The Communities and Local Government consultation on a code of recommended practice for local authorities on transparency was launched in February 2011. The code will become a statutory Code of Practice from the Secretary of State issued using his powers under section 2 of the Local Government, Land and Planning Act 1980. The aim is to give a 'high level but formal statutory basis' to the Prime Minister's transparency requirements.
The code will apply to local authorities (which have been listed in the consultation code). It is, as indicated in the consultation introduction, high level only. Responses to the consultation are to be submitted to the Department for Communities and Local Government by 14 March 2011.
Extension of FOIA
The Coalition Government, in its manifesto, talked about aims to extend Freedom of Information laws and to introduce a right to data. What this means has become clearer following the Ministry Of Justice's (MOJ) announcement in January on extension of FOIA and publication in February of the new Protection of Freedoms Bill.
MOJ announcement on extension of FOIA
On 7 January 2011, the MOJ announced that the Freedom of Information Act would be extended in a number of ways:
- New bodies subject to FOIA: New bodies to be subject to FOIA to include Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Services Ombudsman, and higher education admissions body UCAS. In addition, companies which are wholly owned by any number of public authorities are to be included (previously companies needed to be wholly owned by a public authority for FOIA to apply). There will be consultation to bring a range of further bodies within FOIA - the press release lists a number of bodies to be consulted (see below).
Bodies to be consulted include:
- Advertising Standards Authority
- Approved regulators under the Legal Services Act 2007 (incl. the Law Society and Bar Council)
- British Standards Institution
- Carbon Trust
- Energy Saving Trust
- Examination Boards (where not already covered)
- Harbour authorities (where not already covered)
- Independent Complaints Reviewer
- Independent Schools Inspectorate
- Local Government Association
- National Register of Public Service Interpreters
- NHS Confederation
- Quality Assurance Agency
- Schools Inspection Service
- The Bridge School Inspectorate
- The Panel on Takeovers and Mergers
- The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service
- The Trinity House Lighthouse Service
- The Traffic Penalty Tribunal
- National Archives: Most public records available at The National Archives and other places of deposit communications are to be made available after 20 years instead of 30.
- Royal Family Communications: Some specific changes to be made regarding communications of the Royal Family: "Communications with the Monarch, the Heir to the Throne and second in line to the Throne will be subject to an absolute exemption, and the rest will remain qualified. The lifespan of the exemption will change from 30 years to 20 years, or five years after the death of the relevant member of the Royal Family, whichever is later".
Comments from Lord McNally in the press release dated 7 January would suggest that these will not be the only changes to FOIA.
"But the work does not stop here - we will be carrying out a full review of the FOI Act to ensure it is still operating in the most effective way. The review is just one part of the Government's commitment to transparency." Lord McNally