More privacy for the Queen, less for everyone else
The coalition government has detailed the changes it wishes to make to the Freedom of Information Act – reducing the 30-year rule and increasing the number of bodies which must obey the law.
Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke told the House the Freedom of Information Act would be extended to include the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Financial Ombudsman Service and the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
Clarke said the government would consult with other bodies on their inclusion into the remit of the Act including Examination Boards, Harbour Authorities, the Local Government Association and the NHS Confederation.
The coalition is also speeding up the release of public documents by changing the 30-year rule to a 20-year rule. It will also look at ways to reduce the time that some other information like court records and ministerial correspondence is kept secret.
Clarke also promised to enhance the independence of the Information Commissioner’s Office.
But there will also be changes to the Constitutional Reform Act to strengthen privacy rights for the Queen, the heir to the throne (Prince Charles) and the second-in-line (Prince William) or anyone acting on their behalf. The changes mean any communication between the government and these people is now an absolute rather than a qualified exemption.
The exemption will last for 20 rather than 30 years, or the lifetime of the person plus five years.
Clarke said the changes were needed to “protect the long-standing conventions surrounding the monarchy and its records, for example the sovereign’s right and duty to counsel, encourage and warn her Government, as well as the heir to the throne’s right to be instructed in the business of Government”.
Finally Clarke said the coalition would engage in “post-legislative scrutiny” to see what impact the changes have and whether more tinkering is required.
Go here to read Clarke’s statement on Freedom of Information, from Hansard