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Projection or fact

Martin Rosenbaum | 18:04 UK time, Thursday, 22 June 2006

I mentioned before that the government is considering changes to the system of fees for freedom of information requests.

Has the Department for Constitutional Affairs made projections of the possible impact of various charges on the level of FOI requests being made?

Yes, it would seem so. The BBC asked the DCA this question, and the Department has now confirmed to us that it does hold relevant information.

Will it reveal what those projections are? After all, possibly this would help create a better-informed public debate on the merits and demerits of various options.

The answer is that it won't - because in the Department's view, any benefit to public debate is outweighed by the argument that revealing such projections would inhibit the provision of free and frank advice to Ministers.

But in the absence of their projections, here's a fact. In Ireland, after upfront fees for FOI requests were introduced in 2003, the number of requests fell dramatically, as discussed by the Irish Information Commissioner in her latest annual report.

Is that a change for the better or a change for the worse?

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