Since then the legislation has been reconsidered. And supported.
At the beginning of the year the coalition announced plans to widen the scope of the Freedom of Information act, thus making more public bodies answerable to the act and bringing in measures to make information more accessible.
- to extend the FOI Act to a range of regulatory, representative and other bodies
- to implement the last government’s measures to release old government records after 20 years instead of 30 years
- to make documents available at National Archives
- apply the Act to companies that are jointly owned by more than one public authority
But is it all too good to be true. Speaking about the plans, Kenneth Clarke, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice sad: “The measures outlined will increase transparency. However, we must also ensure that information which it is not in the public interest to release is properly protected.”
Now the Ministry of Justice is promising to hold a further review of the legislation later on this year, following pressure from Ministers to make the Local Government Association subject to FoI. There is unlikely to be a change to the scope of FoIs but it’s possible the charging policy could change. The Local Government Chronicle wrote yesterday: “councils hoping for a repeal of the scope of FoIs would be better advised to wait for hell to freeze over”.
Key to the policy revamp will be motions to try to encourage the sharing of information. Justice minister Lord McNally said he hope that amendments will force public authorities to “proactively release data in a way that allows businesses, non-profit organisations and others to re-use the information for social and commercial purposes”. He believes that the changes will mean that a greater amount of information will be available. It is expected that councils will argue against the motion on the grounds of cost. LGC wrote: “MOJ will be looking at the costs of complying with current legislation as part of its review, so councils are likely to have their best opportunity yet to properly highlight their plight.”