Freedom of Information

Freedom of information sounds good to most people unless they happen to be politicians or civil servants which is more or less why we have a freedom of information act in England. Blair put it through Parliament because he was effective. The Tories didn't because they were not effective or had no intention of doing it anyway.

The English Freedom of Information Act 2000 grants the right of access but there are a lot of exemptions. One useful line of enquiry is expenses. It is difficult to pretend that dinners in expensive restaurants or visits to Ascot have anything to do with national security, police investigations or anything that could be used as an excuse for hiding the truth. Private Eye uses the FOIA to good effect. So do other journalists.

The general position is that you are entitled to know without explaining why, usually without charge, as long as the search for information will not take too long. If they refuse, you can complain to the Information Commissioner. Since they are allowed four weeks to give a result things can take a while. This does not mean you are wasting your time.

A senior clerk once mentioned persistent correspondents to me; it sounded like a term of abuse. Making them work is worthwhile in itself. Making them justify their actions is even better. If you do not believe that Her Majesty's Government is a bunch of rogues you should read Private Eye and know just how bad it is and know that billions are being squandered. Then there are the bribes; they tend to be paid later in the form of jobs. It makes proving guilt harder.

It makes sense to use email when you pass this way. It is quick, cheap and, best of all, pretty well indestructible. It is evidence that is difficult to deny. Here are some sources on what, how and why.

Freedom of information legislation - from the Wikipedia
Freedom of information legislation represents the foundational [ sic ] right-to-know legal process by which requesters may ask for government held information and receive it freely or at minimal cost, barring standardized exceptions.......... ..... governments are also typically bound by a duty to publish and promote openness......... A related concept is open meetings legislation, which allows access to government meetings, not just to the records of them. In many countries, privacy or data protection laws may be part of the freedom of information legislation; the concepts are often closely tied together in political discourse.

A basic principle behind most freedom of information legislation is that the burden of proof falls on the body asked for information, not the person asking for it. The requester does not usually have to give an explanation for their request, but if the information is not disclosed a valid reason has to be given.
FOI is an international thing and rather useful.


Freedom of information in the United Kingdom
Freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom is controlled by two Acts of the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments respectively, which both came into force on 1 January 2005.

Certain information can only be obtained under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
The Wiki can be very good. Knowing their agenda means knowing whether to trust them or not. In this case they are likely to be telling it like it is.


Information Commissioner Complaints Form
Follow this link to complain if you did not get an answer on time or anything else that you feel annoyed about.


Freedom of Information Act 2000
It is all out there on line. Actually this is just a summary - and a link to the real thing.


Errors & omissions, broken links, cock ups, over-emphasis, malice [ real or imaginary ] or whatever; if you find any I am open to comment.
Email me at Mike Emery. All financial contributions are cheerfully accepted. If you want to keep it private, use my PGP KeyHome Page

Updated on 31/10/2014 21:59