Freedom of Information Act extended to more government bodies

More government IT departments will be expected to pay close attention to improving data management, after a consultation was launched to significantly extend the Freedom of Information Act.

Hundreds more organisations could be exposed to FoI laws, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman and the UCAS admissions service, the BBC reported.

There is also a consultation to bring in other bodies, including examination boards, harbour authorities, the Local Government Association and the NHS Confederation.

The Freedom of Information Act obliges organisations to adhere to requests from members of the public to release specific information.

It allows other organisations to be designated a "public authority" which comes under FOI laws if it "appears to the secretary of state to exercise functions of a public nature" or "is providing under a contract made with a public authority any service whose provision is a function of that authority", the BBC reported.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg vowed in a speech to include “potentially hundreds more” government bodies in the Freedom of Information Act, and to “restore British freedoms”.

"Free citizens must be able to hold big institutions and powerful individuals to account - and not only the government,” he said.

Under further changes, the Information Commissioner, who regulates the FoI and Data Protection Acts, will be given “more freedom” on “day-to-day” decisions, the government said today. Changes proposed also include the removal of the requirement that the Commissioner seeks the Secretary of State’s consent in relation to the appointment of staff, their pay and pensions.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, said in response that he welcomed all of the changes. “Extending the coverage of the Act to a number of additional organisations will allow for even greater transparency, and a more independent ICO is essential to make sure information rights continue to be upheld,” he said.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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