The Conservative government are running a consultation on Freedom of Information laws. David Cameron wants to introduce fees - some reaching as high as £600 - for those exercising their rights to see what their elected representatives are doing on their behalf.
In a consultation that ends tomorrow, the government is essentially trying to force through changes, with little fanfare, and almost no media coverage. This suggestion to introduce fees was not a recommendation of the Justice Select Committee's comprehensive review of FOI in 2012, and has been created by the government themselves, to suit their own agenda.
This change being snuck in via the back door is actively anti-democratic, and yet another example of how the Conservatives are eroding the rights and liberties of citizens. It is profoundly damaging to everyone, but has a pronounced effect on journalists, academics and campaigners attempting to uncover injustice.
Pirate Party UK believe Freedom of Information laws are already weak and easily abused. It can be time consuming, information is often unfairly withheld, and the process is deliberately cumbersome. Obtaining the correct information often involves multiple requests. With the changes the Conservatives want, one may have to submit each request at a cost of hundreds of pounds each.
Cris Chesha, Leader of Pirate Party UK said:
"This represents a dramatic attack on government transparency from the Conservatives, whose two terms have been defined by abuse of secret courts, back-room deals like TTIP, and their casual - almost scornful - dismissal of widely alleged cover-ups."
"Governments should be accountable to the electorate at every level, and we think it's absolutely unacceptable to erode our already weak FOI laws even further. If David Cameron was serving the people, he would not be afraid of scrutiny; as it is, it's clear the Tories are serving no one but themselves."
David Elston, Pirate Party Deputy Leader said:
“When people threatened to boycott Tesco, they outright denied being involved in the Workfare scheme. An FOI request from the DWP was the smoking gun needed to out them as liars - Tesco were indeed shown to be a workfare provider. This extends beyond just government transparency; without easy access to FOI, the public would not be able to make informed decisions or hold corporations to account, either."
Campaign group 38 Degrees have a petition against these changes, and Pirate Party UK are urging people to sign up. You can also respond to the consultation on the 38 Degrees website - the deadline is Friday 18th September.