Freedom of Information Act to be extended

The Freedom of Information Act looks set to be extended to include four new bodies.

The government has published its response to a consultation launched in October 2007 about which new organisations, if any, should fall under its remit.

The quartet is: the Financial Services Ombudsman, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, Academy schools and the Association of Chief Police Officers which volunteered to be brought under the Act.

Consultations with Network Rail and utility companies about possible inclusion within the Act are due to take place.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice said: “The government’s response reflects the considerable support for extending the Act.

“A further consultation will now be undertaken with those proposed for inclusion within the scope of the Act.”

Among those who responded to the consultation were the Press Complaints Commission, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Newspaper Society and Campaign for Freedom of Information.

The latter welcomed the news but was disappointed at the scope of the proposals.

It said: “The Act allows contractors providing services on behalf of a public authority to be brought under its scope, if the provision of the service is a function of the authority. However, the government is not proposing to designate any contractors.

“The Campaign had argued that private health bodies providing surgical or diagnostic services under the NHS should be subject to the Act as should providers of social care services and educational and criminal justice services.

“People’s rights to know about the quality of a public service they receive should be the same, whether the service is provided by a public authority itself or by a private body under contract to the authority.”