PM U-Turn on FOI Fees and on Extending FOI Scope to Private Companies

Prime Minister abolishes draft fees regulations and announces consultation on extending scope of FOIA to certain private companies. The Prime Minster promised “new rights to access public information where previously it had been withheld”. 

Gordon Brown (in a speech on 25th October) has abandoned the previous Lord Chancellor’s controversial proposal to limit freedom of information requests through a revised and extended fees regime. This is following resounding opposition to the proposal from respondents to earlier consultations.

The Prime Minister has further announced that he will seek to extend the scope of the FOIA so as to catch all private companies and organisations which carry out a public function within the FOIA regime.  This is subject to a 3-month public consultation, which closes in February. He also announced a review of the “30-year rule” restricting the release of Government papers. 

These announcements were not surprisingly met with widespread praise from the media and civil rights and pro-FOI commentators, but no doubt business organisations will oppose the extension of the scope of the regime. 

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