The Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) and Parts 1 – 6 of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (LGOIMA) are being reviewed by the Law Commission at the Government’s request.
To assist with problem definition, the Law Commission has prepared a survey to stimulate thinking and an online forum for public comment and debate.
The official information regime is a constant source of complaint – both from those who are subject to it and from those who use it. If you have gripes, this is your chance to get them onto the Law Commission’s radar.
Responses are due by 15 February.
The Law Commission will then prepare and invite public submissions on options for reform. Chapman Tripp will provide a detailed commentary on the reform proposals and will be happy to assist with submission preparation.
Scope of review
The focus of the review is less on the principles informing the official information regime, as these are not considered to be fundamentally flawed, than on updating the legislation to reflect technological advances and changes to traditional political accountabilities. The main topics the Law Commission has sought public feedback on are:
the general effectiveness and accessibility of the legislation
the application of the OIA, particularly the use of the ‘case by case approach’ and the ‘two stage test’ under sections 9 and 7
the grounds for withholding information
the scope of the OIA, including the rationale for making an organisation subject to the Act
how the regime fits with current technology and data storage practices
administrative compliance with time frames, the use of extensions of time, transfers of requests to other government bodies and the use of the charging regime
resourcing and skill issues within government organisations
possible sanctions for deliberate or inadvertent but serious breaches, and
the role of the Ombudsman.
In addition, the Law Commission is reviewing the interface between the OIA and the Public Records Act 2005 and the Privacy Act respectively.
The present consultation is very much Stage One of the review process. It will be followed by an issues paper presenting recommendations for reform, which the Law Commission will also put out for public comment.