Britain’s Freedom of Information Act came into force on January 1, 2005. Will it create a more open government in spite of Britain’s notoriously secretive government culture?
Under the act, anyone, of any nationality, living anywhere in the world, will be able to request information held by more than 100,000 public authorities and other designated non-governmental organisations in Britain, and expect an answer within 20 working days, usually free of charge save for the cost of copying, printing and postage. Only where the costs of retrieving and collating the information are above £600 for a central government department … or £450 for other public bodies … can a full charge be made or the request refused on the grounds of expense … It will be a criminal offence to destroy data for which a valid request has been made under the act.
Special report and features on Freedom of Information, The Guardian newspaper
UK Government freedom of information web site
Free to Distrust
Comment by Prof. Alasdair Roberts