Editors to protest Government plans for FoI curbs

Editors are to press the Government to think again about controversial plans to curb Freedom of Information laws.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Lord Falconer dismayed journalists on Monday by announcing changes which will make it easier to civil servants to block requests for sensitive or embarrassing information.

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell (pictured), will express journalists' concerns next week when he meet Constitutional Affairs minister Baroness Ashton, who is the minister responsible for the FoI Act.

Baroness Ashton is convening a meeting of the FoI Users' Group, a committee set up to advise the Government on the operation of the new laws.

At present, requests for information are normally free. But public bodies can reject requests if the cost of compiling a response  would be more than £600 for central government or £450 for other bodies, including local councils.

Lord Falconer announced that civil servants and town hall officials’ reading time, consideration time and consultation time will now be included when calculating the cost of a request.

Another proposal will allow public bodies to treat multiple, unrelated requests from a single organisation as if it were a single request.

Satchwell told Press Gazette: “This is against the spirit of the FoI Act. If the Government really favoured freedom of information they would abolish all charges.

“It is a legitimate use of public time and money to give the public what after all is their information. These are the concerns that I will raise with the minister when I meet her next week."

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