Government-appointed body recommends no extension of Freedom of Information Act to charities

But a report by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, published today, says those providing public services under contract should be treated in the same way as private contractors

Parliament: commission reported to minister
Parliament: commission reported to minister

A group commissioned by the government to review the Freedom of Information Act has recommended that it should not be extended to cover charities.

A report published today by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, which is chaired by the crossbench peer Lord Burns, says the group did not receive "persuasive evidence that the act should be extended to charities in their own right".

But it recommends that charities providing public services under contract should be treated in the same way as its has recommended for other private contractors. This would mean that information concerning the performance or delivery of public services under large contracts would have to be made available under freedom of information law by the contracting public authority.

The measure would, however, apply only to contracts worth £5m or more per year, or if there were contracts between a public body and an organisation worth a cumulative value of £5m or more a year.

"The commission is persuaded that there is a need for greater transparency in outsourced public services," the report says. "But we are concerned that significant additional burdens should not be imposed on the public sector, and companies (particularly small companies) should not be discouraged from bidding for public contracts."

Matthew Hancock, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, today issued a preliminary response from the government to some of the points raised by the report, but did not comment on the possibility of extending the act to cover charities.

Charity umbrella bodies, including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the chief executives body Acevo, have previously spoken against extending the rules to charities.

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