FOI presumption in favour of disclosure: the role of the Information Commissioner

UK Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas has outlined his office's role under the new FOI law: "The right to know signals a fundamental culture change - moving all public services away from excessive official secrecy. Our job is to be the referee if a request for information has been refused. Our independence means that we can be robust in ensuring that information is released where the new law requires. This involves a presumption in favour of disclosure. In practice, this will mean deciding whether exemptions have been properly applied by public bodies and, in most cases, ensuring that the public interest in disclosure is fully considered."

Examples of information that should routinely be disclosed under the Act include:
  • research studies and the facts on which national and local decisions are based
  • details of official meetings held with external organisations
  • the health and safety records of organisations
  • environmental impact reports
  • details of proposed new transport links
  • proposals for mergers or closures of hospitals
  • admissions policies for schools
  • performance figures for government departments and local authorities
  • information about hospital complaints and the performance of clinicians
  • public authority contracts with suppliers
  • expenses paid to public servants
Information act signals move away from secrecy (Computer Weekly, 11 January 2005)