WHAT do Tony Blair, Stephen Lawrence and the late Sir Clement Freud have in common?

Answer: the fight for freedom of information.

Since the UK Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005, politicians and public sector workers have fought it.

But that is nothing compared to the battle campaigners from all walks had to fight to get the Act created in the first place.

The struggle can be traced as far back as 1911 when the government introduced the Official Secrets Act.

In 1972 the Franks report called for the Act to be replaced by a much narrower law, which prompted a growing number of calls for government to lift the veil on backstage discussions and operations.

A major attempt to introduce freedom of information legislation came in 1978 in the form of a private member’s bill introduced by MP Clement Freud, who later found fame as a pundit on panel shows like Just a Minute and Have I Got News For You.

His bill garnered considerable Parliamentary support but fell by the way when the 1979 general election was called.

The FoI Act, which was eventually created in 2000, really started life in 1984.

It was that year that New Zealand-born UK journalist and Friends of the Earth chairman Des Wilson founded the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

Over the following years that campaign, which is still run by two full-time staffers, drafted and promoted a series of private members’ bills which became law.

It was they who drafted the Access to Personal Files Act 1987, the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988, the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 and the Access to Health Records Act 1990. But they still wanted more.

The campaign was given a major boost in 1996 when the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration published a report recommending that a freedom of information act be introduced – the first time a select committee had done so.

John Major’s Conservative government rejected the recommendation, but under continued pressure from the campaign in the run-up to the 1997 general election, all three main parties promised to introduce new freedom of information legislation.

Tony Blair’s Labour party won and the next year a Freedom of Information Bill drafted by the campaign was introduced by Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay in a 10-minute reading.

The Bill bounced around the Commons but was given another boost in February 1999 when The Macpherson Report into the Stephen Lawrence police inquiry recommended that police should be fully subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and only able to withhold information if its release caused “substantial harm”.

The Government rejected the recommendation, saying there would only be an “appropriate” harm test, but in May the draft FoI Bill was published for public consultation.

The bill passed through both houses and on November 30, 2000, received royal assent, becoming the Freedom of Information Act.

The Act covered any recorded information held by a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland.

Even then the government delayed implementing the legislation for more than four years, but it finally came into force on January 1, 2005.

Tony Blair said in his 2010 memoir A Journey that one of his biggest regrets as prime minister was bringing in the Freedom of Information Act, because rather than being used by “the people” it was being used by journalists as a “weapon”.