More Open but Not More Trusted? The Effect of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the United Kingdom Central Government



This article examines the impact of Britain's Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 on British central government. The article identifies six objectives for FOI in the United Kingdom and then examines to what extent FOI has met them, briefly comparing the United Kingdom with similar legislation in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. It concludes that FOI has achieved the core objectives of increasing transparency and accountability, though the latter only in particular circumstances, but not the four secondary objectives: improved decision-making by government, improved public understanding, increased participation, and trust in government. This is not because the Act has “failed” but because the objectives were overly ambitious and FOI is shaped by the political environment in which it is placed.