London,
01
March
2016

PRCA welcomes rejection of FOI charges and gives evidence to Labour's Review

The PRCA has welcomed the announcement that upfront fees for Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests will not be implemented.

The Independent Commission on FOI today produced a report containing recommendations including that it should be easier to "prosecute offences relating to destroying information", but has not recommended the upfront fee that had concerned campaigners.

The PRCA gave evidence yesterday to the final session of Labour's FOI Review which is taking views from "leading figures in government, the media, academia and civil society" and is co-chaired by Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader, and Louise Haigh MP, Shadow Minister. The final session also included Sir Alan Beith, Chairman of Justice Committee – post-legislative scrutiny of the FOI Act 2000.

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee MPRCA, PRCA Public Affairs, Policy and Research Manager, who gave evidence, commented:

“The Act has been a resounding success in bringing about reactive openness. What matters now is proactive openness: the ways in which the Act and all agents involved can make the ‘this should be published unless’ attitude habitual rather than ‘this shouldn’t be published unless’. The participation costs when it comes to campaigning has reduced vastly and what we’ve seen is open data work in favour of both sides.

“Whilst a great deal of time will be spent considering the Act’s secondary objective of ‘improving public trust’, those of us in the field appreciate what really matters are outcomes over intentions.

What Labour’s Review and the Government’s Independent Commission have to do is treat the matter consequentially. Trying to pin down the Act’s ‘intentions’, for instance, must take a back seat to the seismic way it has changed the landscape.

“In that respect, we welcome the announcement that the Government’s Independent Commission has decided sharply against any changes. If we value the FOI Act, we ought to be deeply concerned with just how any changes would be felt by the man and the campaigner on the Clapham Omnibus.”

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About PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the PRCA is a UK-based PR membership body, operating in 45 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 20,000 people across the whole range of the PR industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and internal communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry's behalf e.g. fighting the NLA's digital licence.

Who we represent: The PRCA currently has more than 350 agency members; over 250 in-house communications teams from multinationals, charities and leading public sector organisations; and thousands of individual members.

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Matt Cartmell
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