Freedom of Information petition

by admin on November 27, 2006

in Tax and Ethics

Alex Hawkes reports on plans to restrict the Freedom of Information Act:

It can reject claims if they are too expensive to answer, and it proposes to include ‘reading time’ in that figure.

WTF? Who will determine ‘too expensive?’ If you think this is an unwelcome restriction on your rights to obtain information, then Alex kindly points to a petition you can sign. The wording is:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Reject the restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act proposed by the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

In the details, petition creator and journalist Tom Griffin argues:

The proposed changes will restrict the number of requests individuals and organisations can make, and allow Government Department to include ‘reading time’ in fees calculations, greatly increasing the scope for obstruction of legitimate requests. As the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee concluded, there is no need to change the existing fees regime. Indeed, the cost of the Freedom of Information Act is less than was originally projected by the Government, and the transparency provided by the Act can only benefit efficient government.

Tom has provided plenty of useful information on this topic. It may not be directly related to your topic area but Tom’s experience should be seen as a proxy to other things. From a practitioner’s perspective, any restrictions are a disaster. Now more than at anytime, I believe the UK profession needs the comfort of as much open-ness as it can get from government. FIA might even be a crack in the door so to speak in the quest for less confrontation between professionals and government departments.

I’d invite all you PR types who like to comment on political issues to spread this one because like it or not, it affects you as well. If information is restricted then it affects all our ability to understand and foster relationships with key government departments.

While you’re at the site, check out this petition:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to set up a website to allow the public to collaborate on policy formulation.

Jonathan Taylor, creator of the second petition says:

Can the Wikipedia model be exploited by government? As a collective, we the public may be able to come up with useful bright ideas, when compared to those people who look at policy issues every day and who sometimes can’t see the wood for the trees.

I’ve signed both but I must confess to using a ruse. I used my old UK street address. The reason I did that is because the ex-pat option doesn’t seem to work. It seems to be restricted to HM Forces and Crown Dependencies. There is a category simply called Expatriate but I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe I’m thick today?

Now tell me there’s no such thing as progressive thinking among the citizenry of the UK?

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Stuart Bruce December 5, 2006 at 3:49 pm

I'm slow with my comment, but was ahead of you in lobbying against this change. I blogged about it back in October and have raised it personally with several MPs (including persuading one to do some work on it).
http://www.stuartbruce.biz/2006/10/keep_freedom_o…

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