised. The very existence of the FOI Commission has influenced debate in the Isle of Man and no doubt elsewhere.
I’ve provided some assistance to the Isle of Man Government culminating most recently in the delivery of training to Cabinet Office and DEFA staff. Earlier this week I was asked to take part in briefings to the Island’s media and you can hear Manx Radio and 3FM‘s reports, and watch an interview with me for Manx.net to get a sense of what FOI might mean for the Isle of Man.