Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Justice Minister Simon Hughes has hailed the legislation ‘a triumph for transparency’ and revealed more than 400,000 information requests have been made since 1 January 2005.
The volume of requests made to monitored central government bodies has risen steadily since 2007 to the point where almost 1,000 are now received every week.
FOI has seen some groundbreaking release of data that has greatly informed public debate and understanding of how public services are performing. An early example was publication of the individual mortality rates for all heart surgeons working in the NHS that highlighted varying performance levels across UK hospitals. The act has also led to a greater culture of transparency; information such as public sector salaries higher than £150,000 was first released under FOI but is now routinely published.
An incredible £50,000 spent on dealing with hoax calls to the emergency services in the East Midlands and the antics of a 99-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of burglary in the West Country are among examples of other information revealed by the act.
This government has built on the success of the act by extending FOI to more than 100 new organisations as part of its ongoing commitment to transparency.
Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:
The FOI Act has been a triumph for transparency and this government has built on its continued success by extending its reach.
FOI is not only about the high-profile, headline-making releases of information but about the right of the individual to find out about the issues that matter to them. It is a fundamental right of all citizens to be able to hold their government to account and that is why transparency is vital.
We have extended FOI to more than 100 new organisations as well as making changes to allow the earlier release of historic central government records.
We are not stopping there and as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the FOI Act we look forward to making government even more transparent by publishing more information and further extending the reach of FOI.
Since 2010, FOI has been extended to cover academies, companies wholly owned by more than one public authority, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and the Financial Ombudsman Service. Earlier this year the government announced that the act will also be extended to Network Rail in 2015.
This government has also reduced the point at which historic records are made available at the National Archives and other places of deposit, from 30 to 20 years. The latest publication in this phased transition has been made this week (30 December), featuring files from 1985 and 1986.
Facts and figures
- The FOI Act was introduced in 2005 and now covers more than 100,000 public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland ranging in size from central government departments to primary schools.
- The most recent statistics show the volume of FOI requests answered by monitored public authorities has risen every year since 2007 – more than 50,000 requests were received last year.
- Over 400,000 requests for information have been made to monitored central government bodies since the FOI Act was introduced.
Notes to editors
- The latest published FOI statistics are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/government-foi-statistics.
- ‘Monitored central government bodies’ refers to authorities whose FOI performance is monitored by the Ministry of Justice. These include government departments and other agencies. A full list is available in the FOI statistical bulletins via the above link.
- For further information, or to enquire about the possibility of speaking to the Minister on this subject, contact the MoJ press office on 020 3334 3524.