Given the subject is Freedom of Information it seems appropriate I publish my response to the current government consultation on FOI here. I also strongly recommend you take part. FOI is an essential weave in the democratic fabric. 38 Degrees has made it really easy to respond here.
Why do you think Freedom of Information should be protected?
FOI leads to better governance and better outcomes for citizens and businesses.
How do you think government transparency could be improved?
FOI should cover all companies providing government services
Question 1: What protection should there be for information relating to the internal deliberations of public bodies? For how long after a decision does such information remain sensitive? Should different protections apply to different kinds of information that are currently protected by sections 35 and 36? (Note: ‘Sections 35 and 36’ of the Act cover policy formulation, communications between ministers, and information that would affect the free and frank giving of advice or expression of views.)
as the software industry has shown open source is a more effective management and production mechanism. we make better management and technical decisions in the open.
Question 2: What protection should there be for information which relates to the process of collective Cabinet discussion and agreement? Is this information entitled to the same or greater protection than that afforded to other internal deliberative information? For how long should such material be protected?
cabinet discussions are part of government decision making and as such should be covered by FOI
Question 3: What protection should there be for information which involves candid assessment of risks? For how long does such information remain sensitive?
being open allows the public to buy in and feel more ownership of major infrastructure projects, which can only be a good thing
Question 4: Should the executive have a veto (subject to judicial review) over the release of information? If so, how should this operate and what safeguards are required? If not, what implications does this have for the rest of the Act, and how could government protect sensitive information from disclosure instead?
the NHS example is salutary. if government is serious about reform it needs to be serious about transparency, giving decisions affect our health and lives
Question 5: What is the appropriate enforcement and appeal system for freedom of information requests?
of course decisions to be defensible.
Question 6: Is the burden imposed on public authorities under the Act justified by the public interest in the public’s right to know? Or are controls needed to reduce the burden of FoI on public authorities? If controls are justified, should these be targeted at the kinds of requests which impose a disproportionate burden on public authorities? Which kinds of requests do impose a disproportionate burden?
FOI should not only be a tool for people with money. it should be free at the point of use, even if it does involve overheads