This snapshot, taken on
17/01/2009
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
 
 
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.

Department for Constitutional AffairsFreedom of information

|© Crown Copyright & Disclaimer

Home > People's rights > Freedom of Information> Your rights > FOI in detail > Coverage Guide

Guide to Freedom of Information act coverage

Use this short guide to find out whether a particular organisation is covered by the Act, what happens if it isn't covered, and where to get help if you're not sure.


 

1. Can you find the organisation in Schedule 1 to the Act?


 

2. What sort of organisation is it?



3. If an organisation is not covered by the Act, what happens next?

Government Departments

All government departments are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, except a number of bodies dealing with national security matters, which are listed in section 23 of the Act. These bodies, which are not subject to the Act, are:

Executive Agencies

All executive agencies are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. They are set up by government departments, usually to carry out operational aspects of their work (e.g. Her Majesty's Courts Service is an executive agency of the DCA). They are part of their parent department for Freedom of Information purposes, and therefore are not listed separately in Schedule 1.

Courts, Tribunals and Inquiries

The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to courts and tribunals. This is because all information contained in 'court records' is exempt from disclosure under the Act by virtue of section 32. There would therefore be no point in making them subject to the Act.

However, administrative information about courts and tribunals will be available from the government department that sponsors the court or tribunal in question.

There are many different kinds of inquiries, but as a general rule they are not subject to the Act either (for the same reason).

Schools

All state schools are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Independent (fee paying) schools are not. For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Regional Assemblies

The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to regional assemblies. This is because the Act only applies to organisations which meet both of two conditions:

Regional assemblies do not meet the second of these conditions. Therefore, they are not covered by the Act.

For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Members of Parliament, Peers and political parties

Whilst the Houses of Parliament themselves are covered by the Act, information belonging to MPs or peers in their personal capacities, or as members of political parties is not deemed to be held by Parliament for the purposes of the Act. MPs, Peers and political parties are not covered by the Act in their own right because they are private individuals or organisations.

For example, letters to and from MPs in their capacities as constituency representatives will not be held by Parliament for Freedom of Information purposes, even if they are stored in MPs offices within the House. However, Registers of Members' Interests' are held by the Houses (not the MPs, Peers or parties) and so will be available under Freedom of Information. Information held by the government of the day will be available from the appropriate government department.

Regional Development Agencies

All regional development agencies are covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

Harbour authorities

There are a large number of harbour authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Unless listed by name in Schedule 1, they are not presently covered by the Act.

However, we are aware that some (but not all) of them meet the necessary conditions for inclusion. Rather than include them piecemeal, we are looking into all the port and harbour authorities so that we can consider whether, and if so, how they should be covered by the Act.

For more information, see what happens next if an organisation isn't covered?

Registered Social Landlords and housing associations

The vast majority of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act. This is because the Act only applies to organisations which meet both of two conditions:

Almost all RSLs and housing associations were established as private organisations, and so do not meet the first condition. Although they may work closely with local authorities and the Housing Corporation (which are covered by the Act), RSLs and housing associations are not public authorities for Freedom of Information purposes.

It is theoretically possible that some RSLs or housing associations exist which are 'wholly owned' by (ie have no members other than) a public authority. In this case, those RSLs or housing associations would also be subject to the Act. However, the Department for Constitutional Affairs is not presently aware of any which do fit this description.

For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Charities

The vast majority of charities are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act. This is because the Act only applies to organisations which meet both of two conditions:

Almost all charities were established as private organisations, and so do not meet the first condition. The source of their funding is not relevant to whether or not they are covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

It is theoretically possible that some charities exist which are 'wholly owned' by (ie have no members other than) an organisation which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. In this case, those charities would also be subject to the Act. However, we arenot presently aware of any which do fit this description.

For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Companies

A small number of 'wholly publicly-owned' companies are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The vast majority of private companies are not.

Only companies which are 'wholly owned' by (ie have no members other than) a single public authority are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This does not include:

For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Trade (or Student) Unions

Trade Unions are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, even when they share staff and accommodation with a public authority. Information belonging to the union which is stored on the premises or systems of a public authority is deemed to be held by the public authority on behalf of the union, and is therefore not subject to the Act.

For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Rail Passengers Council

Rail Passengers Councils are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The reference in Schedule 1 to "The Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee" now covers Rail Passengers Councils.

Other Organisations

Check Schedule 1 again:

For more information, see what you can do if an organisation isn't covered.

Don't know what kind of organisation, or still not sure?

Take a look at:

If you are still unsure, contact the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

You should be prepared to tell us as much information about the organisation as you can. Ideally, we need to know:

Also, have a look at what happens next if the organisation in which you are interested is not covered by the Act.

3. If an organisation is not covered by the Act, what happens next?

If an organisation is not covered by the Act, it might be possible to bring it within the scope of the Act at a later date by either amending the list in Schedule 1, or by designating it as a public authority. However, you should remember that some organisations are simply not suitable for coverage by the Freedom of Information Act.

Amending the list in Schedule 1

Section 4 of the FOI Act gives the Secretary of State an order-making power to add to Schedule 1 a reference to any organisation or office which fulfils two conditions:

a. That the body or office was established by any enactment, the Crown prerogative, a government department or a Minister acting in any other way; and
b. That all or any appointments to the body or office are made by the Crown, a Minister or a government department.

If an organisation meets these conditions, it can be added to Schedule 1. Orders under section 4 are made annually. Copies of previous section 4 Orders are available. if you think an organisation should be added to the Schedule in this way, email us.

Designating private organisations as public authorities

If an organisation doesn't meet the conditions for inclusion in Schedule 1, section 5 of the FOI Act gives the Secretary of State a power to designate private organisations as public authorities if either:

No designations have been made yet. Please email us if you want us to stay in touch with you about this subject.



© Crown Copyright