» Thursday, December 14, 2006

Freedom of Information

He was asked if it would have been better for Lord Falconer to have organised a consultation about how the Act was working rather than to publish a draft proposal to extend the £600 limit for dealing with requests for consultation. Mr Straw said he had listened to a news item about the BBC on the issue earlier today with a wry smile. He said the BBC was a public authority and it had been rather less forthcoming on requests to it than Government departments had been on requests to them under FOI.

The Leader said that the BBC, as a public authority under the Act, exercised its rights under FOI to refuse information. On the merits of the case, the Government had made a concession when the legislation had been about to come into force at the beginning of 2005. There was provision for fees to be charged for applications. He pointed out that, if an individual wanted to find out information about oneself, a fee would have to be paid. If someone wanted to find out information about another person, no fee was payable. The Government had said at the time that the operation of the Act would be given a fair wind, but would then have to examine whether it was doing so effectively. The Leader said the truth was that the FOI Act was producing a sea change in attitudes to openness. He added that the changes being proposed by the Lord Chancellor, which were now open to consultation, were very minor. Mr Straw said that there had to be a balance between dealing with enquiries, particularly of a multiple nature, and getting on with the delivery of services. Such enquiries could be very time-consuming.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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