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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Info laws consultation extended
Filing cabinet
Ministers want a limit on how resources are spent on requests
The media, public authorities and the public will have another three months to comment on government plans to change the Freedom on Information Act.

Ministers want to limit the amount of resources spent on FoI requests to 600 - including officials' time.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs' first consultation ended on 8 March but has been extended to 21 June.

Critics welcomed the extended time, saying it raised the prospect that the legislation could remain unchanged.

The consultation is on the principle of amending the 2004 regulations.

Public money is limited and it is the government's responsibility to ensure it is not unduly diverted from supporting the delivery of frontline services
Baroness Ashton
Information Rights Minister

This ranges more widely that the original consultation which focussed only on the government's proposals for amending the fees - not the principles behind them.

Announcing the extension, Information Rights Minister Baroness Ashton said: "It is entirely right a reasonable amount of money and time is spent dealing with requests for information.

"But public money is limited and it is the government's responsibility to ensure it is not unduly diverted from supporting the delivery of frontline services."

The first consultation followed an independent review, commissioned by the DCA, which found a small percentage of requests and requestors were placing disproportionately large burdens on public authority resources.

The director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Maurice Frankel, said: "We are very pleased that the government are re-consulting - it obviously raises the possibility that they will leave the current regulations in untouched.

"There has been overwhelming opposition from the public and the press to what the government was proposing to do."

'Not for media'

Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, said: "The media was united in its opposition to the proposals, and we are very pleased that ministers have taken account of our views.

"We shall certainly be responding again to this new consultation."

In a recent speech Constitutional Affairs Secretary Lord Falconer said the Freedom of Information Act was not passed for the benefit of journalists, but for the public.

"Freedom of information provides the right to know, not the right to tell," he said.

He added: "The job of the government is not to provide page leads for the papers, but information for the citizen.

"Freedom of information was never considered to be, and for our part will never be considered to be, a research arm for the media."

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas has had his term extended until 2009.

He was appointed in 2002 and could have held the post for another five years, but requested his appointment be until his 60th birthday in June 2009.


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