Matthew Hancock pledged to encourage transparency in the public sector [Image: PA].

As a frequent user of the Freedom of Information Act, it is no surprise to This Writer that the Conservative Government’s decision is being welcomed with caution.

It seems the plan to levy a charge for FoI requests has been defeated, along with the possibility of cutting the amount a request may cost before it is refused on the grounds of expense.

But there is no offer to expand the rights of the requester, either – so the loopholes used by the Conservative Government to delay or deny requests will also remain.

A government announcement that there will be “no legal changes” to the Freedom of Information legislation following a review of the act was being cautiously welcomed by campaigners on Monday.

The report of a commission established in July by Matthew Hancock, Cabinet Office minister, to examine whether the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2000 is too expensive and intrusive is to be published on Tuesday.

Pledging to encourage transparency in the public sector, Hancock said on the eve of publication: “After 10 years we took the decision to review the Freedom of Information Act and we have found it is working well.

“We will not make any legal changes to FoI. We will spread transparency throughout public services, making sure all public bodies routinely publish details of senior pay and perks. After all, taxpayers should know if their money is funding a company car or a big pay off.”

The five-member committee, which has been described by campaigners as an “establishment stitch-up”, includes the former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten.

Also on the panel is former Conservative party leader Michael Howard, whose gardening expenses were criticised after being exposed by FoI requests, and Dame Patricia Hodgson, the deputy chair of Ofcom, which has criticised the act for its “chilling effect” on government.

Source: Review decides not to change Freedom of Information Act | Politics | The Guardian

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