Over 100 NGOs and key supporters sign Open Government Network evidence to the Freedom of Information Commission

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I am happy to share the following published last night by the Open Government Network. If you scroll right down you will note I was a signatory. The evidence submitted with the letter is available here.

Over 100 civil society organisations, ranging from national NGOs, to local community groups, and open government campaigners, to health, environment and transport charities, have signed the UK's Open Government Network's evidence to the FOI Commission, stating their support for a strong right to information :

‘We regard the Freedom of Information Act as a fundamental pillar of the UK's openness arrangements and consider that any proposals to limit the scope and function of the FOI Act would be incompatible with the Government's wish to be “the most open and transparent government in the world”.'
‘The decision of what information is in the public interest to disclose should not be left to government alone. Transparency is sometimes uncomfortable for governments, but in many ways that is precisely the point; only through ensuring citizens, civil society, media and the private sector are empowered to demand information from government can we ensure that we are being governed effectively and appropriately. Any discomfort felt by decision makers is far outweighed by this public interest.'

The evidence covers each of the six questions posed by the Commission, arguing that:

It is not in the interests of the public or good government for policy deliberations to have absolute exemption from FOI. Decisions on whether information on the development of policy should be disclosed should continue to be made according to a public interest test.
The ministerial veto should not be extended to allow the executive to overrule decisions by the courts. Ministers should be prepared to make well reasoned and evidenced cases for non-disclosure, which stand up to scrutiny in court. If the executive is unable to do this, it is right that the information in question be disclosed.

A blanket exemption for risk assessments is unlikely to increase candour in such documents. The public acknowledgement of the existence of certain risks will enhance the public debate about major projects and their implementation. It is when risks can be silently ignored that the consequences are dramatic.

The benefits of the FOI Act justify its cost to public authorities. The costs of FOI are minor in comparison to other comparable government expenditure (e.g. government communications), and there are numerous case studies that demonstrate that FOI has been pivotal in exposing information it was in the public's interest to know.

Charges for making FOI requests would be a significant threat to the openness and transparency of the UK, acting as a deterrent to legitimate FOI requests and preventing investigations across multiple organisations.

1 Adam Roberts Chief Executive Born Free Foundation
2 Alan Hudson Executive Director Global Integrity
3 Alexandra Runswick Director Unlock Democracy
4 Alexandra Wigzell Deputy Chair Standing Committee for Youth Justice
5 Alison Garnham Chief Executive Child Poverty Action Group
6 Andrew Mackenzie Coordinator Open Data Institute Birmingham
7 Andrew Taylor Climate Campaigns & Communications Manager People & Planet
8 Andy Williamson Director Democratise
9 Anna Roberts Executive Director Burma Campaign UK
10 Anne Thurston Director International Records Management Trust
11 Anthony Zacharzewski Director Democratic Society
12 Carol McKenna Director of Campaigns Compassion in World Farming
13 Catarina Tully Director FromOverHere
14 Cathy James Chief Executive Public Concern at Work
15 Charles Oppenheim Professor of Information Management
16 Charlie Harvey IT Director New Internationalist
17 Charlotte Ravenscroft Head of Policy and Public Services National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
18 Chris Taggart CEO OpenCorporates
19 Chris Whitwell Director Friends, Families and Travellers
20 Colm Burns Chair Northern Ireland Open Government Network
21 Dan Wilson Craw Policy & Communications Manager Generation Rent
22 Danny Sriskandarajah CEO Civicus
23 David Hills Head of IT UWC Atlantic College
24 David Miller Founder Spinwatch
25 Deborah King Cofounder Disability Politics UK
26 Derek Manson-Smith Former Co-convener Campaign for Freedom of Information Scotland
27 Diana Neslen Chair Redbridge Equalities and Community Council
28 Duncan Exley Director The Equality Trust
29 Ed Hammond Head of Programmes Centre for Public Scrutiny
30 Edafe Onerhime Consultant ACT Collective Ltd
31 Eithne Rynne CEO London Voluntary Service Council
32 Faryal Velmi Director Transport for All
33 Fionn Travers-Smith Campaign Manager Move Your Money UK
34 Gail Bradbrook Director Compassionate Revolution
35 Gavin MacFadyen Director Centre for Investigative Journalism
36 Gay Moon EDF Legal Fellow Equality and Diversity Forum
37 Graham Gordon Head of Policy CAFOD
38 Graham Smith Professor of Politics Centre for the Study of Democracy
39 Helen Darbishire Executive Director Access Info Europe
40 Henrietta Doyle Policy Officer Inclusion London
41 Ian Lawry CEO sobus
42 James MacColl Head of Campaigns Campaign for Better Transport
43 Jamie Griffiths Campaigner Debt Resistance UK
44 Jacqui Howard National Organiser Compass
45 Jen Persson Coordinator DefendDigitalMe
46 Jim Killock Executive Director Open Rights Group
47 Joe Taylor National Community Activists Network
48 Joel Benjamin Campaigner The People vs PFI
49 John Chambers Chief Executive Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland)
50 John Lotherington Chair Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development
51 Jon Abrams Promotion and Liaison Officer Redbridge Concern for Mental Health
52 Jon Alexander Director New Citizenship Project
53 Jonathan Gray Director of Policy and Research Open Knowledge
54 Joseph Stead Senior Adviser Economic Justice Christian Aid
55 Joy Saunders CEO Integrity Action
56 Julian Huppert Former MP
57 Julian Tait Co-founder Open Data Manchester
58 Julie Pal CEO CommUNITY Barnet
59 Justin Schlosberg Chair Media Reform Coalition
60 Kat Smithson Policy and Campaigns Manager National AIDS Trust
61 Kaye Brennan Lead Campaigner: Policy & Advocacy The Woodland Trust
62 Laura Cockram Campaigns Manager Parkinson's UK
63 Loz Kaye Co-founder Open Intelligence
64 Mariam Cook Founder PositionDial
65 Marilyn Taylor Professor of Urban Governance and Regeneration
66 Mark Braggins Director/Founder AHA Digital Ltd/Open Data Aha!
67 Mark Cridge Chief Executive MySociety
68 Matthew Downie Director of Policy and External Affairs Crisis
69 Mike Childs Acting Policy and Campaign Director Friends of the Earth
70 Miles Litvinoff Coordinator Publish What You Pay UK
71 Moira Fraser Director of Policy and Research Carers Trust
72 Nan Sloane Director Centre for Women & Democracy
73 Natalie Sharples Senior Policy Advisor Health Poverty Action
74 Nick Beddow Managing Director Shared Places
75 Nick Lowles Executive Director HOPE not hate
76 Nim Njuguna Chair Kenya Diaspora Bureau (UK)
77 Oliver Sidorczuk Director Bite The Ballot
78 Paul Bradshaw Professor in Online Journalism
79 Pavan Dhaliwal Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns British Humanist Association
80 Penelope Gibbs Director Transform Justice
81 Phil Booth Coordinator MedConfidential
82 Prateek Buch Member Open Government Network
83 Rachel Oldroyd Managing Director Bureau of Investigative Journalism
84 Remmert Keijzer Research Coordinator The Consultation Institute
85 Richard Murphy Director Tax Research UK
86 Rita Chadha CEO Refugee & Migrant Forum of Essex and London
87 Robert Barrington Executive Director Transparency International UK
88 Robin McAlpine Director Common Weal
89 Ruchir Shah Policy Manager Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
90 Rupert Simons CEO Publish What You Fund
91 Sarah Johns Transparency Adviser Bond
92 Simon Burall Director Involve
93 Simon Taylor Director Global Witness
94 Stewart Wallis Executive Director New Economics Foundation
95 Stuart Lawson Doctoral Researcher in Open Access
96 Team WhatDoTheyKnow
97 Team Open Data Services Co-operative
98 Thomas Hughes Executive Director ARTICLE 19
99 Tim Davies Co-director Practical Participation
100 Tim Hughes Coordinator UK Open Government Network
101 Tom Skinner Coordinator Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign
102 Tris Lumley Head of Development New Philanthropy Capital
103 Val Stevenson Chair of Trustees The Pavement

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