Freedom of Information Act extended


Freedom of Information Act extended

Kathleen Hall

The scope of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act has been extended.

From 2013, government records will be made available at the National Archives ten years sooner, reducing the 30-year rule to a 20-year rule.

The Examination Boards, Harbour Authorities, the Local Government Association and the NHS Confederation will also now be included in the scope of the Act.

This follows a commitment from the government earlier this month to extend it to include the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the University and Colleges Admissions Service which will fall within the Act's scope.

The government will also introduce measures to enhance the independence of the Information Commissioner's Office, said Kenneth Clarke, secretary of state for justice.

The changes will also reduce the time some types of information, including information contained in court records, ministerial correspondence and policy formulation, may be withheld.

"We will also conduct a process of post-legislative scrutiny of the FOI Act to see how well the Act is working in practice and whether further changes should be made," said Clarke.

"It is important that this review of legislation, designed to promote openness and transparency, is itself undertaken in a transparent way and with the involvement of Parliament," he said.

However, measures to enhance the protection for information relating to communications with the royal family and royal household have also been taken, specifically information relating to the sovereign, heir to the throne or second in line to the throne. This amendment to the FOI Act is necessary to protect the long-standing conventions surrounding the monarchy and its records, said Clarke.

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