The Ministry of Justice has announced that Conservative Minister Dominic Raab will be responsible for overseeing the Freedom of Information Act. 

In a wide-ranging role Raab, under the steering of Michael Gove, will oversee any government changes to human rights, something that he says he “cares deeply about” and is “looking forward getting stuck in”.

As well as FOI his new position gives him responsibilities over human rights, EU business, devolution, the National Archives and more. 

Raab replaces ousted Lib Dem Simon Hughes as the minister with responsibility for FOI. Raab appears to be a keen defender of civil liberties and expressed admiration for some of the work done by the Lib Dems on the issues, in 2012.

Hughes was a vocal supporter of the FOI Act and oversaw the extension of the Act by making it apply to Network Rail, earlier this year. In doing so Hughes said he faced a battle from Conservative colleagues that went all the way up to Number 10.

Since then, and following the publication of the Prince Charles’ letters to ministers, the government has said it is looking for ways to give ministers more power to block information they don’t agree with from being published. If the government intends to push forward with these plans then Raab will be in charge of the changes – although David Cameron has said he is looking to find a cross party consensus for extending veto powers.

Raab, who previously worked as an international lawyer, was involved in a spat with Chris Huhne, in 2012, over the release of emissions data.

In an article he wrote for Conservative Home, Raab said that he would not agree with Hunhe’s suggestion that the ministerial veto should be scrapped and that the number of exemptions should be reduced.

“Personally, I would not go that far – mainly because it would undermine the candour of cabinet discussions – but it is welcome that the current Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change takes a less restrictive view than his predecessor,” Raab wrote.

It also appears that Raab has been a frequent user of the Act himself. He’s made numerous requests that he has used to promote his own views, such as this from the Daily Mirror. 

“Tory MP Dominic Raab today released documents from the Information Commissioner’s Office obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, spelling out the fears of giving the security services such sweeping powers.”

In 2012 he also was battling his own government when he requested information from the Home Office on safeguards for the snooper’s charter. According to the Spectator Raab asked what advice ministers had “have received from officials about how the filtering mechanism would work, what warnings experts have given about the risks to information, and how much the filter would cost.”

He’s spoken at a previous Campaign for Freedom of Information Fringe event, in 2010, on the future of FOI.

In 2013 he also asked a written question about whether there were plans to change the FOI Act. If it was his intention to try and change the Act now he will have the chance.

 

 

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.

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