FoI minister Matthew Hancock would be 'very happy' if commission suggested no changes to act, reports The Times

The minister in charge of Freedom of Information is reportedly opposed to weakening the act.

The Times quotes sources close to the Cabinet Office as saying Matthew Hancock never wanted changes to make it more difficult to access government information.

A “senior source” told the newspaper: “If the inquiry came back with no changes, Matthew would be very happy.”

As the minister for the Cabinet Office, Hancock is the focus of Press Gazette's petition calling on the Government not to weaken the FoI Act.

The petition, which included the letter below directed at Hancock, has been signed by more than 42,000 people. 

This was part of the wider campaign, launched by the Society of Editors and backed by Press Gazette, Hands Off FoI. 

The Sun earlier this month quoted a “senior minister” saying “nobody in the Government wants to touch [FoI] now” following a public backlash over the suggestion the act could be weakened.

Press Gazette's petition was launched because of widespread concerns that the Government's Independent Commission on Freedom of Information will suggest the introduction of FoI charges, further protection for internal discussions and strengthened ministerial veto.

According to The Times, Hancock’s opposition to FoI changes “exposes a split at the heart of the cabinet”, with Francis Maude, the former Cabinet Office minister, justice secretary Michael Gove and Chris Grayling, leader of the Commons, believed to back changes. 

The newspaper reports that Maude and Gove decided to set up the FoI commission last year and that Hancock, succeeding Maude, inherited the plan.

Grayling, meanwhile, said in October that it was unacceptable the FoI Act is used to “generate stories for the media”.

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