Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information Act has a clause which allows public authorities to ignore a request for information “if the request is vexatious”. It says little about what members of the public can do if they encounter vexatious government departments.

The Cabinet Office – which includes the prime minister’s office – seems now to be openly refusing to comply with the transparency law, especially when it comes to the person of the prime minister. His courtiers seem to regard FoIA requests as lèse-majesté, and to regard their job as being to fight transparency. Read more

Much has been made in the last few days about Tony Blair’s apparent U-Turn on the Freedom of Information Act, which allows anyone to access information about the workings of government.

Having passed the act in 2000, Blair has apparently changed his mind on its efficacy, writing in his book:

Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.

Quite a dramatic volte-face, it seems. But Maurice Frankel, the pro-FOI campaigner, points out in a very interesting article for the Campaign for Freedom of Information, that Blair had never been entirely whole-hearted in his support of the reform, and that in fact his concerns nearly derailed it entirely. Read more