Frankel, who delivered a speech further emphasising the importance of preventing Government restrictions, offered a heartfelt thanks to Press Gazette.
‘If there was a purpose for Press Gazette being saved from bankruptcy and total disolution, in my view its purpose has now been manifested in the form of a fantastic campaign to bring the whole press behind the campaign to stop these changes to the FoI Act.
‘I think without Press Gazette this would not have happened, and we might well have seen the new restrictions in place.”
The Lord Chancellor, giving the keynote speech at the conference, defended Government plans to amend the Freedom of Information Act and maintained it was ‘reasonable’to impose stricter limits on the cost and number of requests.
Lord Falconer said the Government’s FoI proposals were ‘neither a return to secret government nor an assault on the public’s right to know or the freedom of the press”.
‘The public have a right to know information,’he said. ‘But why should it be in the interests of the press to determine when and how they get it?”
Falconer reasserted his belief that FoI was primarily a tool for the public, and not the press.
‘The purpose of the FoI Act is to give the public access to information. It is not to provide the media with page leads,’he said.
‘Yes, the media provides a hugely important service in drawing attention to issues revealed through FoI and in scrutinising the Government and the information that is disclosed. But it is not the only conduit.”
Falconer also defended the controversial proposals to include reading time when calculating whether the cost of an FoI requests exceeds the limit, and maintained that aggregating requests from the same source was ‘reasonable”.
‘It is reasonable that there should be a method by which each request could be aggregated, where the breaking down of requests is to get around the limit,’he said.
‘It is reasonable to allow reading time in determining the cost, once it’s established that it’s a perfectly normal request.”