Ways to Improve FOI law
Increase the number of bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act.
Make Freedom of Information Act 2000 more effective by making the whole process quicker
- Introduce fixed time limits for internal reviews.
- Introduce fixed time limits for public interest extensions.
Remove the “loopholes” in FOI law
- Toughen up the wording – require public bodies to demonstrate ‘substantial prejudice’ before using an exemption to withhold information, rather than simply demonstrating ‘prejudice’.
- Close the loophole that means that HMRC does not have to release information about corporate tax payers even when it can be shown that the public interest is harmed by non-disclosure.
- Scrap the Ministerial Veto – take away right of ministers to overrule the independent Information Commissioner (if appropriate it could be retained for matters of National Security only).
- Make all exemptions subject to a public interest test.
- Remove the exemption that exists in respect of communications with the Royal Family and Royal Household – this is in line with the idea that everyone should be equal before the law
- Only allow information to be withheld under the “intended for future publication” exemption if the public body has made a public commitment to publish the information within 90 days.
- Make the BBC more accountable by replacing the BBC’s “derogation” with a properly drafted exemption.
- Bodies subject to the FOI should be required to publish a functioning email contact address on their website (with due prominence) – Note companies providing services through websites are already legally required to do this
- Where the opinion of a “qualified person” is used to block disclosure the law should require that person to be named in the refusal notice.
- Stop Parliamentary officials from refusing to deal withr FOI requests while Parliament is dissolved.