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Threat or benefit? Marcus Turle reports on the implications for solicitors of the Freedom of Information Act

18 March 2005

New Year’s Day 2005 heralded a profound change in public sector working practices. I don’t mean because the Tube ran on time for 36 hours at a stretch. Nor because Charles Clarke seemed happily to support the thorough kicking given by the House of Lords to his new department’s policy of internment. In fact, the new year’s ‘revolution’ came in the more prosaic form of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). First pledged in New Labour’s 1997 manifesto, FOIA imposes duties of openness and transparency on around 100,000 UK public authorities. In doing so, it represents a huge opportunity for practitioners everywhere, but also a considerable threat to firms retained by or pitching for work from government clients. What does FOIA require? FOIA now gives members of the public the legal right to access a huge array of information on the actions of public bodies – everyone from central government departments to parish councils. Anyone, anywhere in t...

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