Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from John Cross

Executive Summary and Introduction

1. The Justice Committee has invited written evidence on a number of areas in relation to the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I am writing in a personal capacity and as editor of addtofoi . co . uk to give evidence relating to situations where I would have liked to have the option to use the Act but was not able to due to gaps in coverage. I am the editor of addtofoi . co . uk which campaigns for more bodies exercising public functions and/or receiving public funding to be made subject to the Act.

2. I would like to comment on just one of the questions raised in the invitation to provide evidence: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Freedom of Information Act? more specifically, I wish to comment on one of the main weaknesses of the Act.

3. In my experience one of the main weaknesses of the Act is the gaps in coverage, the Act should be extended to cover many more organisations and officials exercising public functions and/or receiving public funding.

Main Body of Response

4. Examples of bodies that should be considered when extending the coverage of the Act include:

ACAS

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Air Travel Trust (the Trust manages the Trust Fund for the benefit of customers of failed tour operators).

Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE).

Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA).

Association of Port Health Authorities (APHA).

Bar Council (including Bar Standards Board).

BBC Worldwide Americas Inc.

BBC Worldwide Limited.

British Academy (mainly funded by grants from Central Government).

British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

British Film Institute.

British Standards Institution (BSI) (UK’s National Standards Body).

Chamberlain of London.

Chequers Trust.

Churches Conservation Trust (sponsored by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport).

College of Arms (official repository of coats of arms and pedigrees).

Commissioners of Irish Lights (General Lighthouse Authority).

Companies owned two thirds or more by any number of public authorities.

Consumer Financial Education Body (CFEB).

Contractors performing covert investigations in connection with RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000).

Corporate Officer of the House of Commons (established by the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992).

Corporate Officer of the House of Lords (established by the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992).

Counting Officers for public referenda.

Court Funds Office (CFO).

Crown Estate Paving Commission.

Dartmoor Commoners’ Council.

District Auditors (see also ICO lines to take LTT11).

Dorneywood Trust.

Duchy of Cornwall.

Duchy of Lancaster.

Electoral Registration Officers for public elections.

Exam boards (in respect of the administration of public examinations).

Farriers Registration Council (maintains the statutory register of register persons engaged in farriery and the shoeing of horses under Farriers (Registration) Act 1975).

Financial Ombudsman Service.

Financial Reporting Council (the independent regulator responsible for promoting confidence in corporate governance and reporting).

Financial Services Compensation Scheme Limited (FSCS) (the statutory fund of last resort for customers of authorised financial services firms, set up under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000).

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

House of Commons Commission (established by the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978, claims not to be subject to FOI).

Housing Associations (also called Registered Social Landlords) (those wholly owned by one local authority are already subject to the Act).

Housing Ombudsman Service.

Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA).

Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA)(Home Office funded body that sets “best practice” for custody visiting processes).

Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Inns of Court.

Inspection services for private schools.

Institute for Learning (IfL).

Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) (plus ILEX Professional Standards Limited—IPS).

JANET (UK).

Law Society (including Legal Complaints Service—LCS and Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA).

LGcommunications.

Local Authority Leaders’ Boards (regional planning bodies).

Local Authority leisure and recreation trusts.

Local Government Association (LGA).

Local Government Employers (LGE) (the business name of Employers’ Organisation for Local Government).

Local Medical Committees (Statutory body representing GPs).

Local Safeguarding Children Boards.

London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited (LOCOG).

Manchester Airport Group (MAG is publicly owned by the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester).

Master of the Rolls (see also: EA/2010/0119).

National Anti-Fraud Network.

National Association of Local Councils (NALC).

National Exhibition Centre Limited.

National Screen Agencies (funded by UK film council—see also list of agencies).

Nationalised banks.

Navigation authorities for inland waterways (some are already subject to the Act others are not).

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited/Network Rail Limited.

NHS Confederation.

Nominet UK.

Non-judicial Inquiries.

Northern Housing Consortium.

Not for dividend companies receiving funding from public bodies (in respect of information which relates to the receipt/expenditure of public funds or work undertaken on behalf of a public body).

Office of the Complaints Commissioner (investigates complaints against FSA).

Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) (the designated operator of the student complaints scheme in England and Wales under the Higher Education Act 2004).

Official Receivers (see also ICO lines to take: LTT12).

Official Solicitor.

Panel on Takeovers and Mergers.

Parking and Traffic Appeals Service.

Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN).

PhonepayPlus Limited (regulator for premium rate charged telecommunications services).

Port Authorities.

Press Complaints Commission.

Private Operators of prisons and detention centres.

Privy Council (see also ICO decision notice: FS50125731001).

Providers of prisoner escort services.

Public Trustee.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

Regional Fire Control Companies.

Regional Screen Agencies (funded by UK film council—see also list of agencies).

Regional Technical Advisory Bodies (RTAB).

Returning Officers for public elections.

Royal Collection.

Royal Household.

Royal Marines Museum.

Royal Naval Museum.

Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

Royal Trustees.

School Food Trust.

Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces.

The Carbon Trust.

The Energy Saving Trust.

Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Trinity House (The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar and it is also a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority).

Trustees of House of Commons Pension Scheme.

Trustees of Parliamentary Contributory Pensions Fund.

UCAS.

UK Association of National Park Authorities (UKANPA).

Universities UK.

Urban Regeneration Companies (companies established by the relevant Local Authority and Regional Development Agency to co-ordinate redevelopment an regeneration).

V (also called Russell Commission Implementation body receives majority of its income from Government grants).

Video Standards Council (VSC) (designated body responsible for the age rating of video games supplied in the UK).

Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).

5. I recommend that the Justice Committee compiles a list of the bodies/officials not subject to the Act that it believes ought to be seriously considered for inclusion.

February 2012

Prepared 25th July 2012