There are plans to water down the Freedom of Information Act; here’s what you can do

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Posted Nov 14 2015 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
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In the great state/corporate battle against you, the latest round is an attempt to water down the Freedom of Information Act (other major assaults are TTIP and the Global Redesign Initiative). This is the act that brought you the MPs’ expenses scandal, and the fact that the UK government worked with chemical corporations to block the EU ban on pesticides that kill bees.

It’s important to be able to see what our government is doing, because they are simply not trustworthy. I’m not saying this because of the flavour of the present government. The coalition government before it was no better, and neither was the Labour government before that. This isn’t party political – it doesn’t matter which party you support, or whether you support one at all. It’s classic government (and their coporate friends) versus the people.

Left to their own devices, they will line their pockets and the pockets of their corporate friends at our expense. We have to know, for example, what information they are collecting about us. The corporate empire maintains its power through our money. If they know about our internet activity, for example, they are in a better position to make more money from us, and therefore to maintain and strengthen their power over us. It can and will have more insidious uses, but doing things secretly to make more money from us is bad enough.

Here’s a list from the BBC of ten things that we found out because of the Freedom of Information Act.

And here’s a link to a Guardian article about secret lobbying by our politicians and insecticide manufacturers to try to stop the EU ban on certain pesticides to protect bees, despite David Cameron saying that: “If we do not look after our bee populations, very serious consequences will follow.”

Yes, I wonder how they sleep at night too, but they do – like babies.

Not unsuprisingly, they’re trying to put an end to our ability to find out what they’re doing, so latest proposals will mean that

  • we’ll have to pay for information about our own politicians
  • they’ll have more powers to stop us seeing things they don’t want us to see
  • there will be more powers to refuse requests on cost grounds
  • whole areas of information currently searchable will be closed off to the public

The BBC wonder if it might be the end for the FOI Act, even though a cross-party committee of MPs recently stated that the Act in its current state was broadly fine. The article claims that proposals, if implemented, would crack down on ‘the release of information that an independent judge thinks it is in the public interest that you should be able to see, but which the most powerful people within government would like to keep secret.’ That’s it – that would more or less end the FOI Act as we know it. Here’s the article.

Here’s an introduction to the changes in government-speak.

Here’s more information from the Campaign for Freedom of Information, including several things you can do, from sending emails and signing petitions to giving your experiences and responding to the consultation (deadline Nov 20).

And there’s a 38 Degrees campaign. Sign their petition here, and here you can respond to the government’s plans – they’ve de-jargonised the government-speak to allow you to fill in the survey more easily.