Updated 13 October 2011
The Protection of Freedoms Bill was read for the third time and passed by the House of Commons on 11 October 2011. The Bill will now be considered by the House of Lords.
The Protection of Freedoms Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 11 February 2011. Of specific interest to FE and HE institutions are provisions relating to extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency, the creation of a new ‘right to data’ so that government-held datasets can be requested and used by the public and then published on a regular basis, ensuring that all data published by public bodies is published in an open and standardised format so that it can be used easily and with minimal cost by third parties.
Part 6 of the bill makes amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The proposed changes are fourfold. First, they amend the FOIA to make provision for the publication of datasets by public authorities subject to that Act. Second, they amend the definition of a publicly owned company for the purposes of the FOIA so that it includes companies owned by two or more public authorities. Third, it extends to Northern Ireland amendments made to the FOIA by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. Finally, it amends the FOIA and DPA to revise the arrangements in respect of the appointment and tenure of office of the Information Commissioner and to make changes to the role of the Secretary of State in relation to the exercise of certain functions by the Information Commissioner.
Further details of the bill, including the latest version Protection of Freedoms Bill (HL Bill 99), are available on the UK Parliament website at - http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/protectionoffreedoms.html. The Home Office is responsible for the legislative progress of the bill and information on what the Protection of Freedoms Bill will do, including an impact assessment on extending the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - section 6, is available on their website at - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/legislation/protection-freedoms-bill/.