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Campbell, John (2019) 'Analysing public policy in the UK : Seeing through the secrecy, obfuscation and obstruction of the FOIA by the Home Office.' In: Walby, Kevin and Luscombe, Andrew, (eds.), Freedom of Information and Social Science Research Design. New York: Routledge, pp. 173-190. (Routledge Advances in Research Methods Series)

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In this chapter, I address problems confronted by researchers who attempt to exercise their right to request information under the United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act (2000), namely the struggle to obtain information from obstructive government departments coupled with the difficulty of using the information that governments care to disclose. I examine two cases which, in different ways, illustrate the nature of these problems. The first case arises out of my research into the policy of “language analysis” used by the UK Home Office; this policy adopts the language of rationality and science as a way of masking political decisions to refuse protection to asylum applicants. The second case examines an attempt to use the FOI Act to force the UK government to disclose information about secret meetings between the Home Office and the government of Eritrea. Following the work of Wedel et al (2005), I attempt to see through/unmask the policy claims of the British Home Office, a powerful bureaucracy, to understand what officials actually do. Both cases illustrate how institutions withhold, block, stymie and deny access to information about their activities and what research is capable of revealing about their actions and the impact of government policy.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: FOIA, policy analysis, Language Analysis, power
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISBN: 9780429437717
Copyright Statement: © 2020 the contributors. This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Freedom of Information and Social Science Research Design on 3 December 2019, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2019 09:41
Related URLs: https://www.tay ... 780429437717-12 (Publisher URL)
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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