A recent publication by the Transport Committee recommends that pavement parking be made illegal and for new offences to be introduced.
What is the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 is an Act of Parliament that creates a public "right of access" to information held by public authorities. The Government wished to create an open access policy whereby taxpayers can access relevant information. This open access is believed to help make public authorities accountable for their decisions and actions. The idea was first introduced in 1997 but did not come into full effect until 1 January 2005.
Why is Parliament discussing amendments to this Act?
The Freedom of Information (extension) Bill, if passed, will expand the definition of public authorities within the Act. This comes after consideration of how various bodies, who process information relevant to the public, can prevent public access to certain private information. The current legislation defines public authorities as ‘any government department other than (a) the Competition and Markets Authority and (b) the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills’. This definition will, therefore, be expanded to include the following bodies;
- Housing associations
- Local safeguarding children boards
- Electoral registration officers
- Returning officers for parliamentary elections
- Housing Ombudsman
The extension will apply to contractors working with these public authorities.
What will change for you?
- Housing associations have historically been able to keep their business matters and relevant information private as they fall out of the scope of a public authority. A fairly recent event that sparked a conversation for change in this area was the fire at Grenfell Tower. This unfortunate incident questioned the need for public access to information held by housing associations about fire safety procedures and building regulations. If the extension passes, for the purpose of this Act, housing associations will be considered a public authority. Therefore, the full extent of the Act will apply.
- Contractors, who work with public authorities and housing associations ‘for the provision of services to or on behalf of the public authority’, can currently keep relevant business information privatised by not explicitly listing their work as being for the public benefit. In light of the Act’s purpose, all information held by the contractor, relating to the performance of the contract (between a public authority and a contractor/sub-contractor), shall be deemed to be held on behalf of the public authority and so disclosable by the contractor.
- If the extension passes, the Information Commissioner’s powers will be extended to allow requests to both housing associations and their contractors.
How can you still protect your sensitive information?
Though there will be some big changes to this legislation if the bill is passed, that is not to say that all information the housing associations can currently withhold will become public. Only information that is specifically about ‘the provision of public services’ will be caught by the obligation to disclose. There are still grounds on which public authorities can withhold sensitive information from the public, the most relevant to housing associations are:
- If it would cost too much or take too much staff time to deal with the request;
- If the request is vexatious; or
- If the request repeats a previous request from the same person.
So, at what stage is the Bill currently?
A date for the second reading debate of the bill within the House of Commons is due 22 March 2019. It is not known when the bill will come into force.
For more information
If you have any questions about the Freedom of Information (extension) Bill and how it may impact your information, please contact Emily Aldridge or Georgia Bradley - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our response to the Government’s consultation “A New Deal for Renting” has now been submitted following the consultation closing on 12 October.
In response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee Report back in July 2018 on sexual harassment in the workplace, the Government is looking at a number of initiatives.
What do you do if an employee persists in raising the same concern, again and again, taking up copious amounts of management time and patience
Creating an inclusive and diverse workplace culture is no longer seen as “management speak” but rather as a necessity for success.
The Court of Appeal held that no pro-rata mechanism was included in the Working Time Regulations 1998, and so part-year employees were entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday just like their colleagues wo
In the latest Chambers and Partners rankings, Anthony Collins Solicitors has maintained its position as a Band 1 law firm.
An issue being brought into public view in the latter part of this decade, thanks to a healthy handful of royals and celebrities, is the existence of hidden disabilities.
Whilst we all wait in limbo for the UK’s future in Europe, Hazel covers some basics worth noting...
Looking at the Conservative’s latest proposal about shared ownership right to buy, concerns from associations about the impact that might have on their funding ability are well placed.
To receive invitations to our events, as well as information and articles on legal issues and sector developments that are of interest to you, please sign up to Newsroom.