The BUAV, the leading organisation campaigning to end animal experiments, has given a cautious welcome to a report on freedom of information (FOI) published this morning.
The report, by the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, looked at how the Freedom of Information Act has worked in practice since it came into force in 2005, and concluded that it is generally serving its purpose well.
The BUAV has made use of the Freedom of Information Act on many occasions, including obtaining information about highly invasive brain research on macaques from Newcastle University after a lengthy case which resulted in a positive ruling from the Information Tribunal. The BUAV welcomes the Committee’s agreement that “thinking time”, including reading and considering whether exemptions apply, should not be included in the time limit for processing FOI claims, currently 18 hours.
Some universities had asked to be made exempt from the Act, an idea which was rejected in the report. The Committee did not express an opinion on the relationship between FOI legislation and Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which effectively forbids details of animal experiments held by the Home Office being made public, and has been currently under review by the Government for 8 years.
The BUAV Chief Executive Michelle Thew said, “The Justice Committee has recognised that the Freedom of Information Act plays an important part in ensuring transparency and accountability in public affairs, and their recommendation that ‘thinking activities’ are not included in time frames mean that this will continue to be the case. However, for informed debate about animal experiments it is crucial that the secrecy of Section 24 is lifted.”