The director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Maurice Frankel, has an article today on my new favourite web site about the first year of FOI in Britain. He’s fairly optimistic. But there’s one issue of ptotential concern that has received surprisingly little media coverage: the government’s apparent proposals to introduce fees for information requests — to combat time-wasting frivolous requests.
Significantly, nearly all the information provided under the act has been disclosed free of charge. Last year, Lord Falconer, the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, succeeded in fighting off Whitehall pressure for heavy FoI charges. But a review of fees was promised after the act’s first eight months and the issue is back on the agenda and being taken seriously.
When fees under the Irish FoI Act were sharply increased in 2003, the volume of requests collapsed to a quarter of the previous year’s level. To put fees up now, before the act has taken root, would be a serious blow.
The Daily Telegraph takes up this issue today with a story about voluntary organisations’ concerns about the potentential introduction of request charges.