Simon Wright (Norwich South) (LD): What plans he has to increase the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) news release 'Opening up public bodies to public scrutiny' on 7 January 2011 named some bodies it planned to consult about coverage. But as far as the Campaign for Freedom of Information is aware, the names of "more than 200 further bodies" the minister referred to have not been made public. Neither have the names of the bodies the MoJ has identified as being caught by the extension in the definition of 'publicly owned company' in the Protection of Freedoms Bill. We have therefore made a FOI request to the MoJ for details of these organisations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): This month we extended the Freedom of Information Act to a further three bodies—the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service and UCAS. Additionally, we intend to extend the Act to over 100 more organisations through the Protection of Freedoms Bill. We have also begun consultations with more than 200 further bodies about their possible inclusion. Next year we plan to consult 2,000 housing associations and the housing ombudsman.
Simon Wright: I thank the Minister for his response and for the progress made by his Department. As he knows, Network Rail is responsible for spending billions of pounds of public money each year. Will he ensure that that organisation is brought within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act?
Mr Djanogly: The Government are committed to making Network Rail more accountable to its customers, and believe that there is a strong case for its inclusion in the FOI.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
During Justice Questions in the House of Commons on 8 November 2011, the Minister was asked about the Government's plans to extend the Freedom of Information Act.
The fact that the Housing Ombudsman is being consulted is welcome. The Campaign worked with Lord Wills on an amendment to the Localism Bill which would have brought the Ombudsman under FOI, but the Government did not support it (see earlier post). The Ombudsman and Network Rail were also raised along with other examples of bodies that are candidates for designation by Richard Shepherd MP during a debate on The Freedom of Information (Designation as Public Authorities) Order 2011 (see earlier post).