David Cameron has expressed frustration with the Freedom of Information Act, saying it “furs up” Government and does not provide the public with the data they want – but insisted there were no plans to change the legislation.
The Prime Minister said the coalition Government’s publication of detailed spending breakdowns, public service outcomes and crime maps represented “real” freedom of information.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee, he said the issue had been approached from “the wrong end of the telescope”.
He assured the committee that the Government had no plans to change the law, introduced under Tony Blair in 2000. Blair has himself admitted he regrets the Act.
But Cameron said: “It seems to me that real freedom of information is the money that goes in and the results that come out. Making Government transparent is the best thing.
“We spend, or the system seems to spend, an age dealing with freedom of information requests which are all about processes and actually what the public or the country want to know is how much money are you spending, is that money being spent well and what are the results.”
He said the publication of contracts and breakdowns of public spending to items of more than £500 was more important.
“That’s freedom of information. But this endless discovery process that furs up the whole of government – don’t worry, we are not making any plans to change it.”
He added: “Publication of information is better than the discovery process which I think does fur up the arteries on occasions.”
Lord O’Donnell, who stood down as cabinet secretary at the end of last year, has called for the Freedom of Information Act to be overhauled so ministers can be confident that Cabinet discussions will remain private.
Blair, the former prime minister, has described the Act as “dangerous” and “utterly undermining of sensible government”.
A Ministry of Justice study recently found that requests from journalists were considered a ‘drain’on public resources among some public bodies.