Defend Freedom of Information - Campaign for Freedom of Information briefing

17/02/13 Reverse order Timestamp format


  1. Hello and welcome to the live blog. The briefing from the Campaign for Freedom of Information into the future of the act begins at 2pm, I'll be updating from then.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  2. Until then, here's a little background to today's event.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  3. In 2012 post-legislative scrutiny into the Freedom of Information act was undertaken by the Justice Select Committee. They heard from professionals working in FOI, journalists, MPs, and everyone interested the act.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  4. As a result, the committee who scrutinised the act published their findings and recommendations.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  5. Towards the end of last year the Government issued its response to the committee's proposals. In short it didn't agree with a lot of them.

    For a breakdown of the disagreements see this post: http://foidirectory.co.uk/cost-limit-of-freedom-of-information-requests-may-be-reduced-government-responds-to-review-of-foi-act/

    MB Matthew Burgess
  6. During January the government held a debate into the proposals to change the Freedom of Information Act.

    Their plans are basically to reduce the amount they spend on FOI:

    This will be achieved by adding 'thinking time' into the amount of time considered when responding to a request.

    Putting a limit on the number of requests 'industrial' users of the act can make. There are fears this will stop journalists and newspapers using the act.

    A summary of the debate and plans can be found here:

    FOI Directory @FOIdirectory
    'Burdens' placed on public authorities by FOI need to be reduced. Round-up of yesterday's #FOI debate  http://ow.ly/h6MIf 
    MB Matthew Burgess
  7. These plans are being opposed by campaigners, some journalists, and those interested in the act including the Campaign for Freedom of Information who have organised today's briefing into what can be done to change the government's mind.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  8. So, that's briefly how we have got to this stage.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  9. Made it to the Campaign briefing. Will continue liveblog now (from mobile).

    MB Matthew Burgess
  10. Maurice Frankel is givin the audience a breakdown of the government's response to the scrutiny into the act.

    We're starting with the highlights.

    The main one being that the act has achieved it's core aims.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  11. Policy discussions are currently being discussed and the government veto which has been used to block the publication of Prince Charles' letters to ministers.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  12. There's a strong turn out here with journalists, FOI professionals and other interested parties in attendance.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  13. The campaign's director Maurice is now going through what the government rejected to do following scrutiny. The key fact is statutory time limits for FOI extensions and internal reviews.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  14. Maurice outlines the intended new exemption for Univerisites to protect research.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  15. The burdens of "disproportionate burdens" and the "industrial" users of the act.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  16. To reduce the burden Maurice says the time spent finding the information for a request with a lot of data, such as requests into the information held about deceased murders, such as the Wests.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  17. It's all about the consideration time of requests for Freedom of Information officers. By including the thinking time the amount of requests answered will be reduced.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  18. We're most concerned about issues that are new and could be time consuming, "it may be possible for authorities to refuse requests like that on administrative grounds"

    MB Matthew Burgess
  19. The campaign say consideration time would be open to manipulation. So officers could avoid requests that would be damaging to their authority.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  20. We've moved on to unrelated requests by one person to an individual authority. Maurice says one or two requests could reach the cost limits quickly I requests are aggregated.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  21. Maurice says the government are also simply talking about reducing the cost limit of the act.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  22. The other worry of the campaign is the potential introduction of tribunal fees. This will lead to the "valid appeals" ring deterred.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  23. These are headline proposals Maurice says but gov want to push them trough quickly.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  24. One of the fears asks if changes will be brought in by primary legislation.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  25. The answer is no most of it will be done by regulation and secondary legislation.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  26. More questions coming from the floor on vexatious and obsessive requests.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  27. The campaign believes all of the proposals will seriously damage the act, even one will cause disruption.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  28. Comparisons between the UK and Scotland act are being made. Scotland have it a little better Maurice says, but not a lot.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  29. We're starting to talk about what can be done now to protect the act.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  30. Maurice: Michael Gove isn't happy abou private emails. Well, I guess he wouldn't be.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  31. There will be a petition into protecting the #FOI act, motions to parliament proposed, and asking people to write to MPs, @CampaignFoI say.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  32. The campaign will be urging people to write to their MPs. As they say the government will look into introducing proposals since they have made a big deal out of it.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  33. Maurice says different proposals will have different incentives and momentum.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  34. Some MPs will be targeted to submit an Early Day Motion to parliament to proposing to change the proposals.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  35. We have the first mention if open data. It was always coming.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  36. One speaker says at least 10 civil servants are involved in each request to central government. Sometimes up to 30 on complicated issues.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  37. The campaign are going to circulate issues to members and help to promote ways the FOI act can be defended.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  38. As more concrete evidence comes forward the campaign will increase its activity.

    MB Matthew Burgess
  39. We're wrapping up here at the briefing.

    MB Matthew Burgess