At an event on the evening of 26 November, to celebrate (slightly early) the ten year anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, Simon Hughes, appeared to offer to take on part of the Information Commissioner’s regulatory role.
The event, hosted at the RSA by the Commissioner himself, brought together a panel of FOIA luminaries consisting of Deputy Information Commissioner Graham Smith, the BBC’s Martin Rosenbaum, Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew and Hughes himself. In response to a question from the floor about the considerable delays and obstructiveness by certain public authorities in dealing with FOIA requests, Hughes invited people to send him examples, so that he could start to compile data on compliance (of the sort already being compiled by Agnew’s office).
Astute eyebrows at the event (and possibly on the panel) were raised: dealing with miscreant public authorities is a role clearly assigned to the Information Commissioner. For the Minister to invite complaints seems to be to risk usurping that role. One wonders if he knows what he’s let himself in for.