Submitted by The National Anti-Vivisection
There is widespread public concern about the
use of animals in laboratory experiments, many people have witnessed
video and photographic evidence in the media.
Few industries generate such public concern
yet are so manifestly unaccountable. The secrecy with which the
law is administered only reinforces the conviction that there
is something to hide.
Any commitment to freedom of information must
include all of the issues that the public feel strongly aboutotherwise
the promise of open government and transparency of decision-making
processes is meaningless.
The National Anti-Vivisection Society's interest
in a Freedom of Information Act relates to the urgent need for
a wider scientific scrutiny of the use of animals in scientific
procedures in order to reduce and eliminate the use of animals
in favour of non-animal research methods.
The draft Freedom of Information Bill does not
delivery transparency of decision-making processes and open government;
quite the opposite:
The test of "prejudice"
as opposed to "substantial harm" will have the effect
(a) concealing information that should rightly
be in the public domain, and
(b) curtailing informed public debate.
The 40 day period allowed for provision
of information is too long.
The cost bar on citizens acting in
concert to obtain information, or draw attention to an issue by
exercising their right to information is anti-democratic.
A time limit for pending publications
Prevents scientific advice to public
authorities from being provided to the public.
The all-encompassing personal endangerment
(health & safety) clause could be employed when based upon
an opinion with no factual evidence.
The Bill allows any information to
be given to public authorities "in confidence" without
any test of whether such a bar to disclosure is warranted.
The Bill allows the opinion of a
Minister or other official to apply the vague phrase "prejudice
the effective conduct of public affairs" in order to block
Exemption of information simply because
it may at some point be linked with other information which may
or may not be held by the authority, and may be exempt, is excessive.