Times: Government may strengthen ministerial veto, extend FoI to charities and drop other changes

The Government is considering strengthening the ministerial veto on Freedom of Information disclosures but dropping other proposed changes to the act, according to a report in The Times.

It is also considering extending the act to cover charities and private sector companies which work on public sector projects, the paper reports.

The Goverment's Independent Commission on Freedom of Information was set up to review the act last year in the wake a Supreme Court decision which over-rode a ministerial veto and ordered the disclosure of letters sent by Prince Charles to ministers.

The commission has faced a huge backlash from media groups, charities, trade unions and  civil society bodies because its consultation document suggested it was only looking at ways to reduce the "burden" which FoI places on the public sector.

The commission is set to report next month and campaigners fear it will recommend lower cost limits on complying with FoI requests, fees for requests and new restrictions barring the release of information relating to internal government discussions.

According to The Times, these curbs on the act could be dropped provided the Government can strengthen the ministerial veto (potentially removing the public interest test).

A "senior figure" told The Times the Government would not sign off a package that failed to increase transparency.

More than 42,000 people have signed a Press Gazette petition urging the Government to drop proposals to weaken the Freedom of Information Act.

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