UK Freedom of Information E-news - September 2010

  1. FOI Amendment Bill
  2. Government confirms it will extend the scope of the FOIA

1. FOI Amendment Bill

The Liberal Democrat MP, Tom Brake, introduced a private member's Bill, the Freedom of Information Amendment Bill on 7 September with the aim to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. The Bill would:

  • remove the ministerial veto,
  • limit the time allowed for public authorities to respond to requests involving consideration of the public interest, and
  • amend the definition of public authorities so that publicly owned companies (where at least 51% of the shares are owned by one or more public authorities) would be included.

It would also change the rules for breaches of section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act. Under the proposals, a prosecution could be brought within six months of sufficient evidence of the offence coming to the prosecutor's knowledge, rather than within six months of the offence being committed. A prosecution could not be brought more than three years after an offence had been committed.

2. Government confirms it will extend the scope of the FOIA

A statement from the Ministry of Justice of 7 September confirms that the government is working on plans to determine which additional bodies to include under the FOIA.

Justice Minister, Lord McNally, said:

“The Government is committed to increasing transparency, including extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

We are carefully considering the different ways of achieving this aim, including looking at the extension of the Act to additional bodies.

Any extension of the FOI Act will need to take account of the burdens that this would place on bodies to be covered.”

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