Feeds

Info chief to clamp down on silly FOI requests

'No, we won't tell you how much toilet paper is used at Number 10'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas is to announce plans to deter vexatious requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

At a conference in London, he will say that such cases can waste public money and jeopardise the reputation of the Act.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today progamme, Thomas said that examples were a request to 10 Downing Street about the amount of toilet paper used and a request to Hampshire Police about the number of eligible bachelors in the force.

His office is developing further guidelines to help public bodies resist pointless requests. A Charter for Responsible FOI Requests will help to prevent requests which have no serious purpose or value, impose disproportionate burdens, or have the effect of harassing the public body.

"I am sympathetic towards public authorities that refuse to deal with vexatious requests which clearly serve no reasonable purpose. But I am surprised that public authorities are not making more robust use of the existing provisions under the Act for excluding vexatious requests," Thomas said.

Thomas will also tell the annual FOI Live conference that Freedom of Information is delivering transparency and accountability across the public sector and reinforcing good government.

In his keynote speech the commissioner will remind public bodies that they serve citizens and will urge them to recognise that Freedom of Information requires a positive approach to openness.

Thomas will say he fully recognises the need for "private space" for policy-making in suitable cases, and will warn that public bodies must treat each case on its own merits. The Information Commissioner's Office has made it clear that public interest arguments for non-disclosure must be convincing in each case.

"After nearly two and a half years, Freedom of Information is delivering real benefits. There is a presumption of disclosure, unless there is a genuine reason to withhold information. This must trump any instinct of unnecessary secrecy which simply suggests a public authority has something to hide," Thomas said.

"Of course there are bound to be times when the Freedom of Information Act may be uncomfortable. But openness – even where it reveals uncertainties, disagreements or embarrassments – treats citizens as grown ups and reflects the realities of public life. People respect honesty, not cover up."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
XBOX One will learn to play media from USB and DLNA sources
Hang on? Aren't those file formats you hardly ever see outside torrents?
Class war! Wikipedia's workers revolt again
Bourgeois paper-shufflers have 'suspended democracy', sniff unpaid proles
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.