Large backlog of FoI appeals with the UK Information Commissioner

A conference on FoI was told that a large backlog of Freedom of Information requests is building up at the office of the UK Information Commissioner.

Graham Smith, deputy information commissioner, revealed that 50 complaints a week are being received regarding FoI requests that have been refused. Smith admitted that complaints are 25 per cent higher than had been anticipated and that a total of 2,000 had been made since the FoI Act came into force.

According to the Press Gazette, media lawyer Tony Jaffa accused the Information Commissioner's office of complacency and said that if it had managed to resolve only 50 complaints in nine months it was never going to clear the backlog.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, told the conference that the Act had helped to uncover important stories and had improved accountability. But he said he would not be surprised if the Blair Government introduced increased fees to stem the flow of FoI requests.

Keith Mathieson, of Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, described the FoI Act as "a bad piece of legislation, too long and too complex and with too many exemptions."

Heather Brooke, author of Your Right to Know, suggested the UK media should follow the lead of the United States, which has a "Sunshine Week" in which the press bands together to highlight FoI issues.

Commissioner swamped with FoI complaints (Press Gazette, 20 October 2005)