FoI Commission backs down on plan to keep identity of those giving evidence secret

The Commission set up to examine the workings of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act has dropped plans to anonymise evidence it cites in its final report.

The move, announced today in a letter from commission chairman Lord Burrns, follows a protest yesterday from Campaign for Freedom of Information director Maurice Frankel.

The anonymity plan was detailed in the Commission's consultation document, which said: "Contributions to the consultation will be anonymised if they are quoted."

Frankel criticised the approach in a letter to the Commission yesterday, saying: "The Commission's approach would be difficult to justify in any public policy review. For a report dealing with and likely to recommend restrictions to the Freedom of Information Act it is extraordinarily inappropriate.

"If the Commission cannot recognise the need for openness in its own report there is little chance of it appreciating the value of the FoI Act in promoting greater openness elsewhere."

The approach also called into question whether the Commission was capable of properly addressing the balancing exercise set out in its terms of reference, he added.

Lord Burns replied in his letter that the statement in the Consultation document was intended to ensure that the personal data of individual contributors was treated appropriately.

But the Commission had now "concluded that the sentence is unnecessary" and would remove it, he wrote, adding: "The Commission intends to publish the evidence it receives, except where the contributor asks for anonymity and it is appropriate in the circumstances to grant it."

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