Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn
Chapter 11: The long and winding road to transparency in the UK
“Information is power, and any government’s attitude about sharing information with the people actually says a great deal about how it views power itself, and how it views the relationship between itself and the people who elected it.” Tony Blair (1996 – then Labour Party Leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition at CFOI awards) The late 1990s signalled a watershed in the UK transparency agenda through the passage of Freedom of Information (FOI) and whistleblower protection laws. These laws were the result of pressure from civil society groups that had been championed by independent-minded politicians from the main parties. At the heart of those laws lie the objectives of openness, transparency, accountability and protection of the public interest. FOI laws can provide citizens with greater information about the decisions that affect their lives and the way policy is formulated. Whistleblower laws act as a check on wrongdoing and/or malpractice in the workplace. Together, these laws can represent a powerful deterrent to wrongdoing and malpractice. In this chapter we examine the historical context of FOI and whistleblower laws, their content, how they have helped shape the transparency agenda, as well as challenges they have faced in more recent times. The progress of transparency laws in the UK has been slow.
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