Public may be charged for Freedom of Information requests, says Government Commission

October 9, 2015

The UK Government’s Commission on Freedom of Information (FOI) is considering introducing charges for anyone making FOI requests, according to an anonymous briefing provided to journalists.

“Sources” at the Commission, who refused to provide on-the-record comments, said that it would “consider introducing charges for applications for information for the first time,” according to a report in the Guardian.

The proposal comes in the wake of a separate consultation which has proposed charging members of the public who wish to appeal Government refusals to disclose information via the Information Tribunal – something which until now has not incurred a fee.

Today’s briefing also saw the Commission “source” admit that the members of the panel had limited experience of making FOI requests, having usually instead been the subject of them.  “What is true is that most people who are on the committee have been the subject of FoI requests rather than made FoI requests,” the source told the Guardian.

The Commission has been criticised in the past over its membership, including Jack Straw, who has publicly called for FOI to be reined in, and Lord Carlile, who has backed increased levels of Government secrecy in the courts via the Justice and Security Act.

Commenting, Donald Campbell, head of communications at legal charity Reprieve said: “It is deeply worrying that the Commission is proposing charging the public for information that they have a right to.  Freedom of Information is a crucial tool for keeping our politicians honest and our Government on the right track.  It should be available to everyone without cost – these proposals would reduce it to being a toy for the wealthy and powerful.”