Falconer signals clampdown on irresponsible FOI requests

The Lord Chancellor and secretary for constitutional affairs, Charles Falconer, has signalled that the government is planning to clamp down on what are deemed to be irresponsible freedom of information requests which come from the tabloid press.

In an article for the Guardian, Falconer wrote:

"The vast majority of requests under the FoI Act have been for key information about issues, especially local issues, which have a real impact on people's lives. Inevitably, a small minority have not been so responsible. Asking about the number of windows at the Department for Education and Skills, or the amount of money departments spend on toilet paper, diverts energy from answering worthwhile requests. So we are looking now at the operation of the act to ensure that its central purpose is being honoured. Freedom of information is about giving power to the people, not about declaring open season for the wilder fevers of journalistic wish-lists."

This will raise concerns among freedom of information campaigners who may suspect that wider restrictions will be imposed under the guise of protecting the rights of individuals.

The Guardian reports that Tony Blair is unhappy with the way in which the FOI Act has been used: "once muttering, only half in jest, that it was the worst mistake his government had made". Requests have been granted for the cost of Blair's make-up since 1999, his guest lists at Chequers, and for the cost of almost all of his overseas trips.

Falconer signals curbs on 'irresponsible' information requests (The Guardian, 31 December 2005)

Lord Falconer's article on the first anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act:
It's not about toilet paper: Freedom of information was introduced to give power to the people, not to satisfy journalists' feverish curiosity (The Guardian 31 December 2005)

Update - see also: Falconer plans information curbs (Daily Telegraph, 1 January 2006)