The British Government ‘buried’ plans to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by publishing them on the same day as the result in the US Presidential election was announced.
The statement was published on Wednesday 9 November as part of an 18-page document entitled ‘Government Response to the Justice Committee’s Second Report of session 2016/17.’
In it, the Government announces that “legislation should be introduced” to implement one of the recommendations of a widely-criticised review of FOIA undertaken by a panel including former Home Secretaries Jack Straw and Michael Howard.
The recommendation was that Legislation should be introduced to remove the right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal. This would significantly weaken the ability of those making FOI requests to overturn decisions made by the Government not to disclose information.
According to the Campaign for Freedom of Information, 20% of such appeals were successful in 2014. By removing the right of appeal to the Tribunal, the Government will reduce the Government decisions which can be challenged.
In recent years, FOI requests by human rights charity Reprieve have led to revelations that the UK sought redactions (removal of sentences, words, names, paragraphs) to the US Senate’s report on CIA torture; and that British police have trained police in Saudi Arabia and other similar countries, despite concerns that such training could contribute to torture and executions.
Donald Campbell, Director of Communications at Reprieve said:
“It is alarming that ministers have resurrected these discredited proposals to water down Freedom of Information. The Government’s decision to bury this news in an obscure report published on the day Trump was elected is yet another attack on transparency. Ministers must abandon this shameful proposal to restrict the British public’s right to know what is done in their name.”