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MoJ bends the law on Freedom of Information

Guy Aitchison
5 June 2008

Guy Aitchison (London, OK): The sixth annual FOI Live conference took place this week. Organised by the Constitution Unit, it brought together key players in the world of Freedom of Information and Data Protection in the UK. You can access the presentations given at the conference here. Otherwise the BBC's Martin Rosenbaum has a handy summary of the day on his excellent Open Secrets blog.

The conference heard from Maurice Frankel of the Campaign for Freedom of Information on how the MoJ Guidance on how to process FOI requests conflicts with decions by the Information Tribunal. "For example," asks Rosenbaum, "does the time taken to redact information count when deciding if a request is too costly to process? The MoJ says yes, the Tribunal says no."

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas revealed the difficulties his office has been having dealing with a massive backlog of complaints - a problem also highlighted by Frankel who "showed that the ICO took an average of 258 days to first make contact with the public authority subject to the complaint involved."

The MoJ is apparently putting together a "package of next steps" for the extension of FoI to other bodies following Brown's surprise announcement last year. The Government will surely need to provide more resources for the ICO as well as proper legal guidance for civil servants if it takes this welcome step.

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