openDemocracy has an exclusive report exposing the depth of the government’s attack on the Freedom of Information Act
Last year was the worst on record for government secrecy, new research by openDemocracy has revealed.
Just 41% of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to government departments and agencies were granted in full in 2020, down from 43% the previous year.
This is the lowest figure since records began in 2005.
The findings are published in openDemocracy’s new report, ‘Access Denied’, which exposes the extent of the government’s attack on FOI.
It follows a major investigation by openDemocracy last year, which revealed how a secretive Cabinet Office unit called the ‘Clearing House’ vetted sensitive requests for information.
A judge subsequently criticised the government for a “profound lack of transparency” that might “extend to ministers”.
A parliamentary inquiry into the Clearing House – launched by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in the wake of openDemocracy’s revelations – opens this week.
The Access Denied report also finds that some government departments have far lower FOI disclosure rates than others, with the Cabinet Office among the worst offenders, along with the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade.
Transparency campaigners say “urgent action is required” and that there needs to be a “sea change in attitudes towards FOI within Whitehall to avoid it spiralling it into an accountability black hole”.