City Research Online

Freedom of Information in the UK: Opportunity and Threat

Felle, T. (2016). Freedom of Information in the UK: Opportunity and Threat. Political Insight, 7(1), pp. 28-31. doi: 10.1177/2041905816637458


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as his worst mistake in government. ‘You naïve, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop’ he wrote in his autobiography Open Secrets in 2010. Blair had come full circle on his views, having championed freedom of information in opposition and introduced it on taking office, the former PM derided the decision, slamming journalists’ use and lashing its impact on the decision making ability of government.

And therein lies the eternal tension: freedom of information, defended by open government campaigners, journalists and NGOs, is arguably the most hated piece of legislation on the statute books by those who work in Whitehall. FOI proponents laud it as a sunshine law, shining light on the dark recesses of closed government, levelling the playing field between citizen and the state. Those opposed argue it does more harm than good, damaging the processes of government, denting the ability of officials to offer frank advice to ministers, and reducing all decisions to newspaper exclusives about internal doomsday warnings that were ignored, or rows about spending on toilet paper and chocolate biscuit expenses.

FOI is, in essence, intensely political. An Independent Commission on Freedom of Information set up to examine if the legislation by the UK government following the 2015 General Election may be about to recommend wholescale changes that opponents say are much needed, but campaigners say would destroy the Act and its laudable accountability and transparency principles.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Sage 2016
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
SWORD Depositor:
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