Freedom of Info Bill to get its first reading

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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A long-awaited Freedom of Information Bill is due have its first reading in the House of Keys today (Tuesday).

The Bill, in the charge of Policy and Reform Minister Chris Robertshaw MHK, introduces a legal right of access to information held by public authorities, subject to a number of exemptions.

Its implementation will be phased and it will not apply retrospectively beyond the start of the current administration in October 2011.

The Council of Ministers has agreed that the FOI regime should start in 2016 with a pilot scheme at the Cabinet Office and the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. It will be extended over the following two years to other departments, statutory boards and local authorities.

The current Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which applies to all departments and statutory boards, will remain in place.

Mr Robertshaw said: ‘The FoI Bill strengthens the operation of open government by enshrining in law the right of citizens to gain access to information held by public authorities. However, this is a potentially costly measure so CoMin has taken care to mitigate its impact while ensuring that it will work effectively.’

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