saveFOI’s letter to the Justice Committee

On April 23 2012 the saveFOI campaign wrote to the Justice Committee, because of our concerns that the Committee had not received oral evidence from all relevant witnesses during its post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. While we acknowledge the thoroughness of the Committee’s work so far, it is to our regret – and, we feel, arguably to the detriment of the post-legislative process – that the Committee do not appear to have accepted our suggestions: we understand that tomorrow’s session will be the last, and the response we received was limited to informing us of the types of witness at that session, and at the penultimate one.

This was our letter

Sir Alan Beith MP
Chairman, Justice Select Committee
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
23 April 2012

Dear Sir Alan

Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act

We are writing to congratulate you and your committee on the thoroughness of your review of the Freedom of Information Act to date. However, we are concerned that the committee has not yet heard from a number of groups and individuals who we feel have an invaluable insight into the operation of the Act.

We hope that the committee will give consideration to inviting some or all of the following to give oral evidence. This would ensure that the committee benefits from the experience of those with direct and practical experience of the Act’s implementation, and is able to reach its conclusions in the light of a well-balanced body of evidence.

Most public authorities employ officers with responsibility for compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. These individuals have a unique insight into how the Act works in practice. We would suggest inviting 2-3 officers, perhaps from different parts of the public sector, to give evidence. One of our co-founders, Mr Paul Gibbons, who provided written evidence to the committee and has worked as an FOI practitioner in three public sector organisations, would be willing to answer questions at an oral hearing if invited.

We were concerned at the negative picture of the Freedom of Information Act presented by Mr Jack Straw MP at the last oral hearing of the committee. There are other former ministers who have a more positive view of Freedom of Information than Mr Straw, and who could provide essential balance to his comments. We would suggest that the committee invite Lords Wills and Falconer, who have both exercised responsibility in government for FOI, to give their valuable insight into how FOI has affected the running of Government.

We thank you for considering our suggestions above, and would be pleased to answer any questions that the committee may have based on our combined experience as FOI Officers, public officials and experts in this area of the law. We wish the committee well in reaching its conclusions on the state of freedom of information in 2012.

Yours sincerely
Jonathan Baines, Paul Gibbons, Ibrahim Hasan, and Tim Turner of the Save FOI Campaign



4 thoughts on “saveFOI’s letter to the Justice Committee

  1. Andrew says:

    It would also have been worth suggesting that someone from the National Archives be invited to give evidence on records and information management issues. Has FOI led to supply-side improvements for information flow within and outside agencies, or general efficiency gains through better record keeping?

    Overall, the committee has paid far more attention to the ‘costs’ side of the equation than the ‘benefits’.

  2. Ian Benson says:

    What has surprised me is how few actual FOI requesters have been called to give evidence especially since the MoJ admitted that they had contacted very few. From memory less than 10% of the submissions have come from requesters themselves.

    To me there has been a great deal of focus on central government which is already scrutinised to a fair degree. Personally I believe that the greatest benefits of FOI lie in the neglected outer fringes of the public sector that the media rarely bother with.

    I was unable to make a submission at the start of the inquiry but was allowed to make a late submission. I based this on the more than 2,000 FOI requests I have submitted over the last 3 years.

    You have all done great work with your campaign. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

  3. […] have been some worrying and some more reassuring rumours. We even felt compelled at one point to write to the Committee because of some concerns we had about the […]

  4. […] We should perhaps consider very carefully the motives of an individual who admits to making around whilst aligning himself to the campaign to saveFOI. He may well be a principled campaigner raising […]

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