Leaked document suggests controversial changes to FOI legislation

According to a document that has been leaked to the Times, Ministers are about to reverse their commitment to open government by aiming to reduce the amount of information released to the public.

The confidential cabinet paper reveals that 18 months after Labour introduced laws allowing free access to government documents, it wants to block “the most difficult requests”.

The move by Lord Falconer, constitutional affairs secretary, comes after a series of disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act have embarrassed ministers. He is also considering introducing a flat rate fee for requests, which he argues will have a “deterrent effect” and “inhibit serial requesters”. He estimates this would cut information requests by a third.

Falconer's paper to Ministers states: “It is likely individual flat fees will cost more to collect than they bring in, but their deterrent effect will inhibit many serial requesters from making numerous requests with no regard to the cost to public funds.”

Government U-turn on free information (Sunday Times, 30 July 2006)

Blocks to openness law considered (BBC website, 30 July 2006)