The 1997 White Paper
A symbolic victory?
in The politics of freedom of information
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In the UK FOI policy developed in a series of phases. This chapter covers the first stage of the development covered the first eight months, from Labour entering power in May 1997 to the publication of the White Paper Your Right to Know in December 1997. At this point, FOI appeared to avoid the ‘symbolic’ trap and overt conflict so frequently seen elsewhere. A small, well-connected group of crusaders inside government took advantage of their own power and used a favourable context to neutralise opposition, with a rapid process lending momentum to a far-Reaching policy. Their efforts resulted in a hugely symbolic White Paper, rapidly formulated, that offered one of the most radical FOI regimes yet seen in the world. The vision was of a political redistribution of power opening up even the very centre of government decision-making (Terrill 2000). However, doubts remained over the policy, its workability and the levels of support for it in government.

The politics of freedom of information

How and why governments pass laws that threaten their power

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