Reforming FOI

Improvements to strengthen access to information in the UK


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Rebecca Rumbul, Alex Parsons


The right to access official information is fundamental in a healthy and vibrant democracy. Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation is a vital tool in research, journalism, activism and in supporting citizens and groups to hold their public institutions to account. In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act has now been in operation for over 15 years. Its value can be seen in the high profile investigations and the public disclosure of wrongs that have arisen from the legislation, but also in the quieter acts of ordinary citizens being successful in accessing information from the public authorities that hold power over their lives.

This paper takes advantage of the existing (and potential for future) devolution of Freedom of Information legislation to create a path for development of legislation and regulation that learns from good examples in different systems. We contrast existing and potential differences in approach to FOI at the UK and devolved level; explore their weaknesses; and offer potential solutions to insufficient data and practical problems that have emerged with the legislation. This leads to a series of recommendations, both large and small, that are informed by the evidence and driven by the clear need for reform.


Contents

  1. Executive summary
  2. About mySociety
  3. Introduction
  4. What information rights exist in different parts of the UK?
    1. Devolution of information rights
  5. Collecting FOI performance data across the UK
    1. FOI statistics in the UK
    2. Collecting more data about FOI
  6. Separating the Information and Data Protection Commissioners
    1. History of the role
    2. Divergence of the two roles
    3. Conflicts of interest: government control over the budget
    4. Separating institutions
  7. Improving the operation of FOI and EIR across the UK
    1. UK Government action
    2. Changes to UK legislation
    3. Changes to EIR in Scotland
  8. Exploring new paths for Welsh Freedom of Information
  9. Improving clarity in Northern Ireland
  10. Conclusion

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Cite this

Rumbul, R. and Parsons, A. (2021). Reforming FOI. [online] mySociety Research. Available at: https://research.mysociety.org/publications/reforming-foi [Accessed 13 May 2021].