Warning over Freedom of Information Act

The guide warns that there may well be inconsistency and unpredictability as to what information is exempt from release, and in the exercise of discretion.

There is also a risk that mistakes will be made in a period of rapid change.Gordon Innes of Lovells said: ‘The Freedom of Information Act needs positive management, and should be put on every company’s agenda without delay.

‘On first reading, the Bill appears to give effective protection to confidential business information while promising the release of more government information. But a closer examination suggests there may be considerable uncertainty whether confidential information could become more easily available to competitors, customers, suppliers and interested third parties.’

Lovells and The Constitution Unit said UK business should give immediate attention to actions which will protect confidential information. Companies should review the management of information given to public authorities, analyse the information provided in terms of confidentiality and risk and design, apply suitable processes for this information and establish clear policies and processes for claiming confidentiality and ensuring that these claims are effective.

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