Friday, January 07, 2011


Freedom of Information laws are to be extended as part of a push by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to make public bodies more accountable.

The Deputy Prime Minister also wants to cut the length of time Government records are kept secret from 30 years to 20.

Current FOI legislation covers councils and Government departments, but Mr Clegg wants it to include potentially hundreds more bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers, Financial Services Ombudsman and Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

In a speech to the Institute for Government today, Mr Clegg said that the reforms are "part of our wider project to resettle the relationship between people and government.

"Free citizens must be able to hold big institutions and powerful individuals to account," he maintained.

Mr Clegg acknowledged that progress was made under Labour but this had now "stalled". There are too many exemptions to the FOI Act, while information is often placed "behind tedious bureaucratic hurdles. We still live in a society where information is hoarded by the few. And, as we know, information is knowledge, and knowledge is power."

Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) president Sir Hugh Orde welcomed the proposals. He said: "Any organisation that operates as part of a key public service should be accountable and open to public scrutiny. The Association of Chief Police Officers has been asking to be included under the Act and welcomes the extension of authorities that it offers."

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