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October 21, 2006

Freedom of Information

The Government is tightening up the rules on the Freedom of Information Act:

Currently, the public are not charged for any request that costs less than a notional £600 to process. Under the new plans civil servants' "reading time, consideration time and consultation time" will be included in calculation of costs.

This will mean fewer requests will be granted as more exceed the £600 limit.

'Consultation time' ? So, we have a committee meeting to discuss how to collate the information. There are plenty of civil servants who are on the salaried equivalent of £30 or £40 an hour. Ten of them in a meeting taking two hours: Ooops! sorry, no information for you!

This will eviscerate the Act. Which is the point, of course.

The Government's sensitivity over the use of the Act has been highlighted by its refusal to release key progress reports — called Gateway Reviews — into the ID card programme after FOI requests from the magazine Computer Weekly.

Last night, the Office of Government Commerce confirmed that Robin Tam, QC, had been retained to fight a decision by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, that two Gateway Reviews into ID cards must be published.

Richard Bacon, MP, a member of the public accounts committee, said: "It is extraordinary that the Government would go to such lengths to prevent their publication. Don't they understand that secrecy protects bad projects and bad decisions?"

Tony Collins, the executive editor of Computer Weekly, said the Government was probably concerned that releasing the Gateway information might force the release of other potentially damaging IT systems reports into the Child Support Agency's £456 million IT scheme, the tax credits programme, the Passport Service and the £12.4 billion NHS IT programme.

This is what we were led to believe that we would be able to see under the Act. But it's embarassing so we can't.

It really would be awful if we found out how they're pissing our money away, wouldn't it?

 

October 21, 2006 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink

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» Government plans to hobble FoI act from Magna Carta Plus News
As reported here, here and here, the British government are planning to change the grounds on which freedom of information act requests can be refused. Currently, if a request is going to cost £600 pounds or more, then the request can be refused, b... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 22, 2006 8:07:06 PM

Comments

"Don't they understand that secrecy protects bad projects and bad decisions?"

Why yes, I believe they do......

Posted by: JuliaM | Oct 21, 2006 2:03:24 PM