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