FoI consultation nears end, but fight is not over yet

Gordon Brown will face pressure from editors to scupper plans to restrict journalists’ use of the Freedom of Information Act when he takes over as Prime Minister.

The start of Brown’s premiership next week coincides with the end of the consultation into the proposed changes to the FoI fees regime.

And editors throughout the country have warned that the changes would make it more difficult for journalists to get information that is in the public interest from the 110,000 public bodies covered by the Act.

‘The signs are that the Government has listened,’said Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors. ‘We are hopeful the battle has been won.”

The Government indicated it was having second thoughts when it opened a second round of consultation three months ago.

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill to exempt Parliament from the FoI Act is meanwhile in a state of limbo. Tory MP David Maclean, who steered the bill through the Commons, is still looking for a peer to take charge of it in the House of Lords.

Lord McNally, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords, told Press Gazette: ‘Technically it could be taken up by anybody, but I am confident I have enough promised votes to kill it off at Second Reading.”

A second bill, the Freedom of Information (Amendment) No 2 Bill has been blocked in the Commons. The bill would limit the time allowed for public authorities to respond to FoI requests and stop ministers overruling decisions by the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal.

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