The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) is an important tool for everyone, not just skeptics. It gives the right to anyone to ask for any information held by public authorities who are obliged to supply that information unless it is covered by a limited number of exemptions.
The House of Commons Justice Committee said earlier this year:
The Freedom of Information Act has been a significant enhancement of our democracy.
Indeed it is, but it is under threat and a campaign was started earlier this year to protect it. The threats to it are concisely summarised in an e-petition to the Government (unfortunately now closed):
Leave FOI Alone (#saveFOI)
Responsible department: Ministry of Justice
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) has exposed the scandal of MPs’ expenses, and many examples of waste and improper behaviour by public authorities, politicians and public officials. We call on the government not to allow it to be watered down, nor for there to be a charge for making requests for information.
The public authorities covered by the FOIA are listed in Schedule 1 to the Act and include the bodies you would expect and maybe a few you’ve never heard of.
But Trading Standards (TS) is one such public authority covered by the FOIA.
Each Local Authority in the country has a Trading Standards service and they are the guardians of an impressive list of regulations, orders and rules including the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and, of course, the Cancer Act 1939.
I have never requested any information under the FOIA about Trading Standards, but it’s easy to see that some information could be very useful in finding out, say, information on complaints and understanding how they work and deal with complaints.
A very useful tool for all Local Authority residents and others.
But maybe not in North Tyneside.