The government has been slapping it’s back a little recently with the success of the Freedom of Information Act. I have to say, my concerns about it don’t seem to have come to pass; the total pisstaking that I thought might happen didn’t.
But apparently things may have been a little too successful. And, surprise surprise, it’s costing a bit of money. So the government is considering trimming back, so that they can refuse to supply information if it costs too much to vet it, rather than to assemble it.
As it stands, if a request would cost £600 or more to answer, then it can be left unanswered. But, under these new proposals, if the costs to answer and the costs of “reading time, consideration time and consultation time” add up to more than £600, then it can be left unanswered. What, pray, would £600 get you in the modern civil service? One person spending half a day digging up the information, then two people taking a couple of hours to check it, then three people OKing it in electronic form before releasing it? That sounds about right, and would cut off a hell of a lot of requests. Including, handily, anything that required the minutes of a meeting to be released: all you’d have to do is ask all attendees to OK the release, and *bang* there’s your six hundred spent.
Oh course, the best part of the whole thing isn’t even this little loophole. The best big is a little quote from Lord Falconer:
Freedom of Information has to be balanced with good government.
Well, if the current lot are trading off one against the other, they’d better produce a hell of a lot of Freedom of Information, because the good government has been in a state of drought for a good few years.