Shakespeare: legislate on data

Stephan Shakespeare, author of a government report on the better use of public sector information, has supported calls to amend the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to guarantee the future of the open data agenda.

By Suzannah.Brecknell

28 Nov 2013

Appearing in front of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) last week, Shakespeare, who is chief executive of pollsters YouGov and a member of the government’s transparency board, said that he’d like to see the principles of open data explicitly set out in legislation.

Shakespeare and his fellow witness Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, chair of the Open Data Institute, were asked by PASC chair Bernard Jenkin whether they agreed that the FoI Act should be amended to enshrine in legislation a presumption that data should be published.

This had been suggested by Tom Steinberg, founder of web consultancy MySociety, when he appeared before the committee earlier this month. He said that the Act should be expanded “so that it allows people to have similar powers to access datasets as they have to access paper documents.” In the same hearing Dr Rufus Pollock, CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said the presumption that data will be public should be set out in legislation so that open data will not depend on ministerial support.

In response to Jenkin’s question, Shakespeare responded: “I would like to see [the presumption to publish] explicitly in legislation; I think it’s a fundamental thing for the future.”

Shadbolt agreed, saying: “Policies come and go; legislation has a way of sticking around.”

Read the most recent articles written by Suzannah.Brecknell - WATCH: how well prepared was Turkey for the coronavirus crisis?

Share this page