News 20th November 2015

Over 100 CSOs sign OGN evidence to the FOI Commission

by Tim Hughes

Over 100 civil society organisations, ranging from national NGOs, to local community groups, and open government campaigners, to health, environment and transport charities, have signed the UK Open Government Network’s evidence to the FOI Commission, stating their support for a strong right to information :

‘We regard the Freedom of Information Act as a fundamental pillar of the UK’s openness arrangements and consider that any proposals to limit the scope and function of the FOI Act would be incompatible with the Government’s wish to be “the most open and transparent government in the world”.’

‘The decision of what information is in the public interest to disclose should not be left to government alone. Transparency is sometimes uncomfortable for governments, but in many ways that is precisely the point; only through ensuring citizens, civil society, media and the private sector are empowered to demand information from government can we ensure that we are being governed effectively and appropriately. Any discomfort felt by decision makers is far outweighed by this public interest.’

The evidence covers each of the six questions posed by the Commission, arguing that:

  • It is not in the interests of the public or good government for policy deliberations to have absolute exemption from FOI. Decisions on whether information on the development of policy should be disclosed should continue to be made according to a public interest test.
  • The ministerial veto should not be extended to allow the executive to overrule decisions by the courts. Ministers should be prepared to make well reasoned and evidenced cases for non-disclosure, which stand up to scrutiny in court. If the executive is unable to do this, it is right that the information in question be disclosed.
  • A blanket exemption for risk assessments is unlikely to increase candour in such documents. The public acknowledgement of the existence of certain risks will enhance the public debate about major projects and their implementation. It is when risks can be silently ignored that the consequences are dramatic.
  • The benefits of the FOI Act justify its cost to public authorities. The costs of FOI are minor in comparison to other comparable government expenditure (e.g. government communications), and there are numerous case studies that demonstrate that FOI has been pivotal in exposing information it was in the public’s interest to know.
  • Charges for making FOI requests would be a significant threat to the openness and transparency of the UK, acting as a deterrent to legitimate FOI requests and preventing  investigations across multiple organisations.

The full evidence can be read and downloaded here >>


1 Adam Roberts Chief Executive Born Free Foundation
2 Alan Hudson Executive Director Global Integrity
3 Alexandra Runswick Director Unlock Democracy
4 Alexandra Wigzell Deputy Chair Standing Committee for Youth Justice
5 Alison Garnham Chief Executive Child Poverty Action Group
6 Andrew Mackenzie Coordinator Open Data Institute Birmingham
7 Andrew Taylor Climate Campaigns & Communications Manager People & Planet
8 Andy Williamson Director Democratise
9 Anna Roberts Executive Director Burma Campaign UK
10 Anne Thurston Director International Records Management Trust
11 Anthony Zacharzewski Director Democratic Society
12 Carol McKenna Director of Campaigns Compassion in World Farming
13 Catarina Tully Director FromOverHere
14 Cathy James Chief Executive Public Concern at Work
15 Charles Oppenheim Professor of Information Management
16 Charlie Harvey IT Director New Internationalist
17 Charlotte Ravenscroft Head of Policy and Public Services National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
18 Chris Taggart CEO OpenCorporates
19 Chris Whitwell Director Friends, Families and Travellers
20 Colm Burns Chair Northern Ireland Open Government Network
21 Dan Wilson Craw Policy & Communications Manager Generation Rent
22 Danny Sriskandarajah CEO Civicus
23 David Hills Head of IT UWC Atlantic College
24 David Miller Founder Spinwatch
25 Deborah King Cofounder Disability Politics UK
26 Derek Manson-Smith Former Co-convener Campaign for Freedom of Information Scotland
27 Diana Neslen Chair Redbridge Equalities and Community Council
28 Duncan Exley Director The Equality Trust
29 Ed Hammond Head of Programmes Centre for Public Scrutiny
30 Edafe Onerhime Consultant ACT Collective Ltd
31 Eithne Rynne CEO London Voluntary Service Council
32 Faryal Velmi Director Transport for All
33 Fionn Travers-Smith Campaign Manager Move Your Money UK
34 Gail Bradbrook Director Compassionate Revolution
35 Gavin MacFadyen Director Centre for Investigative Journalism
36 Gay Moon EDF Legal Fellow Equality and Diversity Forum
37 Graham Gordon Head of Policy CAFOD
38 Graham Smith Professor of Politics Centre for the Study of Democracy
39 Helen Darbishire Executive Director Access Info Europe
40 Henrietta Doyle Policy Officer Inclusion London
41 Ian Lawry CEO sobus
42 Jacqui Howard National Organiser Compass
43 Jamie Griffiths Campaigner Debt Resistance UK
44 Jane Linney Founding Director Disability Enabling & Empowerment Project
45 Jen Persson Coordinator DefendDigitalMe
46 Jenny Nelson Organiser Red Pepper
47 Jim Killock Executive Director Open Rights Group
48 Jo Ram Co-founder Community Reinvest
49 Joe Taylor National Community Activists Network
50 Joel Benjamin Campaigner The People vs PFI
51 John Chambers Chief Executive Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland)
52 John Lotherington Chair Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development
53 Jon Abrams Promotion and Liaison Officer Redbridge Concern for Mental Health
54 Jon Alexander Director New Citizenship Project
55 Jonathan Gray Director of Policy and Research Open Knowledge
56 Joseph Stead Senior Adviser Economic Justice Christian Aid
57 Joy Saunders CEO Integrity Action
58 Julian Huppert Former MP
59 Julian Tait Co-founder Open Data Manchester
60 Julie Pal CEO CommUNITY Barnet
61 Justin Schlosberg Chair Media Reform Coalition
62 Kat Smithson Policy and Campaigns Manager National AIDS Trust
63 Kaye Brennan Lead Campaigner: Policy & Advocacy The Woodland Trust
64 Laura Cockram Campaigns Manager Parkinson’s UK
65 Loz Kaye Co-founder Open Intelligence
66 Mariam Cook Founder PositionDial
67 Marilyn Taylor Professor of Urban Governance and Regeneration
68 Mark Braggins Director/Founder AHA Digital Ltd/Open Data Aha!
69 Mark Cridge Chief Executive MySociety
70 Matthew Downie Director of Policy and External Affairs Crisis
71 Mike Childs Acting Policy and Campaign Director Friends of the Earth
72 Miles Litvinoff Coordinator Publish What You Pay UK
73 Moira Fraser Director of Policy and Research Carers Trust
74 Nan Sloane Director Centre for Women & Democracy
75 Natalie Sharples Senior Policy Advisor Health Poverty Action
76 Nick Beddow Managing Director Shared Places
77 Nick Lowles Executive Director HOPE not hate
78 Nim Njuguna Chair Kenya Diaspora Bureau (UK)
79 Oliver Sidorczuk Director Bite The Ballot
80 Paul Bradshaw Professor in Online Journalism
81 Pavan Dhaliwal Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns British Humanist Association
82 Penelope Gibbs Director Transform Justice
83 Phil Booth Coordinator MedConfidential
84 Prateek Buch Member Open Government Network
85 Rachel Oldroyd Managing Director Bureau of Investigative Journalism
86 Remmert Keijzer Research Coordinator The Consultation Institute
87 Richard Murphy Director Tax Research UK
88 Rita Chadha CEO Refugee & Migrant Forum of Essex and London
89 Robert Barrington Executive Director Transparency International UK
90 Robin McAlpine Director Common Weal
91 Ruchir Shah Policy Manager Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
92 Rupert Simons CEO Publish What You Fund
93 Sally Young Chief Executive Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service
94 Sarah Johns Transparency Adviser Bond
95 Simon Burall Director Involve
96 Simon Taylor Director Global Witness
97 Stewart Wallis Executive Director New Economics Foundation
98 Stuart Lawson Doctoral Researcher in Open Access
99 Team WhatDoTheyKnow
100 Team Open Data Services Co-operative
101 Thomas Hughes Executive Director ARTICLE 19
102 Tim Davies Co-director Practical Participation
103 Tim Hughes Coordinator UK Open Government Network
104 Tom Kearney Campaigner Safer Oxford Street
105 Tom Skinner Coordinator Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign
106 Tracey Lazard CEO Inclusion London
107 Tris Lumley Head of Development New Philanthropy Capital
108 Val Stevenson Chair of Trustees The Pavement


Update (21/11/2015)

  • Tom Kearney, Safer Oxford Street, was added as a signatory

Update (23/11/2015)

  • Jayne Linney, Disability Enabling & Empowerment Project, was added as a signatory
  • Jenny Nelson, Red Pepper, was added as a signatory

Update (25/11/2015)

  • Jo Ram, Community Reinvest, was added as a signatory
  • Tracey Lazard, Inclusion London, was added as a signatory

Update (30/11/2015)

  • Sally Young, Newcastle Council for Voluntary Services, was added as a signatory