Freedom of Information news, Issue 08
- DCA encourages FoI practitioners to refer difficult cases
- Extending FoI to private sector: consultation imminent
- Scottish Information Commissioner upholds appeal over the release of childhood leukaemia statistics
1. DCA encourages FoI practitioners to refer difficult cases
The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) recommends that Government Departments refer all FoI requests of potentially high profile to its Clearing House. The Government’s view is that difficult and sensitive cases should be dealt with by this specialist body in order to ensure consistency with Government policy.
Government departments are expected to refer all cases that deal with Prime Ministerial and Ministerial issues, and the Royal Household. It wishes to tackle requests relating to procurement and efficiency issues, and requests that may lead to the use of the Ministerial veto. Other issues include requests relating to appeals to the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal.
The Clearing House has been operating since January 2005, and it has mainly dealt with requests that have been received from the media.
The DCA published, on 3rd August, guidance on how the Clearing House works, and what type of requests should be referred to it. See www.foi.gov.uk/guidance
2. Extending FoI to private sector: consultation imminent
The Lord Chancellor said, in an interview with The Press Gazette on 11th August, that there will be a consultation later in the year to decide whether the Freedom of Information Act should be extended to private bodies carrying out a public function.
Such bodies could include utility companies, rail companies, housing associations and some of the major contractors that have substantial government business. However, the proposals could also affect bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission and the Law Society.
3. Scottish Information Commissioner upholds appeal over the release of childhood leukaemia statistics
The Scottish Information Commissioner has upheld an appeal against the Common Services Agency (CSA) for the Scottish Health Service over its decision to withhold childhood leukaemia statistics for Dumfries and Galloway.
The Commissioner found that whilst the CSA was entitled to ensure that personal health information was protected from public disclosure, nevertheless it was wrong not to provide any information in response to the FoI request in question. The Commissioner required the agency to provide the information suitably amended to reduce any possibility of identifying individuals, or to release aggregate figures at a Health Board level.
Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2005