WhatDoTheyKnow Policy:Authority subunits

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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.

Sometimes we get requests to add bodies which are technically a sub-unit of another body which we list.

Generally in this case if the sub-unit is significant and its connection to the parent body is not very obvious we can add a public note to the parent body's entry noting FOI requests to x ought be made to this body. eg. JobCentre Plus is mentioned in this way on the DWP page.

We don't tend to add separate units within a Central Government Department unless they're independent (e.g. separately constituted Advisory Committees or other sponsored Non-Departmental Public Bodies).

We do add companies wholly owned by public bodies as separate bodies. (Well we generally do on request; but we don't always for example list all companies wholly owned by universities that we're aware of. We would if a request to a parent body was rejected/not passed on though.)


  • Which is the body technically subject to the FOIA (we should probably address requests to that body?)
  • Who would respond to requests? If requests would be likely to be referred back to the parent body's FOI team we should probably send them straight there in the first place. (Conversely if the subunit has its own email address / policies for FOI requests we should probably list it separately and send requests there - so our users get the best service).
  • What helps our users? (e.g. would it help make clear to users that some bodies are subject to FOI, and help them find them, if we listed them all separately?)

In relation to the British Geological Survey, a subunit of NERC Francis Irving wrote:

If responses will be quicker and better (or even avoid, possibly spurious but real, "information not held" responses from NERC) when made to the direct BGS address, then that would seem to me a good enough reason to put it on WhatDoTheyKnow separately.

Examples where subunits have been added to the site

  • We add executive agencies to the site even though legally they are part of the relevant Government Department
  • Government Offices for the Regions were put on the site as they cut across Government Departments.
  • We added the Stabilisation Unit which cuts across three Government Departments


Please use the tag "unit" where a subunit is added. (This is so that a list of all public bodies; without duplicate entries for a particular body, can be created from our data. It might also help in future if we want to link "subunits" to their parent bodies within the system.)