UK Freedom of Information E-news - August 2010

  1. Freedom of Information Act to be extended soon
  2. The Information Commissioner to enforce FOI more rigorously

1. Freedom of Information Act to be extended soon

The government has put some time estimates to its action on civil liberties. It intends to establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights in 2011, as well as amend the FOI Act by November 2011 to cover more organisations and support cross-government measures to provide greater transparency. More detailed proposals will follow.

In Scotland, a consultation paper, published by the Scottish Government on 28 July, suggests extending the Act to include:

  • contractors who run privately managed prisons and provide prisoner escort services;
  • leisure, sport and cultural trusts and bodies used by local authorities;
  • the Glasgow Housing Association;
  • the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS);
  • contractors who build and maintain schools;
  • contractors who build and maintain hospitals; and
  • contractors who build, manage and maintain trunk roads under private finance contracts.

The Confederation of British Industry Scotland has criticised the plans saying that including contracts regarding schools and hospitals could deter the private sector from investing in public services.

The consultation runs until 2 November. 

The UK governments draft structural reform plan, published in July, can be seen here.

2. The Information Commissioner to enforce FOI more rigorously

The ICO made an announcement in July that it intends to strengthen its FOI enforcement.

The initial drivers that will prompt the ICO to act will usually be:

  • concerns raised with them in the complaints that they receive;
  • concerns raised by a public authority;
  • issues that come to their attention via the media, the web and social media such as information rights blogs;
  • concerns raised by Parliament, the Ministry of Justice or liaison groups;
  • concerns raised by the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights); and
  • concerns that become apparent through other activities, for example, wider information handling issues that come to their attention via the ICOs data protection audit programme.

The ICO says that "we will make information available on the ICO website and in the annual report to Parliament about the number of cases we pursue, their nature and their outcomes. We will normally publish enforcement notices; undertakings and practice recommendations."

See the ICO's FOI regulatory action policy.

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