A BBC expert in using the UK Freedom of Information Act was the latest speaker to address 80 people in a talk at the Douglas Legion Club on Monday.
Journalist Martin Rosenbaum who trains and advises BBC journalists on the act has addressed international conferences on the topic and was there at the invitation of the island’s Positive Action Group.
Chairman of PAG Roger Tomlinson said Mr Rosenbaum had presented an interesting overview of the workings of the act, introduced in 2005, explaining which organisations in the UK were obliged to respond to information requests.
‘He also talked about what to do if the information was refused,’ he said.
‘Certain information is subject to an absolute exemption from the act and you are simply not allowed to get it. There is also what is called qualified exemption. If an organisation claims this and refuses to provide information it’s then up to you either to accept that or appeal against it.’
Another area covered was that of cost, wherein an organisation can charge a reasonable administration fee for providing information. Mr Rosenbaum included examples from his own experience, referring to the information revealed a few years ago on MPs expenses and an attempt he himself made to obtain a letter sent by Tony Blair’s office to the Swedish government.
‘The request was refused in the UK so he applied instead to the Swedish government and got a copy of the letter almost by return,’ Mr Tomlinson said.
The Isle of Man government intends to introduce a Freedom of Information bill by the end of year,