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Is the gateway open?

Martin Rosenbaum | 10:41 UK time, Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Department for Trade and Industry isn't happy at the way freedom of information is going, as the recently reported concerns of the Trade Secretary Alistair Darling make clear.

The DTI doesn't like the fact that FOI disclosures have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, because of 'the incremental harm to the policy development process that must inevitably arise from the disclosure of individually innocuous submissions'.

There is clearly deep unease within the DTI about decisions from the Information Tribunal that have now started to open up the highly sensitive area of policy discussion within government - a development I have noted before.

Mr Darling's letter refers to the 'discernible trend within the Information Tribunal that decisions on the public interest test have not been falling in the government's favour in key cases'. Perhaps Whitehall will derive some hope from the suggestion that the problem of delay, which has badly affected the rest of the FOI system, may now threaten the Tribunal's operations too. This is according to a useful analysis about caseflow on the IMPACT blog about information law, although the Tribunal is responding by trying to speed up its processes. Currently about a quarter of the Commissioner's decisions are appealed by one side or the other to the Tribunal.

In another more recent and also important case, the Tribunal has ruled that the Office of Government Commerce should release a Gateway Review of the ID cards project. The OGC has until tomorrow to announce whether it will comply or fight on by appealing to the High Court - and this will be a very interesting decision in what is a significant test case.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:10 PM on 29 May 2007,
  • Peter Galbavy wrote:

Surely this just demonstrates why the so-called Freedom of Information Act was implemented the wrong way around ?

Would it not have been better require disclosure of all "public body" information and to have an alternative "Official Secrets Act" instead which would detail what exceptions to the disclosure rules were available to public bodies ?

One further example of what's missing in the UK; In the US, the last time I remember looking, all research done using public money becomes public domain - e.g. Universities don't get to spend tax money and then register patents and earn income from that research - although I am sure there are plenty of ways to get around those rules in reality.

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