The Constitution Unit


Understanding the formulation and development of government policy in the context of FOI

Commissioned by: Information Commissioner's Office
Dates: November 2008 - March 2009
Project leader: Peter Waller, working with Mark Glover, Robert Hazell, Bob Morris, Duncan Simpson and Ben Worthy

This report is fundamentally about the process and nature of government policy making in Westminster and Whitehall. The context of the report is, however, derived from section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act which provides a partial exemption for release of information related to the "formulation and development of government policy".

It comprises a literature review of government policy making, an overview of policy lifecycles and models currently used in central government, and an exploration of what is meant by the term "government policy". Case studies track the evolution of government policy from initiation to completion alongside evidence and analysis of interviews with former civil servants and ministers. There is also an overview of overseas experience on the interaction between Freedom of Information laws and policy formulation and development.