There is an alternative starting point to a Freedom of Information Act however. The Government could give a commitment to incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights. This international human rights treaty, written by British civil servants and ratified 40 years ago by the British government but never brought into British law, would protect many other rights in addition to the right to know. Article 10 of the Convention gives us "the right to receive and impart information and ideas without interference with public authority", and is backed by a substantial body of case law in favour of freedom of information. But the ECHR also gives us the right to privacy, to a fair trial, freedom to practise one's religion, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
It is not a perfect document, and we would require at a later stage a specific Freedom of Information Act, along with a Bill of Rights. But it would provide us with basic protection of our rights, a starting point from which to develop future legislation - and a standard against which to measure laws passed by our new government. Commitment to incorporating the Convention would be a significant statement of intent by the new government.
Director, Charter 88
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