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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

13 - Conclusion

Summary

The UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been in effect in relation to individual access rights for almost five years. Any assessments of the effects of the Act are at this stage likely to be exploratory and qualified. However, there are signs of optimism. The first Information Commissioner (IC) has had a robust and positive influence in advancing openness and transparency. The IC, and the Scottish IC, have been focal points not only in enforcing the Acts but in championing the era of freedom of information (FOI), the legislation and what they represent. The Information Tribunal (IT) under the UK model is producing a steady stream of jurisprudence on the legislation including the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and the Data Protection Act. The courts have been supportive of the principles of openness and transparency in their judgments concerning appeals. ‘FOIA introduced a radical change to our law, and the rights of the citizens to be informed about the acts and affairs of public authorities … in the absence of a public interest in preserving confidentiality, there is a public interest in the disclosure of information held by public authorities.’ A powerful legal culture of openness and transparency has been developed. FOI has gained strong support across all spectrums of the press. Attempts by government and Parliament to remove features of the Act that were deemed hostile or unhelpful – and it must be remembered that Parliament has felt the impact of the Act in the decisions leading to reform of MPs expenses – were thwarted.