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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 14:29 GMT
Openness law 'facing fees review'
Filing cabinet
The act grants access to information held by 100,000 public bodies
The government is considering introducing fees for processing requests under the year-old Freedom of Information Act, a campaigner has said.

Campaign for Freedom of Information director Maurice Frankel said "people in government" had told him discussions "have taken place about fees".

A Department of Constitutional Affairs spokesman said it was looking at how a planned fees review would be conducted.

A plan to introduce fees was dropped just before it became law in 2005.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 means people have the right to access information held by 100,000 public bodies.

A DCA spokesman said the government currently had "no plans" to amend the act.

He said: "The government will work to ensure the FOI works properly within the existing framework of the act.

"However, it is only right that government keeps the operation of the act under regular review to ensure the benefits it was designed to deliver are being delivered and public resources are not being wasted on frivolous requests."

Legitimate inquires from the public will become much more difficult
Norman Lamb

On Saturday the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, said the government was considering changing the act to limit so-called frivolous inquiries.

Writing in the Guardian, he said the new laws had successfully cracked open "the culture of secrecy in Whitehall".

But a minority of requests had been made simply to feed the "wilder fevers of journalistic wish-lists", he said.

'Enormous setback'

Police forces, hospitals, schools, local councils and the government are obliged to reply to requests for information.

Mr Frankel said fees would be "an enormous setback" and "erect a real barrier for people trying to find information".

For the Liberal Democrats, Norman Lamb said they could leave the public in a weaker position than before the act became law.

"Legitimate inquires from the public will become much more difficult.

"The purpose of the act will be completely undermined."

Have you used the Freedom of Information Act in the last 12 months? Were you successful in obtaining information? Did you have to pay? Send us your comments and experiences.


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