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Cabinet Office handling of FoI requests inquiry launched

8 July 2021

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee launches an inquiry into the Clearing House processing of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

The new inquiry will focus on how the Cabinet Office body handles requests, the measures used to do so, and whether this complies with the Freedom of Information Act. It will not be investigating the Act itself.

A court judgement in April demanded the Government release of information on the Clearing House citing a “profound lack of transparency about the operation”. OpenDemocracy, who brought the case, accused the body of obstructing access to information they are entitled to seek under the FoI rules. During questioning by the Committee previously, Michael Gove defended the Clearing House stating that it is there to ensure consistency across Government in complying with the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Act, anyone can request information from a public authority, but it also includes clauses that allow those authorities to refuse to release information where the cost of complying is above a pre-set threshold. The Act was introduced to improve transparency.

The Committee is calling for anyone with information on the issue to submit their evidence to the inquiry by 31 August. The full terms of reference are published at the end of this release.

Committee Chair William Wragg said,

“The perceived opacity of how the FoI Clearing House operates has the potential to damage trust in governance and transparency legislation. As a matter of trust, we felt it is something that must be addressed at the earliest opportunity.

The Committee will examine how the Freedom of Information Act is implemented at the heart of Government and whether these measures fit with the spirit of Act.”

Terms of Reference

The Committee will be taking written submissions on its inquiry site until 31 August addressing the following issues;

  • The Cabinet Office’s compliance with and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2020;
  • The role and operation of the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House including;
  • Its handling of the cases that come to it;
  • Its role in advising on and coordination of the handling of Freedom of Information cases across Government.

Further information

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