Home - About - Letter - More - Contact


What is this site about?

This site is trying to get more organisations that have public responsibilities made subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. For more information please see our letter.

Why bother?

We believe that we have a right to know about organisations that spend public money and provide public services. We also think that organisations carrying out a regulatory function should be accountable to the public.

What do you actually want the Government to do?

We want the Government to use its powers it already has under Section 4 and Section 5 of the Act to add the public authorities on our list. We also think they should add most of the authorities on our other list as well, we think they all deserve careful consideration.

What about Scotland?

We are campaigning for the authorities on our list to be made subject to Freedom of Information law no matter where in the UK they are based. In Scotland the equivalent law is the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

What about the Environmental Information Regulations?

Adding an authority to Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act normally makes it subject to the Environmental Information Regulations as well. The bodies listed not already subject to Environmental Information Regulations should be made subject to the Regulations.

Some of the organisations already comply voluntarily with the Act is that not good enough?

Voluntary compliance is better than nothing but it is not good enough because "the ICO cannot investigate Freedom of Information complaints against organisations that are not formally covered by the Act."[What We Cover, ICO]. In order to get MPs expenses published the journalist Heather Brooke had to appeal to the ICO and then the Information Tribunal in the end it was a court that ordered the release of the information, this could not have happened under a 'voluntary compliance' system, so we would still be in the dark about what MPs spent.

What about companies owned by public authorities?

Under section 6 of the Freedom of Information Act a company has to be wholly owned by the Crown or a single public authority in order to be subject to the Act. This narrow approach excludes companies jointly owned by two or more public authorities. Section 6 also completely excludes companies wholly owned by authorities only subject to the Act in relation to certain classes of information. This means for example you cannot use the Freedom of Information Act to find out about the expenses claimed by a senior manager of a subsidiary of the BBC even though you could request information about the expenses of a senior manager of the BBC. We believe that the Act should apply to all companies (including banks) in which any number of public authorities own a stake of two thirds or more.

What about political parties receiving public funding?

It has been put to me that political parties that get taxpayers money should be subject to FOI. As a general principle I think that political parties should be not in any way be regarded as part of the state or public bodies. The present system is not transparent enough but I am not sure making political parties subject to FOI is the right solution..

What about All-Party Groups?

In March 2010, the Financial Times reported that "Eighteen all-party groups of MPs and peers are taking money from private companies regularly without any obligation to declare how the funds are used." - there ought to be some transparency in relation to funding of such groups.

How can I get information using Freedom of Information law?

Visit WhatDoTheyKnow.com or find the public authority's email address and email them asking for the information you want.

How were these lists created?

Whatdotheyknow.com volunteers found they were being asked to add lots of public authorities to the site that were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. A list of organisations and officials with public responsibilities that are not subject to the Act was created on the FOI Wiki. Details of complaints received by the Information Commissioner about organisations not subject to FOI have also been consulted (ICO emails dated May 2009 and 19 July 2010 ).

What about public bodies in my local area?

There is no complete list of bodies controlled, influence or funded by local councils in the UK. It is therefore very difficult to identify all such bodies which ought to be made subject to FOI. The follow quote illustrates the difficulties in obtaining such a list:

"Bristol City Council has identified all the partnerships with which it has a relationship and has published a short and long list. The long list runs to 76 Bristol-wide partnerships, forums and strategy groups, etc; 46 neighbourhood partnerships and groups; 36 regional partnerships and groups, including the South West RDA and regional assembly; and ten national and international networks. There is no monitoring of the memberships of key partnership and analogous boards, let alone the potential for unseen or undesirable influences being brought to bear by concentrated or overlapping memberships of key partnerships." Select Committee on Public Administration Fourth Report, Chapter 2: Overseeing the appointments system

Is this site aiming to offer legal advice?

No, this site is a political campaign to change the law.

Who are you?

John Cross. This site was built by me in a personal capacity with help from friends and I do not represent nor am I being funded by any company, business, charity, political party or other organisation.

Home - About - Letter - More - Contact