Scots Freedom of Information Bill should apply to all service providers

7 Jun 01
Unison has criticised the Scottish Executive for limiting the scope of its Freedom of Information Bill to public authorities while exempting many other organisations that provide public services.

08 June 2001

The Scottish branch of the UK's largest public sector union is arguing for the bill to cover the many private and voluntary organisations involved in providing essential services, such as housing and residential care.

The current provisions allow ministers to extend the bill to cover bodies such as housing associations or tourist boards if they deem it necessary, but Unison says they should be included automatically.

The union's head of communications, Chris Bartter, said members were concerned by the vagueness of the current proposals and believed they could lead to the public sector being disadvantaged.

'At the moment it will be up to ministers' discretion to include other bodies, and there's no idea of how it will happen or what criteria they will use to decide,' he said.

'It should be a level playing field for all providers of public services. However they are constituted, they are spending public money and should be subject to the same scrutiny as public bodies.'

A statement from the Scottish Executive merely emphasised the discretionary powers ministers would have.

'All public bodies are covered by this legislation,' it said, 'and there is also a provision which allows Scottish ministers to designate private bodies as covered by the bill when they provide services for public bodies or services of a public nature.'


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