The results of the Freedom of Information (FoI) consultation are now public. Contrary to initial proposals, and in line with ORG's position, FoI regulations will not be modified to discourage applications. Equally encouraging are three newly announced inquiries, all touted to 'make Government more open'.
As you may remember from our collaborative drafting process, proposals would have blocked many of the more politically sensitive FoI requests on the grounds of cost. Along with the majority of other respondents, we argued that penny pinching was contrary to the spirit of the legislation. Due in part at least to this public pressure the Government have been forced to listen, and cool off on these proposals.
In the very same announcement, Michael Wills MP also spoke of 3 separate moves toward a new culture of 'openness' in Government. First, they will review the '30-year-rule', which is the period after which government records become historical and are handed over to the The National Archives. Of more interest to ORG, is a review of 'the way we share and protect personal information in the public and private sector', to be led by representatives of the Information Commissioner's Office and the Wellcome Trust. Last but certainly not least, is a consultation on extending the application of FoI regulations to include 'a range of organisations that perform public functions' i.e. private contractors doing government works. Watch this space for regular updates on each of these issues.
The last one is particularly interesting. ORG would have used these kind of powers in our recent e-voting campaign, when some of our FoI applications were turned down on the grounds of commercial confidentiality because the materials were held by private firms.