A significant part of the Justice Select Committee's report on its post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was dedicated to the scope of exemptions. The Committee had to grapple with the question of whether the Freedom of Information Act had had a "chilling effect" on the ability of officials to provide frank advice to government Ministers and for policies and issues to be debated honestly and comprehensively. It expressly stated that it could not reach a conclusion on that issue with any certainty given the anecdotal evidence submitted which was difficult to scrutinise objectively. Accordingly, it did not recommend any change in the legislation. It did conclude, however, that the case law is "not sufficiently developed for policy makers to be sure of what space is safe and what is not". It went on to state "given the clear intention of Parliament in passing the legislation that it should allow a "safe space" for policy formation and Cabinet discussion, we remind everyone involved in both using and determining that space that the Act was intended to protect high-level policy discussions. We also recognise that the realities of Government mean that the ministerial veto will have to be used from time to time to protect that space."
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Freedom of information: a safe place?
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