The Protection of Freedoms Bill (published in February 2011) will have its second reading in March 2011 in the House of Commons. The new Protection of Freedoms Bill looks substantially different to the original bill introduced by Breaks. The Bill is a mixture of provisions including those relating to regulation or biometric data and CCTV and other camera technology (including the appointment of Commissioners for these areas), changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (including obtaining and disclosing communications data and regarding directed surveillance and covert human intelligence sources), criminal records and anti-terrorism.

In relation to transparency and FOIA, the two most notable provisions in the Bill are in relation to:

  • Electronic publication of datasets in which copyright is owned by public authorities (datasets are defined in the Bill). Public authorities will be required to provide datasets in electronic format for re-use purposes subject to public sector licence terms. They will also be required to publish requested datasets under their publication schemes in electronic format unless satisfied that this is not appropriate.
  • Changes to the meaning of 'publically owned company'. These provisions are intended to bring about the changes announced by the MOJ in its 7 January press statement (see above) regarding extension of FOIA to companies owned by multiple public authorities.