MoJ discloses further details about extension of FOI

Following a FOI request by the Campaign for Freedom of Information (see earlier post), the Ministry of Justice have disclosed further details about the bodies they are consulting on FOI coverage.

In addition to the 25 bodies announced on 7 January 2011, the list includes over 150 ‘awarding bodies’, and over 200 harbour authorities. A list of all the bodies can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet here.

The MoJ have also provided a list of the bodies they believe are likely to be brought within the scope of the Act by the amendment to the definition of ‘publicly owned company’ that is being implemented via the Protection of Freedoms Bill. At present the FOI Act applies to companies that are wholly owned by a single public authority. The Protection of Freedoms Bill would extend that definition to cover a company which is wholly owned by more than one public authority. The response to our FOI request stated:

We do not hold a comprehensive list of all bodies which will come within scope of the FOIA through this change. However, we carried out targeted research on a number of local authorities to estimate the number of bodies likely to be affected by this change within local government, and the list I have provided is the result of this research. I should clarify that the information on the list simply reflects the responses provided by the local authorities we contacted (green colour code) or from our own research (pink colour code). We have estimated from this information that the number of bodies that will be brought within scope under the changes to section 6 will be at least 100.

Jointly owned companies identified from the research include Bramcote Crematorium, Gunnersbury Park, Manchester Airport PLC, Gloucestershire Airport, Beacon Local Nature Reserve, Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, Farningham Woods Nature Reserve, Shoreham (Brighton City) Airport, Wetley Moor and Connexions Staffordshire as well as a number of shared purchasing and services companies.

The list also contains examples of companies partially owned companies which won’t be covered by the changes to section 6. Such companies include Nottingham City Transport of which Nottingham City Council is the majority owner, and the NEC Group which has two shareholders Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, although the Council bears financial responsibility for the Group.

The MoJ also disclosed a copy of the template letter that has been sent to the bodies being consulted and a draft impact assessment on the consultation.

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