Letter: This toothless Bill

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As expected, the draft Bill on Freedom of Information is a travesty of the notion. We need only look at the current GM debate to see why an Act with teeth is vital. Having access to the decision-making process itself is the only way citizens stand even a small chance of having some input on decisions being made "on high".

The core of the US freedom of information laws is quite simple. All information held by the government on citizens (either US or foreign) is accessible through the correct procedures. The onus is on government to justify why it should not be released. The US laws stipulate five headings under which information should not be released and it's up to the relevant government department to show specifically why a document or documents fall under one of the restricted headings. The proposed UK laws are diametrically opposite: I have to show why information should be released.

The US laws have been in existence for many years. The state didn't collapse as a result. True, there have been some red faces in government and the bureaucracy, but that's as it should be.

WILLIAM BOWLES

London SE1

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