Ten years of Freedom of Information requests

Open government has its costs, but they are worth paying

The World Today
Published 5 December 2014 Updated 19 February 2021 2 minute READ

Jon Baines

Expert on information rights law and data protection

In his 2010 memoirs, Tony Blair famously disowned the Freedom of Information Act, describing himself as an idiot for passing something ‘so utterly undermining of sensible government’. But how much weight does Blair’s comment really carry? As its tenth anniversary approaches, what should our verdict be on the Act?

In judging how effective it has been, one should note that Parliament chose not to insert a purpose clause to the Act. On the statute book, therefore, it has no underlying aim. In 2012, however, it was subjected to a post-legislative scrutiny process, and the Justice Committee, in its subsequent report, identified ‘increasing transparency of government’ and ‘accountability’ as the Act’s core aims, in its view. Broadly, the committee felt that these had been achieved. ‘The Freedom of Information Act has been a significant enhancement of our democracy,’ it concluded.

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