Straw announces improved access to government records

The justice secretary, Jack Straw, has announced plans to improve access to government records by widening the scope of the Freedom of Information Act as part of a package of constitutional changes.

Mr Straw said proposals to reduce the amount of time public records are kept secret before they are released to the national archive - commonly called the "30-year rule" - would also be considered as part of a three-month consultation.

Gordon Brown is seeking to demonstrate that his premiership will be underpinned by a commitment to open government. A review will look at whether the existing application of the Freedom of Information Act should include a range of organisations that perform public functions.

Critics have complained that access to information relating to public bodies has been hampered by the increasing use of private sector companies to deliver public services.
Under existing legislation, only public bodies fall under the current FoI legislation.

Mr Straw also announced that the government would not be tightening the charging regime for freedom of information requests.

Straw seeks to widen scope of FoI laws (The Guardian, 25 October 2007)