The UK Government has announced (again) plans to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a bid to increase transparency and openness. It was only in March of this year that a similar announcement was made about the extension of FOIA to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and Academy Trusts. It was suggested then that the Government was also considering extending the scope of FOIA to additional bodies such as Network Rail and utility companies.
The UK Government is on one view a bit behind Scotland on this issue where the Scottish Government is now formally consulting on extending the scope of FOISA. That consultation runs until 2 November 2010 and largely targets contractors undertaking public functions on behalf of public bodies.
Public bodies have frequently cited the resource burden which compliance with FOI places on them and the private sector has raised fears about the economic impact which any extension of FOI to them would have. In the current climate it seems very unlikely that additional funds will be available for FOI compliance and there must at least be a risk that this most recent consultation will go the way of earlier similar exercises.
Further information on the Scottish consultation can be found on Brodies’ Legal Updates through the following link: http://www.brodies.co.uk/knowledge/details/?id=1176.
On October 8, 2010