The Independent Commission looking at the Freedom of Information Act has put a call out for evidence from the public.
The Commission, which was set-up in July and has been heavily criticised since, has published a 30 page document setting out the areas of the FOI Act that it will be looking at.
Four main areas, covering the deliberative space for decisions, the Ministerial veto, the enforcement and appeals of the Act, and the burden on public authorities, will be looked at by the five-person panel.
Within these areas the group has specifically set out six questions that it wants to answer. These are:
Question 1: What protection should there be for information relating to the internal deliberations of public bodies? For how long after a decision does such information remain sensitive? Should different protections apply to different kinds of information that are currently protected by sections 35 and 36?
Question 2: What protection should there be for information which relates to the process of collective Cabinet discussion and agreement? Is this information entitled to the same or greater protection than that afforded to other internal deliberative information? For how long should such material be protected?
Question 3: What protection should there be for information which involves candid assessment of risks? For how long does such information remain sensitive?
Question 4: Should the executive have a veto (subject to judicial review) over the release of information? If so, how should this operate and what safeguards are required? If not, what implications does this have for the rest of the Act, and how could government protect sensitive information from disclosure instead?
Question 5: What is the appropriate enforcement and appeal system for freedom of information requests?
Question 6: Is the burden imposed on public authorities under the Act justified by the public interest in the public’s right to know? Or are controls needed to reduce the burden of FoI on public authorities? If controls are justified, should these be targeted at the kinds of requests which impose a disproportionate burden on public authorities? Which kinds of requests do impose a disproportionate burden?
The full document is below:
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