4th March 2016

Government Will Make No Legal Changes To FOI Act

A Government review of the FOI legislation has found no reason to change the act.


Matt Hancock, Cabinet Office Minister, announced that the Government would be making no changes to the Freedom of Information Act.

This news comes after a petition was presented to parliament with more than 43, 000 signatures, urging no changes to be made.

The petition was created by The Hands Off FoI campaign, which was launched in October 2015 by the Society of Editors. .

Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock said: "After 10 years, we took the decision to review the Freedom of Information Act and we have found it is working well.

"We will not make any legal changes to FoI. We will spread transparency throughout public services, making sure all public bodies routinely publish details of senior pay and perks. After all, taxpayers should know if their money is funding a company car or a big pay off."

The potential for changes to the FoI act saw backlash from politicians, journalist, and transparency campaigners.
Executive Director of the Society of Editors, Bob Satchwell, said: “We have welcomed what appears to be a partial victory. Ministers have quite rightly backed away from restrictions to the Freedom of Information Act and have pledged to spread transparency throughout public services.


“A powerful case was made during the Review for extending the Act and cultural change is certainly required but that is difficult to achieve. We must maintain the campaign to change the default switch from tell them nothing unless forced to one where public bodies release information which the public is entitled to have unless there is an exceptional  reason for withholding it.”


Maurice Frankel, Director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "The Commission has stepped back from the one-sided agenda which the government initially appeared to set for it, of restricting access to internal policy discussions, introducing charges for requests and making it easier for authorities to refuse requests.


"Instead it has also looked at the case for improving the legislation. The government itself has clearly been scalded by the criticism it has received from the press and public and made it clear its not prepared to take its initial agenda forward. We now need to ensure that the Act is extended to contractors providing public services and bodies like the National Crime Agency which have been deliberately excluded.”
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