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Chancellor reveals first-year success of FOIA

22 May 2006

Over 26,000 requests for information were granted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in its first 12 months on the statute books.

The Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer revealed today that of nearly 40,000 requests received by central government in 2005, 66 per cent were granted in full and the information released to the public.

The FOIA, which came into force on 1 January 2005 gives far wider access to information held by over 100,00 public bodies than was possible before. Under the new laws, requests must be answered within 20 days and are free unless the retrieval of the information costs in excess of £450 for the public sector or £600 to the government.

Publishing the first annual Freedom of Information Report at the International Conference for Information Commissioners in Manchester, Falconer said he was 'proud” of the way the new legislation was working and “optimistic about the future”.

"FOI in the UK means the public are finding out more about the decisions that affect their lives - and are using this information to ensure public authorities do more to account for and explain their actions," he said.

"I am optimistic about the future of FOI. What pleases me most is that the vast majority of requests for information have been about issues that affect people's lives. This, after all, is exactly what the legislation is all about."

The Lord Chancellor's satisfaction at how the legislation is being used can be traced back to pre-FOIA Government fears that the new laws would open the floodgates for the media to pry into ministers private lives. However, the level of intrusion has been nowhere near that anticipated.

"During the last year we have seen new information never previously released, for example information about the salaries of senior government officials,” Falconer said.

“People can access information about their local community in the UK as never before. Information about the performance of their local hospital, their local environment, their local schools.”

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