Letter to say more organisations should be covered by the Act

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Reason for letter

To get the Government to use its powers under Section 4 & Section 5 of the Act to bring more organisations into the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

Text of letter


We welcome the recent statement by the Prime Minister confirming the Government's intention to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. We find it extraordinary that many organisations with substantial public responsibilities and significant public funding are not currently subject to the UK's freedom of information laws. Private prisons, most housing associations and the organising committee for the London Olympics are just a few examples of bodies beyond the reach of the current law.

The Government must show that it is genuinely committed to transparency by addressing the unjustifiable omissions from the Act. Why are the new specialist academy schools not subject to the act whereas other schools are? Why are police forces subject to the Act, but the Association of Chief Police Officers which co-ordinates aspects of national policing is not? Surely, it is important that bodies which control what we read and what we watch such as the Press Complaints Commission and the British Board of Film Classification operate in an open fashion, yet they too are omitted.

There are clearly significant loopholes in the current legislation, for example, a company owned by two or more public authorities would not be subject to the Act, whereas a company wholly owned by one authority would be. There are a large number of bodies which we believe need to be added to the Act; as the list is far too long to include here we have made it available online at webaddressgiven.




Are we certain none of the ~1200 or so housing associations are not wholly owned by one authority and therefore subject to the act?

No, I am not sure, but it does not say "all housing associations", I think the statement would be still be true even if one or two are subject to the Act John Cross 12:51, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

  • "ALMO" Housing Assocs are wholly owned by LAs. The CFOI in a recent Scottish FOI extension consultation alternatively refers to HAs as "Registered Social Landlords (RSL)" [1]
--Alex skene 15:35, 14 June 2009 (UTC)
  • I have put most back in, I think it is safer for the sake of one word John Cross 20:37, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

Omitted Sections - Which may well go back in!

omissions in the act were described as "unfair" ? - Why

The list which could go in the letter

While there more than we can cover in one letter but we will highlight selected examples of bodies and officials we are calling on the Government to make subject to Freedom of Information Act:

  1. Academies (which the DCSF describes as “state-funded schools”)
  2. Returning Officers in general and local elections
  3. Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme
  4. Bodies that control what we read and what we watch such as the Press Complaints Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority, and the British Board of Film Classification
  5. Housing Associations
  6. Companies owned two thirds or more by public sector bodies
  7. UCAS – the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK
  8. companies that control our National Infrastructure such as the National Grid
  9. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) which formulates national policing policy in a wide range of areas

There are many additional bodies which we think the Government should seriously consider making subject to the Freedom of Information Act and we have provided a more comprehensive list in an Appendix to this letter.

Ideas and Comments

(move to discussion page) Do we want to comment on any aspect other than the range of institutions covered?

  • The range of exemptions - ease with which exemptions can be applied.
  • Effectiveness of the ICO
  • Lack of time limits for internal reviews
  • Complexity of the UK FOIA - with respect for example to the USA's version
  • Do we want a line on FOI saving the country money in the long term, ie. transparency resulting in greater accountability providing a driving force for lower costs and better public services.
  • How long do we want the letter to be? 200 words would be a long letter, 300 approaching the max.
  • FOI responses and public sector publications being copyrighted

length... currently got between "Sir" and "Regards": 242 John Cross 20:33, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

If this is intended for printing in a paper we need a short url for the appendix, possibly to a static page rather than a wiki (with a comment option though)?

Is a list a good format for a letter. Can we write a paragraph which is more persuasive? Something which is hard to format or unusual might deter publication.


I would love to get all these points in but length is a big constraint, I think by keeping this letter tightly focused on an issue the Government can do something about using secondary legislation at a time when they are about to respond to consultation comments we maximise our chances of success. I think we should come bak to these points though. John Cross 20:36, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

see also:

See also

Quote from the Prime Minister's Statement Talk:Letter_to_say_more_organisations_should_be_covered_by_the_Act