The Freedom of Information Act applies to most public authorities. These public authorities are listed in Schedule 1 of the Act.
The Freedom of Information Act also applies to companies that are wholly owned by public authorities. These are companies that are either:
- wholly owned by the Crown;
- wholly owned by a single public authority; or
- wholly owned subsidiaries of publicly-owned companies.
We have produced guidance on when a company is publicly owned for the purposes of the Act.
Voluntary application of the Freedom of Information Act
There are a number of organisations in the UK which may carry out work of a public nature but which are not presently covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Act may be extended to include some of these organisations in future. Others do not meet the necessary criteria for inclusion but recognise that their functions may be of a public nature and therefore wish to be as transparent as possible.
A number of these organisations voluntarily operate within the provisions of the Act and respond to requests for information made to them in a similar way to those bodies that are formally covered by the Act.
Some of the organisations voluntarily create publication schemes, which explain the kinds of information they proactively publish. Such schemes cannot be formally approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office and we do not have any powers to enforce them. Similarly, the ICO cannot investigate freedom of information complaints against organisations that are not formally covered by the Act.
The ICO welcomes the voluntary application of the Act, and we encourage organisations to continue to consider this option. In order to avoid confusion, in these cases we would respectfully ask organisations to make it clear that their adherence to the Act is voluntary.