News 9th October 2015

Commission on Freedom of Information announces its call for evidence

by Tim Hughes

The Commission on Freedom of Information, established by the Government in July 2015, has launched its call for evidence. In August, the Open Government Network wrote to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matthew Hancock, expressing our concern with the Commission’s remit.

The Commission states that it will be particularly focused on the following questions:

  • Question 1: What protection should there be for information relating to the internal deliberations of public bodies? For how long after a decision does such information remain sensitive? Should different protections apply to different kinds of information that are currently protected by sections 35 and 36?
  • Question 2: What protection should there be for information which relates to the process of collective Cabinet discussion and agreement? Is this information entitled to the same or greater protection than that afforded to other internal deliberative information? For how long should such material be protected?
  • Question 3: What protection should there be for information which involves candid assessment of risks? For how long does such information remain sensitive?
  • Question 4: Should the executive have a veto (subject to judicial review) over the release of information? If so, how should this operate and what safeguards are required? If not, what implications does this have for the rest of the Act, and how could government protect sensitive information from disclosure instead?
  • Question 5: What is the appropriate enforcement and appeal system for freedom of information requests?
  • Question 6: Is the burden imposed on public authorities under the Act justified by the public interest in the public’s right to know? Or are controls needed to reduce the burden of FoI on public authorities? If controls are justified, should these be targeted at the kinds of requests which impose a disproportionate burden on public authorities? Which kinds of requests do impose a disproportionate burden?

The Call for Evidence closes at midnight on Friday 20th November 2015. Instructions on responding can be found here. The Open Government Network will be developing and submitting a response.