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Regional editors voice ‘serious concern’ over possible FoI changes

Cameron LeedsRegional press editors have told David Cameron they would “deplore” any changes which could weaken the Freedom of Information Act.

A host of industry leaders have signed a letter to the Prime Minister expressing their “serious concern” at the government’s approach to FoI after it announced a wide-ranging review of the legislation.

The letter criticises the make-up of a panel of former ministers and civil servants which is currently reviewing the Act, claiming its purpose is to consider “new restrictions” for it.

Editors who have signed the letter include Gail Walker, Belfast Telegraph, Keith Perry, Coventry Telegraph, Alastair Machray, Liverpool Echo, Andy Rush, Loughborough Echo, Andy Murrill, Newbury Weekly News, Simon O’Neill, Oxford Mail, Kevin Ward, South Wales Argus, Ian Murray, Southern Daily Echo, Andrew Brown, Southport Visiter and Martin Breen, Sunday Life.

Representatives from publishing groups including the CN Group, Johnston Press, KM Group, Newsquest, NWN Media and Trinity Mirror have also signed.

The panel currently reviewing FoI has been criticised as an “all out assault on the public’s right to know by Trinity Mirror’s digital publishing director David Higgerson.

The panel members, some of whom have previously criticised the scope of FoI legislation, are former Treasury boss Lord Burns, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, former Tory leader Lord Howard, Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile and Dame Patricia Hodgson, former vice-chairman of the BBC.

The Cabinet Office says it will consider the balance between the need to maintain public access to information, the burden of the Act on public authorities and whether change is needed to moderate that while maintaining public access to information.

Yesterday HTFP reported that Tom Watson, the new deputy leader of the Labour Party, had told his local paper the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, that he wanted to expand FoI to make private companies who provide public services more accountable.

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