FOI Commission: Why has it surprised observers?

Cabinet meeting, 2015, with Sir Jeremy Heywood on David Cameron's right Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Jeremy Heywood (on Prime Minister David Cameron's right) has spoken of the "chilling effects" of FOI

Ministers have chosen not to make sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, including ruling out fees for requests for information.

The decision follows publication of a report by an independent commission asked to examine the Act.

There had been concerns within government "sensitive information" was being inadequately protected, while campaigners feared an attempt to curb powers to hold public bodies transparently to account.


Why have possible restrictions on FOI been blocked?

When it was appointed, the government's Freedom of Information Commission was derided by some as an "establishment stitch-up" that would inevitably lead to tough curbs on the public's right to know what its rulers are doing.

In fact the Commission's report has surprised many, being more sympathetic to greater openness than expected, while also backing some changes that would help public authorities to keep some material secret.

Read full article FOI Commission: Why has it surprised observers?

Blair and Clinton: the peace process and fatherhood

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton in 1997 Image copyright Getty Images

Records of conversations between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton between 1997 and 2000 - obtained by the BBC - shed new light on their terms in office.

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton told each other that their role was to act like "shrinks" offering therapy to global politicians, as they tried to reconcile various bitter international disputes during their time in office.

Read full article Blair and Clinton: the peace process and fatherhood

Government loses 'pollutant of publicity' FOI case

Chimney spewing out smoke Image copyright Istock

The Cabinet Office has lost a tribunal case where it argued that publicly revealing how often a cabinet committee meets would harm the workings of government by introducing the "pollutant of publicity".

Last week the Information Rights Tribunal rejected the government appeal, in a strongly worded judgment which described the Cabinet Office's approach as "irresponsible", its key witness as "evasive and disingenuous", and her evidence as "of no value whatsoever".

Read full article Government loses 'pollutant of publicity' FOI case

Cabinet Office delays over freedom of information

Cabinet Office sign

Last month the Cabinet Office took control of government policy on freedom of information, removing it from the Ministry of Justice.

This takes FOI closer to the centre of power within Whitehall and the personal involvement of the prime minister. But how good is the Cabinet Office's own record on handling FOI requests?

Read full article Cabinet Office delays over freedom of information

Charles letters: What ruling means for freedom of information

Prince Charles

The Supreme Court ruling about Prince Charles's letters to ministers takes freedom of information to the heart of the British state, the most sensitive area of the relationship between the Royal Family and the government.

Or alternatively it's all about a peripheral matter which has little to do with how contemporary political decision-making happens.

Read full article Charles letters: What ruling means for freedom of information

Winter fuel payment rejected by about 400 pensioners

Thermostat being adjusted by elderly woman

This winter just 29 pensioners decided to decline their fuel allowance. It brings the total number of pensioners who relinquish this benefit to probably about 400 out of over 12 million recipients.

That's despite the fact that two years ago the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith encouraged better off pensioners who can afford their heating bills to return the money to the state.

Read full article Winter fuel payment rejected by about 400 pensioners

Police forces say BBC FOI request is 'vexatious'

Police tape at crime scene

Forty police forces across the country have dismissed as "vexatious" a BBC freedom of information (FOI) application about police monitoring of journalists' communications.

It appears the police have adopted a virtually blanket policy of now rejecting all FOI requests about the use of their surveillance powers to collect communications data on journalists - irrespective of the questions actually asked or how often, if at all, that requester has raised the issue before.

Read full article Police forces say BBC FOI request is 'vexatious'

10 things we found out because of Freedom of Information

  • 2 January 2015
  • From the section Magazine
Leafing through a file

The Freedom of Information Act came in 10 years ago. It's led to the unearthing of a trove of facts.

Ten years ago, thanks to the actions of a "naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop", the British people acquired an important new legal right.

Read full article 10 things we found out because of Freedom of Information

How the Civil Service objected to Kinnock's FOI plans

Media captionCivil Service plans for a Neil Kinnock-led government in 1992 are revealed by a BBC Freedom of Information request

Documents obtained by the BBC reveal how Whitehall officials wanted to weaken the freedom of information plans that Neil Kinnock would have introduced if he had become prime minister.

They are part of the briefing pack that civil servants had prepared to give to Lord Kinnock (as he now is) if Labour under his leadership had won the 1992 general election.

Read full article How the Civil Service objected to Kinnock's FOI plans

Where is Network Rail going on the transparency train?

Rail maintenance workers

Closures of level crossings, the cost of station refurbishments, levels of executive pay, more detailed measures of train performance - these are some of the topics which Network Rail thinks it will be asked about once it is covered by the Freedom of Information Act. That's according to the company's head of transparency, Mark Farrow, who is in charge of its preparations.

Network Rail, which maintains and operates Britain's rail infrastructure, expects to be subject to FOI from April next year and is planning on that assumption. The government has not yet issued the relevant regulations, but the justice minister Simon Hughes has made clear his determination to do so.

Read full article Where is Network Rail going on the transparency train?