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Independent Commission on Freedom of Information receives 30,000 submissions

Some 30,000 submissions have been made to the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information following its call for evidence, it has been revealed.

An update from Lord Burns, chairman of the Commission, said that submissions had been received from individuals, campaign groups, journalists and civil society organisations before the deadline passed this month.

He said: “Given the large volume of evidence that we have received, it will take time to read and consider all of the submissions.

“Furthermore, the Commission has also decided to invite some parties to provide oral evidence. This will take place in two sessions on the 20 and 25 January 2016. Our intention is to report as soon as possible after these sessions.”

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The Commission was set up by the Government in July this year to review the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000. It is considering the balance between transparency, accountability and the need for sensitive information to be protected.

Law firm Bevan Brittan suggested that the Commission was likely to focus its attention on three key areas:

  • A new charging regime in which FOI applications would need to be supported by a fee in some instances;
  • A broadening of the current scope of exemptions – “which could restrict the amount of information being released”; and
  • A tightening of the enforcement and appeals process to reduce the cost of compliance and litigation.

Associate Emma Godding said: “Freedom of Information is a sensitive and controversial area, but change now looks inevitable. The Commission has a tricky balance to strike between maintaining public access to information, while trying to ease the burden on a wider public sector that receives around 87,000 FOI requests every year at an estimated cost of £11m.

“The final outcome is critical to government, tens of thousands of public sector bodies and also many private sector and voluntary organisations – and so the Commission’s recommendations will be eagerly awaited.”

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