The Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, which has been examining written and oral evidence over recent months, today produced a report containing recommendations including that it be easier to "prosecute offences relating to destroying information that has been requested under the Act, and to increase the penalty for this offence".
However, it said it would not be "appropriate" to introduce upfront fees for people making FOI requests, as had been proposed. According to the BBC, Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock had confirmed the Government would not seek to introduce such charges earlier this morning, before the report's publication.
Nicholas Dunn-McAfee, the PRCA's public affairs, policy and research manager, said: "We welcome the announcement that the Government's Independent Commission has decided sharply against any changes. If we value the FOI Act, we ought to be deeply concerned with just how any changes would be felt by the man and the campaigner on the Clapham Omnibus."
In a separate FOI development, Dunn-McAfee had yesterday addressed the Labour Party's own FOI review, which the party says addresses two questions not included in the Independent Commission's review – namely on the Act's effectiveness, and how it could be strengthened.
Dunn-McAfee told PRWeek: "The Act has been a resounding success in bringing about reactive openness. What matters now is proactive openness: the ways in which the Act and all agents involved can make the 'this should be published unless' attitude habitual rather than 'this shouldn't be published unless'. The participation costs when it comes to campaigning have reduced vastly and what we've seen is open data work in favour of both sides.
"While a great deal of time will be spent considering the Act's secondary objective of 'improving public trust', those of us in the field appreciate what really matters are outcomes over intentions."