Which bodies are subject to the Environmental Information Regulations?
The Freedom of Information Act includes a list of public authorities that it covers, working out whether a body is subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 is far more difficult.
"public authority" means -
- (a) government departments;
- (b) any other public authority as defined in section 3(1) of the Act, disregarding for this purpose the exceptions in paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 to the Act, but excluding -
- (i) any body or office-holder listed in Schedule 1 to the Act only in relation to information of a specified description; or
- (ii) any person designated by Order under section 5 of the Act;
- (c) any other body or other person, that carries out functions of public administration; or
- (d) any other body or other person, that is under the control of a person falling within sub-paragraphs (a), (b) or (c) and -
- (i) has public responsibilities relating to the environment;
- (ii) exercises functions of a public nature relating to the environment; or
- (iii) provides public services relating to the environment.
Interpreting the definition
A body needs to meet at least one of the four parts in order to be subject to the Environmental Information Regulations. Each part requires interpretation.
The Information Commissioner has ruled that a number of Housing Associations are public authorities for the purpose of the Environmental Information Regulations.
In the Port of London case, one of the issues the Tribunal considered was whether the PLA constituted a public authority for the purposes of regulation 2(2)(c) EIR. The Commissioner put forward the following factors, which he considered were to be taken into account: :
- whether the functions exercised by the ‘public authority’ are typically governmental in nature;
- whether the functions of the body in question form part of a statutory scheme of regulation;
- whether, if those functions did not exist, some governmental provision would need to be made for the exercise of those functions;
- whether the organisation has a statutory basis, or whether it exists purely as a matter of contract; and
- whether the organisation is accountable to members or shareholders, or to government.
The Information Tribunal found this list “helpful”.