Purpose of the session
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will answer questions from an influential Committee of MPs on an opaque Cabinet Office body which coordinates FOI responses across Government, but which stands accused of obstructing transparency.
Most that is known about the Freedom of Information (FoI) Clearing House was revealed by the Government following a court challenge that it lost earlier this year. Ms Denham, whose Office is responsible for enforcing the Freedom of Information Act and is independent of Government, will give evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday on its inquiry into the Cabinet Office’s FOI Clearing House. MPs will question her on the operation of Clearing House and what its existence means for transparency in the UK, as well as whether the Government’s actions satisfy the spirit of the FoI Act and why the Cabinet Office has been denying requests to audit the body.
In late October, witnesses to the inquiry’s previous session told MPs that responses to their FoI requests had been blocked or delayed despite it being in the public interest for the information to be released. At the session, Times journalist George Greenwood accused the Government of ‘just trying to avoid scrutiny’ while openDemocracy’s Jenna Corderoy said the Cabinet Office were blocking requests because they ‘fear negative coverage’. The FOI process should aid transparency with important information to the public being released in a timely manner and the process being anonymous and impartial.
Elizabeth Denham CBE, Information Commissioner
James Dipple-Johnstone, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Regulatory Officer, Information Commissioner’s Officer