What e-petitions tell us about how people view UK FOI laws

I have recently submitted an e-petition on fixed time limits for internal reviews. I was actually reasonably pleased to see today that more than 15 people had signed because even though I suspect most people would support it if they took the time to find abut the issue but I know that it isn’t exactly an issue that captivates the imagination of the public.

The Government’s E-petitions does however show that the public has a serious appetite for transparency in specific cases:

The public demand for transparency is not just limited to bolting the door after the banker/MP/News of the World journalist has bolted. There are also people calling for transparency from football clubs lobbyists, restaurants, think tanks and travel agents

and that’s before we even get to the public sector (family courts, QUANGOs…)

The challenge that FOI campaigners face is that many of the changes needed to really energise FOI law are fairly technical and generic while the public’s attention is focussed on a few high profile cases. The British public are not wrong to focus on the really really important stuff. It is up to us as FOI campaigners to try explain where the systematic problems with UK FOI law are and why they matter by reference to specific cases that the public care about. We need to highlight the loopholes and abuses using real examples that impact on peoples every day life whether it is what they eat or where they park or their next holiday. If we do this well the UK could one day have the best FOI laws in the world.

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