Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Lord Falconer on FOI

Lord Falconer spoke about the importance of FOI and the government's proposed restrictions on access in a speech at the Canadian High Commission this morning:
"This Government took the unprecedented step, in the UK, of introducing the Freedom of Information Act.

It has been the single most significant act of any Government, in improving transparency, accessibility and accountability. It is the platform for building an improved relationship between the citizen and the state – in which the public can have a greater stake in how they are governed.

FOI was introduced to fundamentally alter the relationship between citizen and state. To re-establish trust in Government, to break down the cultural and institutional barriers that had historically put the public on the outside. A modern Liberal democracy is grounded on much more than the intermittent right to vote. It is must also be based on increased participation from the people. Enabling the public to see how and why the decisions impacting on them were made – is crucial in improving this relationship."

"We are currently consulting on new fee regulations proposals in order to ensure that the price we pay is not a reduction in the accessibility of Government. The FOI Act has been enormously successful - the vast majority have been for key information about issues- especially local issues – that have a real impact on peoples’ lives.

Many however are not so responsible. FOI was not introduced for finding out how many windows there are at Department for Education and Skills – or for how much Government spends on loo-roll. For instance we have subsidised the BBC’s research to the tune of about £1million since the Act came in."
Martin Rosenbaum has explained previously on his Open Secrets blog why the cost estimate of £1m for the BBC's use of the Act is exaggerated.

The full text of the Lord Falconer's speech is on the DCA website.

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