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Freedom of information requests are being turned down more often

Freedom of information requests are being turned down more often

AFTER months of wrangling, the government has at last agreed to publish a series of studies on the economic impact of Brexit. Getting it to do so has not been straightforward. Late on November 1st Labour MPs used a “humble address”, an archaic parliamentary procedure, to force the government’s hand. When exactly the documents will be released and what they will disclose remains unclear.

The fact that MPs had to resort to such an old legal mechanism reflects badly on a modern one. Attempts to obtain the Brexit studies under freedom of information (FOI) requests, which are used by the public to access information from roughly 100,000 public bodies, were rejected. That is increasingly the norm. Between 2010 and 2016 the share of FOI requests that were granted in full by the central government fell from 57% to 46% (see chart).

One often-cited explanation is the increasing complexity of requests. When the FOI law came into force in 2005, the thinking goes, requesters sought the…Continue reading

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