Freedom of Information Act consultation a 'full frontal attack' - Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen Warns Freedom Of Information Act Is Under Attack

Actor Michael Sheen has added his voice to calls for the Freedom of Information Act to be protected, warning it is under "full frontal attack" by the Government.

The Welsh star said the public's right to know should "transcend the political rivalries and jostling that make up the daily cut and thrust of the Westminster bubble".

The comments come as a cross-party commission considers changes to the legislation, potentially including more charges for access to material.

Sheen, who has portrayed former Prime Minister Tony Blair on screen, said: "The public right to know is a principle that transcends the political rivalries and jostling that make up the daily cut and thrust of the Westminster bubble.

"You don't need to look too far afield to find examples of nations where citizens are denied this right, and to see the consequences for those people.

"When the public right to know is not upheld, government, at both a national and local level, becomes opaque and removed from the very people it is meant to serve ...

"The consultation on the Freedom of Information Act, currently being undertaken by an 'independent commission' appointed by the Government, is nothing short of a full frontal attack on these principles.

"If the politicians and civil servants behind this assault get their way, then the right of you and I to understand the workings of our democracy will be seriously damaged.

"Newspaper journalism, whether local or national, has used FOI to hold the government to account on everything from MPs' expenses to staff shortages in the NHS.

"It is an essential medium for making sense of the wealth of information which the Freedom of Information Act provides access to."

Sheen said he was a "passionate" campaigner, and "a strong NHS with the ability to provide excellent healthcare to citizens is particularly close to my heart".

"Without a strong FOI Act, it would be much harder for me and those like me to see and understand the effects of Government policy on this vital service," he said.

"That's why I am voicing my support for a strong FOI Act which should be extended and strengthened rather than weakened."

An FOI Commission spokeswoman said: "Freedom of Information is an area of considerable public interest and we want to hear the views of as many people as possible, which is why we have announced this public call for evidence.

"The Commission is an independent body, with no pre-determined view, and is interested in gathering as much objective evidence as possible on the questions posed in the call for evidence."