Let there be light : UK FoI inquiry a 'win' for transparency

CHRI was among the 30,000 organisations and individuals to make submissions to the UK’s FoI Commission inquiry which released it’s report yesterday. Our submission drew on evidence from across the Commonwealth, pointing out that the UK was by no means in the forefront of FoI legislation, and that any backsliding would send a negative signal to Commonwealth partners. 

We particularly welcome the Commission’s recommendations to reduce the time limit for internal appeals; to strengthen the Information Commissioner’s power to prosecute in cases of the destruction of official records; the regular publication of statistics on FOI requests by public bodies; the proactive publication of applications and replies; the automatic disclosure of gifts made to senior officials; greater powers for the Information Commissioner to secure proactive information disclosure; and to not increase the cost or burden of making requests.

We call on the UK Government to fully implement these positive recommendations and encourage Commonwealth partners who have yet to pass similar legislation to act now, in the light of commitments by Heads of Government at the Abuja summit, 2003. Nearly six out of every ten Commonwealth countries do not have right to information or freedom of information laws. The 22 that do could draw inspiration from the Commission’s recommendations and use them to strengthen their own legislation.

To further the discussion in this area CHRI is convening a debate on 17th March in London to discuss “what limits should there be to the right to information.” The event will be Chaired by David Souter, Managing Director ict Development and Senior Visiting Fellow in Media and Communications at the LSE, and will include Maurice Frankel, Director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and Steve Wood, the Head of Policy Delivery for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) 

For more information on the event, and to reserve your free place to join the discussion: See more