Thursday, April 17, 2008

ICO supports extending FOI Act coverage

The Information Commissioner supports extending the coverage of the FOI Act to bodies that carry out functions of a public nature and to contractors who provide services which are a function of that public authority. The Commissioner's response to the consultation on the designation of additional public authorities states:
The Commissioner has observed that there is public interest in extending the Act beyond its current coverage and therefore supports extending in principle, but cautions that the benefits of certain coverage and the timing of introduction requires careful consideration. He would like to highlight potential resource implications if the Act’s extension increases the number of complaints received with the effect of increasing the complaints backlog.

The Commissioner also observes the fast pace of change in the delivery of public functions and services in terms of public and private sector remits, for example in the Health Service. It is vital that the FOI Act keeps pace with these changes in order that public confidence in the regime is maintained and compliance with right to know legislation cannot be reduced by funding external organisations to carry out functions or contracting out. Where public authority functions are transferred to other organisations in principle FOI obligations should follow.
The response says the Commissioner favours a series of section 5 orders to progressively widen coverage of the of the Act. It also suggests that setting the bar at £1m might be appropriate for bringing public sector contractors within the Act.

Read the ICO's response (pdf)

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