Whitehall holds back on access to information

Proposals for implementing the 1990 EC Directive on public access to environmental information held by public authorities were issued by the Department of the Environment (DoE) on 27 January.1 The consultation paper claims that the Government is committed to an open approach, but the proposed arrangements will leave enormous discretion to public bodies in responding to requests for information.

The Directive will require the UK to take a radically different approach than hitherto to the disclosure of environmental information. Its existing arrangements are built largely on public registers, which provide for public access to specific types of information, subject to commercial confidentiality and national security constraints. In contrast, the Directive provides for unrestricted access on request to "information relating to the envir

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