From radical to inevitable
The development of FOI in Britain
in The politics of freedom of information
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This chapters tells the story of the gradual movement, a tale of ‘modest incrementalism’ towards openness(Matthews 2015, 310). What began as too radical in the 1960s was becoming seemingly inevitable by the 1990s. Each ‘jump’ or reform moved FOI closer and entrenched its place on the agenda. Even the Thatcher governments, the most resolutely pro-secrecy, passed a series of access-to-information laws across local government and policy sectors. The chapter examines the frequent reform attempts through case studies of the Wilson governments (1964–70) and the Labour governments of Wilson and Callaghan (1974–79) and finally Major’s attempt to pass an ‘FOI light’ via his Code of Access. It ends by looking at the concurrent ‘locking in’ of transparency across local government in the UK.

The politics of freedom of information

How and why governments pass laws that threaten their power

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