Commissioner swamped with FoI complaints

A backlog of Freedom of Information requests is building up at the
office of the information commissioner, the conference was told.

Graham
Smith, the deputy information commissioner, also revealed that 50
complaints a week were being received over FoI requests that had been
turned down.

Smith admitted that complaints were 25 per cent
higher than had been anticipated and that a total of 2,000 had been
made since the FoI Act became law nine months ago.

Media lawyer
Tony Jaffa accused the information commissioner’s office of complacency
and said that if it had managed to resolve only 50 complaints in nine
months it was never going to clear the backlog.

Maurice Frankel,
director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, told the
conference that the Act had helped to uncover important stories and had
improved accountability.

But he said he would not be surprised if the Blair Government introduced increased fees to stem the flow of FoI requests.

Keith
Mathieson, of Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, described the FoI Act as “a
bad piece of legislation, too long and too complex and with too many
exemptions.”

Heather Brooke, author of Your Right to Know,
suggested the UK media should folow the lead of the United States,
which has a “Sunshine Week” in which the press bands together to
highlight FoI issues.

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