WhatDoTheyKnow Policy:Authorities not subject to FOI

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This page is based on an extract of WhatDoTheyKnow policy documentation. Please address any queries to WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

The process of developing policies is ongoing and changes are to be expected.

WhatDoTheyKnow's policy is to include a body (or official) that is not subject to the FOI Act if the body:

  1. is subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (or the Scottish equivalent)
  2. has made a commitment to make information available in response to requests
  3. has a public regulatory function e.g.
    • it controls or regulates access to a profession
    • it has the power to award degrees
  4. it has other substantial public responsibilities e.g.
    • responsibility for public appointments;
    • control of public assets;
    • control of significant national infrastructure
    • receipt of substantial public funding (we would not normally include a body if this was the only factor that applied);
  5. it is owned 50% (or more) by one or more public bodies.

In all cases public notes ought be added explaining the situation. There is a tag eir_only for the second case, which makes it say new requests to the authority are specifically EIR, rather than FOI.

Network Rail is one example of a body not currently subject to FOI or EIR that appears on the site where more reasons for inclusion were given in a blog post.[1]

In 2013, it was agreed to add the Church Commissioners to the site because they were accountable to Parliament even though it was not clear that the body would fall under any of the headings above.

Example Authorities:

Tagging guidance for bodies not subject to FOI is at:

Example Email

Dear ...

Many thanks for your message,

The [name of body] is not listed on WhatDoTheyKnow because it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. There are many organisations with significant public roles which are not subject to the act. The government has run a consultation on this and there is an expectation that new organisations will be added soon.

WhatDoTheyKnow would be prepared to add the [name of body] to the site if they would agree to voluntarily comply with the freedom of information act, or to act in the spirit of the act in response to requests. If you are able get such a commitment from them that would be excellent.

Regards etc.

If an authority has been added to WhatDoTheyKnow in error, or the authority ceases to be subject to the act (or ceases to comply voluntarily) a tag of "not_apply" can be set which adds a note saying FOI does not apply to the body and prevents future requests. If there have been no requests to the authority it may be reasonable to delete it; leaving it present with an informative public note might be more useful to users.

There is a list on the foiwiki of authorities that 'probably should be subject to FOI but are not'. Please add to this list if you have time: Organisations and officials with public responsibilities that are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act

The above list can also be used by those campaigning for more authorities to be made subject to the Act.

Blog posts