Credit: Liberal Democrats/Flickr (under creative commons licence)
Credit: Liberal Democrats/Flickr (under creative commons licence)

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes has been appointed the minister responsible for Freedom of Information.

In a small-scale reshuffle Hughes takes over from Lord McNally as a minister of state for justice.

His brief will include being the minister responsible for FOI and Data Protection, as well family justice and other areas.

FOI supporter

Historically Hughes has been a strong supporter of FOI and opposed limitations of the Act in 2006/07.

At the time the proposed changes would have curbed requests on MPs’ expenses and their allowances.

Opposing the changes, which were later defeated, he argued:

“These changes will make the Freedom of Information Act much less effective and should be opposed.

“The Government’s proposed changes to the Freedom of Information rules will make it a lot easier to refuse politically embarrassing information requests on cost grounds.

More examples of his support have been highlighted by Jon Baines:

In opposition

Although it must be noted his support for FOI was at a time when his party wasn’t in Government – and it’s not unusual for FOI to be favoured by those in opposition.

As the Conservatives promised before the last election:

“A Conservative government will increase the range of publicly funded bodies that are subject to scrutiny using Section 5 orders under the Freedom of Information Act. These bodies will include:

  • Network Rail
  • Northern Rock;
  • The Carbon Trust;
  • The Energy Saving Trust;
  • NHS Confederation (in relation to activities in receipt of public funds);
  • Local Government Association; and
  • Traffic Penalty Tribunals”

Since being elected Mr Cameron has gone very quiet about his plans to expand the scope of the FOI act and even quieter about the fifth point of expanding the Act to cover all parts of the NHS receiving public money.

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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