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A caseload challenge

Martin Rosenbaum | 10:46 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2007

If you're one of those people who have made a complaint to the Information Commissioner and are still waiting for it to be investigated, you may be interested in the evidence he gave last week to MPs on the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee, which has now been published.

Discussing the implications for his office of the government's planned changes to freedom of information, Richard Thomas predicted a scenario in which their FOI caseload would double while so far the government has not offered them any extra money to deal with it.

This is an office which, according to the evidence given last week, currently has a backlog of 559 cases. Under the government's plans it would be faced with a flood of new and tricky cases involving issues like who really needs to be in the room when a request is being 'considered'.

Mr Thomas, a man not given to overstatement (or do I mean media soundbites), thinks the situation would be 'challenging'.

Rob Evans, the Guardian's freedom of information expert, gave evidence as well. He also provided the Committee with a list of stories obtained through use of FOI.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:13 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Turgid - conversations at this level. Every comma pored over to hide meaning. My head hurts. But thanks Martin.

  • 2.
  • At 11:53 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Francis wrote:

Challenging seems to rather understate the situation. I have one appeal dating back about a year and the case files have still not been opened; another I submitted six weeks ago has not even been acknowledged. The problem is that less scrupulous public authorities,, and those that want to kick potentially embarrassing disclosures into the long grass, will always seek to prolong the process, especially when dealing with media requests - they understand that something that is topical now is highly likely to be less newsworthy once whatever the story or issue might be is a year old. Perhaps Richard Thomas might like to consider issuing a public edict that where there is evidence that points to an authority indulging in such tactics, the IC will take that into consideration when considering its rulings on appeals. Perhaps the threat of a hefty fine (no doubt coming from taxpayers' pockets) might make some who are doing so now think again.

Paul Francis

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