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Unhealthy approach to FOI

Martin Rosenbaum | 13:14 UK time, Thursday, 3 April 2008

It looks like the Information Commissioner is getting tough with those government departments with the worst records on handling freedom of information requests.

Having heavily criticised the National Offender Management Service last month, he has today condemned the Department of Health for its failure to assist FOI applicants and for extending the internal review process unreasonably.

His specific complaints in his 'practice recommendation' include the following:

'The Department repeatedly applies blanket exemptions to requested information with the effect of withholding entire documents from release. This suggests that rather than considering requests on their own merits, exemptions have been applied on a general principle. The Commissioner is concerned that the application of exemptions in this way may have the effect of suppressing non-exempt information from release.'

'The Department repeatedly fails to establish the full extent of information held before responding to a request, resulting in the application of exemptions to information which is not held in its entirety.'

As in the case of NOMS, the Commissioner's criticisms of the unhelpful and slow approach of the Department of Health are in line with the BBC's experience of making FOI requests to the Department.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:35 PM on 03 Apr 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

I heard from the Home Secretary how open minded she believes she is by reading the report on cannabis classification before giving any opinion on whether the advice would be heeded.

The Prime Minister having made his postion clear, reportedly - what else to say?

But I hear news differently now and when Robert Mugabe is reported - in an allegedly mouthpiece newspaper - intending to fight to "the last" in Zimbabwe - to retain power - I mentally add the words "man or supporter" and assume neither would be Mr Mugabe himself.

So, Martin the words at the top of this thread "It looks like" worry me. I await more proof from the ICO - in actions and reactions.

  • 2.
  • At 04:32 PM on 03 Apr 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

I will believe the Information Commissioner is "getting tough" when real and meaningful sanctions are applied to those departments which refuse to comply with the law.

I am sure they are all quaking in their Gucci Flip-Flops at the thought of getting a practice recommendation.

Recommendation? What if they don't want to accept it?

They know there is no real penalty, so until there is and civil servants (and there's a misnomer if ever there was one) are held personally accountable, nothing will change.

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